Digital Photography Tip: Print your Photos

Each device you use: scanner, monitor and printer handle color in its own slighty different way. It’s a by product of the manufacturing process, design, electronic circuity, processing and other factors. The result is that the same color (eg. blue) might be assigned slightly different blue to the one captured by your scanner, and your printer may also produce an alternative shade.

So How can I make colors match ?

To help standardise color, the International Color Consortium (ICC) has come up with a clever system. Each device with a unique color space embeds a special color profile in its files, so a program like photoshop, which offers color-management tools, can be used to translate the color accurately into the monitor display and the printed output. This is what the ICC profiles do and why they are installed with your hardware.

Printing with ICC Profiles:

If you are printing directly from Photoshop, you want to ensure that your printer is set up exactly as it was when you printed the profiling target. In most cases, this means turning off all printer color management and automatic image enhancements. You are letting the profile and Photoshop’s conversion do the color work rather than relying on some image-dependent algorithm.

If you are using a CMYK printer, the details of CMYK separations are beyond the scope of this brief list. In most cases, this is not terribly difficult — get a good reference book.
It is essential to avoid applying the profile twice. This typically happens when printing to desktop printers with drivers that are all too happy to try their hand at color management. In Photoshop 6.0, opening the Print dialog gives you choices for color management. What to choose depends on how you proceeded during the image editing:

If you converted the image to the print profile, set the source space to “Document” and the Print Space Profile to “Same As Source.”
If you are only soft proofing (i.e. have not performed a Convert To Profile), set the Source Space to “Proof Setup” and the Print Space Profile to “Same as Source” again. The printer profile and rendering intent used for the Soft Proof will also be used for the print.
If you are opening an image that is in a editing color space such as Adobe RGB and are not soft proofing, set the Source Space to “Document”, and the print space profile to the appropriate printer profile and rendering intent (check the “preview” box to verify your choice).
A further advantage to this process is that you are using Photoshop’s Adobe Color Engine for the conversions. It is superior to the color engines supplied with either PC or Mac operating systems.
In Photoshop 7.0, the printer color management is hidden in the Print with Preview dialog. Check the Show More Options box, select Color Management from the drop down list, and you have the same choices as in version 6.

If you are sending the image out to be printed, either talk with the print operator first or give written instructions. You usually want to provide a file that has been converted to the printer profile. Tell the operator not to monkey with your image or apply any automatic enhancements.

If you have concerns about the print matching your display, first ensure that the monitor is accurately calibrated and profiled. As mentioned above, the entire color managed workflow hinges on your monitor’s color accuracy. Check that your monitor profile is actually being used by Photoshop:

Open the RGB Working Space list in Photoshop’s Color Settings dialog box.
Scroll up until you come to the line “Monitor RGB — xxxx”
If xxxx is not the name of your monitor profile, something is amiss. Either your profile is not installed as the system default, or the profile itself is bad. Try regenerating the profile.
Important: Press Cancel to exit the Color Settings dialog box without inadvertently doing something dumb such as selecting your monitor profile as your default working space.

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Written by Sam

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