|Input/Output/Workflow Scanning, printing, color management, and discussing best practices for control and repeatability|
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Printing better color
At the risk of drawing fire from color management experts, I'm going to tell you what I do with the caveat that it is NOT necessarily right or good or wrong or bad, it's just what works for me.
This is about using ICC Color Management (ICM) to soft proof in PS.
ICM is confusing, at least at first because it's abstract and about complex translation in a potentially many to many relationship. The learning curve is steep at the beginning... it tapers off though once you're into it.
ICM is controversial and you will get lots of ideas and opinions when the subject comes up.
ICM is best characterized, in Vikki's words, "I think color management should be in the same category as politics and religion." You can stop here if you don't want to bother with it.
I'm assuming you're using PS7 or CS, I don't know if earlier versions have the 'soft proofing' feature off-hand. I also have to assume that your printer is using a paper you for which you have an .icc profile. If you don't have soft proofing or a paper profile, this won't work and I don't have a reliable alternative.
Before I start though, you mentioned neon looking colors when you print; that sounds like a color management related problem like applying a profile twice, once as an assigned profile (the space you are working in with the particular file) and again when printing by having the printer driver apply a profile. Could also be a mismatch between profile and paper. If you're already using ICM, check that out.
OK. The Principle:
You want to turn Adobe PS Soft Proofing features on so that it will approximate the colors your printer will print on a certain, known kind of paper. It does that by using an ICC color 'destination profile' which is a sort of description of what colors your particular printer will print on a specific kind of paper. You get these profiles from the manufacturer of your printer and they typically only furnish profiles for their own papers so, if you have a Canon printer, you will want to use a Canon paper for which you have a profile. The profile files (.icc) will be with the printer installation software or you can, and should, download recent versions of it from their website. There are other ways to get and make profiles but that's another subject. Anyway, the paper profile, that is, destination profile, allows PS and the printer to use the same color, perceptively, for output; PS to the monitor and the printer to the paper.
I generally work on an image using the color profile embedded from it's source, say a digital camera or a scanner (sRGB would be a common one) or, lacking an embedded profile, I use Adobe RGB (incoming fire!). Anyway, it doesn't matter a heck of a lot what your working profile is until you want to proof, that is, see on your screen a reasonable approximation of what will come out of your printer. When you want to proof, you...
- First, you need to set Gamma on your monitor if you haven't already. Adobe has a control panel/wizard to accomplish this but, in Windows at least, it's probably not on a menu anywhere; you have to go find it in the 'Program files/Common files/Adobe/Calibration' directory... run 'Adobe Gamma Loader' and the control panel will install and from then on be available in the 'Control Panels' folder. Run it and follow the steps to adjust your monitor to the conditions you are working in. It's a good idea to check the Gamma often, especially if the room lighting changes.
- With your image file open, click 'Image:Mode:Convert to Profile...' (you would use 'Image:Mode:Assign Profile...' if the image didn't have an embedded profile to start with)
- Look in the destination space listbox. You will see a bunch of color profiles at the top which are standard profiles like 'Working RGB or Grey Gamma 2.2, etc... ignore them for now. What you want to find in that list is the specific printer/paper profile for your situation. For instance I pick SP2200 Premium Semigloss_PK to use Epson's Premium Semigloss photo paper on an Epson Stylus Photo 2200 (SP2200) with the Photo Black (PK) inkset. If your printer software installed the profiles properly... which is NOT a given, you will see the profile that suits your printing situation, Pick it. (if you don't see your desired profile you have to find and install it. I'm gonna refer you to the printer installation manual on that)
- Change 'Intent' under conversion options to 'Perceptual' and leave everything else as is. You can change things later if you need to tune your process. Just be sure and change only one thing at a time so you know what does and doesn't work. It helps to keep up with your changes on back of each test print. Close the dialog box and wait while the conversion happens.
- Now, click 'View:Proof Setup..:Custom...' Pick the same profile you just selected for your printer/paper combo, make sure Intent:' is set to 'Perceptual' and save it. Close the dialog box. You will probably (but not necessarily) notice some changes to the colors on your monitor because doing the setup automatically enables the 'Proof Colors' option under 'View'. What you now see a decent approximation of how the image will print on your printer using that specific paper type... if you tell the print driver the right thing about how to print it.
- To print, and this gets iffy because every print driver does this differently, you want to tell the driver to print the file using ICC Color Management (ICM) but to NOT apply any color adjustment itself. The idea is, PS is providing the color profile information so you don't want the printer to translate it again... which will muck things up and, quite often, change the colors to 'neons'. This is tricky, I've worked with some printers where I could not find a way to use color management in the image file and and driver but avoid having the driver apply it's own adjustment.
You just have to try stuff and be methodical until you find a procedure that works, makes sense and is repeatable. Then you can proof on screen well enough to know what affects a given change will cause.
You don't HAVE to manage color, you can get good prints without it. I print without it all the time but it helps when you want to proof and output across multiple devices like monitors and printers without a lot of expensive guesswork.
Good luck, you may not hear from me again, if you don't, save yourself and don't mention color management in public. I'm going for cover NOW...
Hi Dawn, boy have you opened a can of worms with this one. Everyone has their own opinion on this one, and they're all right in their way. Pick one that works for you.
custom ICC profiles
for better color accuracy or good black and white print, you can make custom profiles for your printer, try here:
cheap , good profiles made with spectro eyeone and profile maker, specific black and white profile ( warm, neutral, cold ) and 2800K, 4000K 5000K 6500K color profiles for all printer/ink/paper combination !
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