"PRINTS TOO DARK", now I need your help!

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First to bring you up to date. Since my workflow article ran in the December issue of Shutterbug, word has gotten around and back to me providing lots of information for a better picture of the problem. I have done more testing, which concluded even for a well color managed system like my own with LCD’s there is some darkening in print results because of color correcting and editing with an LCD with screen brightness set exactly at a luminance of 120.0 CD/m2. I confirmed this by opening some finished scanned image in Photoshop, files done when I had CRT monitors installed and then stored on CD’s that have been printed in the past. These image files look fine in terms of density on my LCD screen, and print as they did in the past achieving the same print density the screen appearance would suggest to expect. I have to assume the reason is that the image brightness midpoint setting in Levels made using a CRT monitor with a white point luminance of 90.0 CD/m2 (which was not changed for this current and test and printing), and the correct brightness of the print is because the brightness range of the CRT closely matched the density range of a high quality inkjet print.

To double check myself, I also opened a recent CD made since I began using LCD displays, and although not a big difference the prints from these images color corrected on an LCD screen, print a little darker. That they print darker confirms what many have complained about, but that my results are a modest darkening, is because my LCD is only 25% brighter than my CRT’s were, and that would only displace the midpoint setting by about half that, so the prints aren’t going to be dramatically darker. But if I were working with an LCD that is at manufacturer default brightness, as some users are, like with iMacs that have produced measured white luminance readings of 300.0 CD/m2, then the midpoint differential or displacement is much bigger, and prints would be consequently very disappointing in being much too dark.

Using some of these same recent LCD color corrected files that print 10-12% darker I identified, to confirm my contention in a recent blog that Soft Proofing does not predict print density, just color matching; I ran the image files through soft proofing and the screen result was a match in density with the original file on screen in PS and lighter than the print result.

This got me thinking, that I and many of you reading this using an Adobe application to print, once you get to the printer drive screen you have the option of saving the “print” you have set up as an Acrobat .PDF file. Being this .PDF file saved instead of making a print on paper has gone through the printer driver, shouldn’t the density of the resulting Acrobat image match the same difference, darker, if that’s what you would get in a paper print? What I am suggesting is that maybe rather than the standard internal Photoshop soft proofing, saving an image through the printer driver as an Acrobat .PDF file could be a better predictor of print output density, and allow photographers to preview print density and avoid wasting paper by making prints that are too dark.

My computer system for printing is rigorously color managed and the darkening of prints because of LCD brightness is slight, so the test Acrobat .PDF files I have produced seem to match paper print densities. But my dark print problem is minimal. So anyone who has a greater “prints too dark” problem, would you please try using the printer driver Save As PDF option and see if the .PDF file opened in Acrobat Reader matches a paper print density or the brightness of the original image file open on-screen in Photoshop, please, please! One note: to make an Acrobat .PDF file as a printer driver option, you need to set Photoshop Color Management in Print window Color Handling to “printer Manages Color”, and if the Source profile is Adobe RGB (1998) the Printer profile should be the same. If you do this experiment in using Acrobat. PDF to produce an image file viewed in Acrobat Reader, and it predicts print density then we can develop a workaround using it to get a paper print correction, and avoid wasting paper and ink on “too dark prints”. E-mail: goofotografx@gmail.com

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