Color management guide by Arnaud Frich

Generalites about colors Screen calibration Printer calibration Manage the colors with Photoshop Go further and know more

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Updated on August 01, 2018

Print your photos with Photoshop

Printing from Photoshop or Lightroom has become very simple. If you have a calibrated screen and a calibrated printer, it can even be fun because you will not be wasting a lot of paper ... In fact, it is possible to "see" on your screen how your photo will appear once printed ...

The last page of this Photoshop tutorial, on color management, is dedicated to printing from the software. Not only does it print with good printing profiles that you have created but it has in addition a great feature, if you have the right profile and a well calibrated screen : the printing simulation result on your screen ! On a calibrated color workflow, a wide gamut monitor and non-generic ICC profiles, the efficiency is impressive !



On screen printing simulation

This has been possible with since Photoshop version 6, that means for a long time ago. Before I tell you how, I want to talk a little about it. As we have seen on the previous page, the conversion from the profile of your picture to the printer profile is not done, exceptionally, from Edit/Convert to Profile but directly in the "Print" menu of Photoshop. But first, you must choose the conversion mode : relative colorimetric or perceptual. On a calibrated color workflow, with possibly a calibrated Screen (of course !) and wide gamut (near or above Adobe RGB 98 space), it is possible through a direct on screen simulation. This visual simulation of a conversion does not affect the picture (do not change the RGB values​​) compared to the conversion, as we have seen on the previous page. Here, there is no risk for the image.
With this process, we will be able to anticipate a loss of color, its replacement, a loss of color gradient, etc ... Color management is made to keep the Lab color, so the "real" colors of your original file throughout the process of treatment and printing, at least as much as possible, even when a device does not know how to print a color. We now know that the choice of the conversion mode is essential in this process. So, the real strength of this on screen simulation is to show the conversion result BEFORE printing.

Important remark !

During my on-site training, on various color workflow, I could verify that the differences between screen and prints are still present on some saturated colors or in contrast on some papers. This is normal and perfectly understandable ! There can only be color correspondence in common gamut areas. It often occures to have to print a non-displayable color or opposit situation. If a color is present in the original file, visible or not on the screen but is not printable, color management tools will not make miracles ! In the example below, only a part of the saturated blue sky and the yellow wall in its most saturated part will not be printable compared to the original. Other colors remain particularly close between the original and the print. What a perfect illustration. Pass your mouse over the images..

Simulation d'une impression en mode Perceptif

If you pass your mouse over the immage, you will see the simulation of a print on a baryta paper, with a perceptual conversion.

Simulation de l'impression d'une image en mode relatif

If you pass your mouse over the immage, you will see the simulation of a print on a baryta paper, with a relative colorimetric conversion.

In both cases, it is clear that some parts are not "moving" in relative colorimetric mode (common to both color spaces parts) but at the cost of a sky becoming a bit flat. In perceptual mode, above, we see that everything "moves" globally, more or less, but a gradient in the clear part of the sky, top right of the image, is kept as it was. The visual sensation is closer to the original, FOR THIS PHOTO, in perceptual mode. So, it has to be considered case by case.


If you have created an ICC profile for a printer/paper set, it will be possible for you to know in advance how your image will be printed and especially to know what corrections to perform in order to correct the weaknesses of the print. For this, you have a very practical menu: the "View/Proof Setup/Custom" menu :


Choose the rendering mode


Start by choosing the profile of the device to be simulated (non-generic, if possible) in the list (1). Then, after checking that the preview box is ticked, alternatively choose the rendering mode, Perceptual and Relative colorimetric (the other two do not concern us). Then press OK. The image on the screen has changed its appearance BUT kept the same profile ?? You do not believe me ? Have a look at the bottom left part of your screen ! The profile picture did not change. This is a simulation. To verify that you are using the "Printer Profile" display, just look at the title bar of the image :


View Proof setup
RGB/8*/EPSON-7800_PGPP-250gr_2880_D50 : I am working an image in my workspace, the image is in sRGB and I simulate the printing on my 7800 printer, Epson Glossy Photo Paper at 2.880 dpi and with a D50 light.

I can go back and forth using the keyboard shortcut - CMD+Y or CTRL+Y - so I can move quickly to a visualisation with or without simulation. I can also access it through the menu bar "View/Proof Colors".
As I continue to work my image in its original space, which is here wide enough, I can make very subtle and precise modifications. Of course, the image will be converted to the printer profile, but it can be done at the very last moment and after some corrections. The color space of the printer is not a neutral space, as it is a device, you have to work the image as long as possible in Adobe RGB 98, sRGB or RGB Prophoto. With this on screen simulation work is greatly facilitated. With the keyboard shortcut - CMD+Y or CTRL+Y - just move back and forth from one environment to another by making modifications to your "EPSON 7800" picture so that it prints the closest to the original image. There should remain minimal differences between the RGB and RGB/Pro7800 images. By the way, I advise you to use adjustment layers to perform this operation.



Printing menu of Photoshop

Photoshop has its own printing menu, as every software, BUT the menu incorporates directly the color conversion. This is why the conversion is not done BEFORE printing.

Convert or not with the printing profile ?

As we have seen on the previous page, DO NOT CONVERT your picture BEFORE you print in Photoshop as this conversion is done directly in the printing menu - as shown below -. The simulation we have just done, gave us the possibility to know what conversion mode is ideal for THIS picture. We must therefore remember it for next step...

Print with Photoshop / CMD+P ou CRTL+P

Printing an image is done through File/Print menu. This window has several distinct parts that interests us, "Color Management" in the top right. Figure below.


Photoshop Print settings
Screen shot of Photoshop CS6. It is presented slightly differently in CS5.


Main window of the "Print" menu in Photoshop. There are the two main parts needed for a complete control of printing :
- A part is dedicated to print settings (those who allowed us to print the color target during calibration for THIS profile) and
- B part is dedicated to color management.

To access them, you must click on the "Output" menu and choose "Color Management". In color management when an image is converted you always find two important fields (B) :


Color management - Print settingsScreen shot of Photoshop CS6. It is presented slightly differently in CS5.


1 - Source space - Click on "Document" ; the profile of the image is then displayed just under it, often the one of the workspace.

2 - Color handling - In the list choose "Photoshop Manages Colors". If you choose something else, I do not guaranty the result !!!

Be careful ! The exclamation mark means that it is Photoshop that will perform conversions between image space and printing space, so you must disable color management of the printer.

3 - Printer profile - Choose in the list your printing profile for this printer, this paper, etc ...

4 - Rendering intent - This the place to have your memory work and remember which was the suitable conversion mode for THIS photo, between perceptual and relative colorimetric.

5 - Black point compensation - Select this option (except absolute colorimetric mode because it is useless), if you want the black and especially the darker grey of your image to be shown on paper that would otherwise absorb them, especially on matte papers. Never forget that the dynamics of papers is not yet equal to the dynamics of your file ! All the dark values ​​are shown using black ink. Check this option to keep details in the dark areas as much as possible. Tick this option !

Final caution, unless it is already done : do not forget to open the printer properties panel (in the print settings of the Print menu of Photoshop) to choose the right print settings. The same that were used during the creation of this printing profile. In general, the important points to check, because they are very important when printing the calibration color target, SO also during the print of your photo points, are :

  • Desactivate color management of the printer- Essential !
  • Choose the right paper - the brand is not so much important but the type is : premium glossy paper, matte, thick Canson, it is very important because it determines the amount of ink to be used.
  • Choose the outpout resolution - often between 720 and 2.880 dpi -
  • Speed, finest details, etc ...
  • Without forgetting ... to put the right paper in the printer !

Exemple with the menu of the Epson 7800


Epson 7800 drivers - Print settings


1 - Printer (Imprimante) - Choose printer model in the list.

2 - Choose the right paper (Support) - The same you used to print the calibration color target of this printer/paper set.

Be careful ! This choice only determines the amount of ink to be used. If you use the paper of the brand of your printer, your paper will be in the list. If you use another brand, choose the same type of paper, an Epson in this example. In fact, all brands have the "same" range of paper : glossy premium, archival mat, barita, etc ...

3 - Color parameters (Color) - Remember to desactivate the printer color management, to avoid your printer profile settings to override your Photoshop profile settings.

Note ! How to choose ? The conversion engine in Photoshop is simply currently the best. This is also why Photoshop may seem expensive and for me it has always been a decisive factor which greatly justifies the cost.

4 - Print quality (Quality) - Choose the same outpout resolution than when printing the calibration color target. By the way, I have even created two profiles one at 1.440 dpi and one at 2.880 dpi, but honestly I am not sure there is a difference !

You can also choose the speed without, in my opinion, this has an influence on the calibration. But note that I did not check "finer details" because I have a bug on my Epson 7800 when I print my panoramas in large format.


Remember !

Remember to check whether to choose the Relative colorimetric or Perceptual rendering intent through the menu "View/Proof setup".

If you want the finest printing choose 2.880 dpi (for Epson or Canon printers) : it especially helps to have more progressive and beautiful gradient in the sky.

The dpi of a printer have nothing to do with the dpi of an image. If you want to print a photo at 240 dpi, gradients will be more beautiful if you print at 2.880 dpi (printer) than at 1,440 and of course at 720 dpi. The same occures for a picture, it will be nicer at 240 dpi (image) than at 120 dpi.

Over 240 dpi for inkjet printing, I do not see any difference, but from 200 dpi and below, I begin to perceive a difference, from a short distance.
300 dpi is only used for offset printing.

Remember to tick this box : black point compensation. Blacks will be more dense and beautiful.



Conclusion !

This concludes this series of articles on the introduction to color management. I hope that if you were not convinced of the benefits and especially the effectiveness of a well calibrated color workflow, it has brought you the needed clarification. As I have put a lot of myself and energy to write it, at least, I hope... !


To go farther...


"The Digital Print"

Jeff Schewe - 288 pages - Peachpit Press © 2013.

Reference book about the print today - Learn more   Suivre



Summary > Manage colors > Print with Photoshop



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