This Tutorial published at http://www.retouchpro.com

Printing accurate colors
Posted by: Jonas M. Rogne (Chain) on 12-31-1969.

"This tutorial will show you how to get a printing result with good colors. The example uses a Canon printer."

Printing correct colors

This tutorial will show you how to get a printing result with correct colors, matching your monitor as much as possible (assuming your monitor is decently calibrated). This tutorial will show two different methods (depending on if you have the correct printer profile or not). These are the same two methods recommended by Canon (and probably everyone else). I will try to not go into very much detail.

Method 1 Using a printer profile | Method 2 Printer manages color  | Final notes

Software/hardware used:

  • Canon Pixma MP610 printer. This will work for other Canon models, as well as with printers from different companies. Note that printers not made by Canon will have different-looking printer settings, but the concept will be the same (but things will probably be named differently). Make sure you have the latest drivers.
  • Windows XP Pro. It will work the same way on OS X and different versions of Windows, but the printer dialogue will look a bit different.
  • Adobe Photoshop CS4. It will work the same way in CS3. In CS and CS2 you should use "Print with Preview..." instead of "Print...". Other color-managed programs should also have the required options, and if not, use method 2.

Method 1 Using a printer profile

This is the preferred method, and should be used whenever possible. It requires that you have a ICC printer profile matching your paper/printer (if you don't know what this is, don't worry). It's best if you have created such a profile yourself (this requires special measuring equipment or at least a well-calibrated scanner), but often (as in this case) the printer manufacturer have shipped some profiles with your printer driver (or have them available online for download).

The short version is: you set Photoshop to manage the colors, choose the profile for your printer/paper, and turn off all color management/adjustments in your printer. This is how it's done:

First, make sure your image is open in Photoshop, then go to File → Print.

Photoshop Print Dialoge

My settings are as shown in this picture:

  1. Photoshop Manages Colors This will give us full control of the color management.
  2. Canon MP610 series GL2 This is the printer profile. Here it is very important to choose the correct one. The profile chosen should exactly match your combination of printer and paper. The naming of the profiles will differ between companies so in this example we will use the profiles made by Canon (they got installed automatically with my Printer driver). The naming convention by Canon here is horrible, don't blame me...
    "Canon MP610 series GL2" simply means "A Canon MP610 printer using Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II and a quality setting of 2" .
    The letters at the end indicate media type:
    • MP Matte Photo Paper
    • PR Photo Paper Pro
    • SP Photo Paper Plus Glossy
    • GL Photo Paper Plus Glossy II
    • SG Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss
    • (There might be more, but Canon doesn't have a list anywhere to explain their abbreviations. See if the Canon-paper you bought sais what media type to select in the driver.)
    The number at the end indicate quality setting. Choose the lowest number available for your paper type (lower number means higher quality setting).
  3. Relative Colorimetric (and Black Point Compensation) Make sure it is set to this setting. If you experience loosing a lot of detail in saturated areas (out of gamut) you could try out "Perceptual" to see if this solves the problem. If you want slightly more accurate colors at the expense of potentially clipping your darkest areas, uncheck Black Point Compensation (also try unchecking it if your blacks look "washed out").
  4. When you have chosen your settings, click Print...

XP Print Dialouge

  1. In the Print dialogue, go to Preferences (make sure the correct printer is selected).

Canon Printer Preferences

You now see the Printing Preferences for your Printer. This is equally important to choosing the correct profile. This screenshot shows the driver for the MP610, but might vary a bit between models. If you have another brand than Canon, it will look very different.

  1. First, choose the correct paper type. It must match the one chosen as your printer profile (and the paper you are actually printing on). In my example I use Photo Paper Plus Glossy II (GL).
  2. Set the Print Quality to the highest available setting. You may also choose Custom and set it manually to the number chosen in your profile (but High = lowest number available).
  3. Under Color/Intensity set it to Manual, and click Set... (4). This will take you to the dialogue shown below.

(Note that everything on the "Effects" tab should also be turned off if it's not already so.)

Printer Color Settings

  1. Set Color Correction to "None". This assures us that the printer will not automatically try to adjust the image for you (wasting all your hard Photoshop work).
  2. You are now done. Click OK, OK, and Print.

Method 2 Printer manages color  | Final notes

Method 2 Printer manages color

This method might not get you as good results as Method 1, but it is a tiny bit simpler to set up and might also work out with software that is not color managed.

The short version is: Photoshop sends the image to the printer, and the color conversion is done automatically based on the printer settings. This is how it's done:

First, make sure your image is open in Photoshop, then go to File → Print.

Print

  1. Printer Manages Colors Photoshop will not alter the colors at all and just send it like it is to the printer.
  2. Relative Colorimetric Make sure it is set to this setting. If you experience loosing a lot of detail in saturated areas (out of gamut) you could try out "Perceptual" to see if this solves the problem.
  3. Press Print... to go to the printer dialogue:

Print

  1. In the Print dialogue, go to Preferences (make sure the correct printer is selected).

Printer Driver Settings

  1. Choose your paper type (in this example I'm printing on "Photo Paper Plus Glossy II").
  2. Set Print Quality to High.
  3. Choose Manual, and click Set... (4)

  1. Choose ICM (The equivalent option in OS X is ColorSync).
  2. You are now done. Click OK, OK, and Print.

Method 1 Using a printer profile | Final notes

Final notes

If you do not use original inks and exactly the right paper (e.g. photo paper from a different brand), you may get a very different result. The paper might look and feel the same, but might behave quite differently when printed on (e.g. it might absorb more ink). If you do not have the correct paper/inks you may still try and choose the closest settings, but if you are not satisfied with the result the only way to get a proper result is to calibrate your printer by creating your own profiles for the setup you are using and print using method 1.

Note that paper and screen are two very different media type that use fundamentally different ways of displaying a picture. They will never look exactly the same, so don't hold the print up next to the monitor. ;)

Comments and suggestions are welcome at jonas@rognemedia.no

Useful links:
Canon ICC Profile Guide
Black Point Compensation, thumbs up or down?
Black Point Compensation, a more detailed/techincal look


Shameless self-promotion:
chain.deviantart.com
www.rognemedia.no


This Tutorial published at http://www.retouchpro.com