Prints Don’t Match The Image On Screen; Answers For A Color Managed Printing Workflow Page 2

To obtain a match between your display and print output first requires calibrating and profiling your display as accurately as possible. I recommend using either Datacolor’s Spyder3Elite/Pro or X-Rite’s i1Display 2 hardware and software for display calibration and profiling. Both are wizard-driven functions, so just follow the instructions on screen.

Go to the Color Settings command selection at the bottom of the menu bar Edit list and click on it to open the Color Settings dialog window. Under Working Spaces click on the drop-down and from the list of named profiles select Adobe RGB (1998) to have Photoshop CS3 set up to execute a print output color managed workflow.

If your prints are too dark the most likely cause these days is an LCD display that is too bright. In the old days of CRT monitors the brightness range of the monitor was close to the reflective brightness range of a good quality photo print. But LCD displays are natively much brighter by as much as 2-4 times. This causes a digital photo file to be adjusted for brightness to look correct on the screen setting where the image midpoint in the file is too high, causing it to be printed too dark. As part of a display’s calibration and profiling, the white luminance point should be no higher than 120.0 CD/m2; lower than 110.00 CD/m2 usually results in poor display image quality. One feature of LCD displays you should be aware of is that just lowering the brightness setting on the display does not solve the problem. It may seem counterintuitive, but the white luminance level is adjusted and controlled by the display’s contrast adjustment control, not the brightness adjustment.

The Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 Print File menu command will open a Print (preview) window dialog to select the printer, print size options in the middle, and Color Management, the last section on the right column. To execute a color managed print workflow in the Color Handling box select Photoshop Elements to control color. Then the Source profile Adobe RGB (1998) should be indicated in the next line if Elements is set up optimally for printing. Click on the Printer Profile box to bring up the drop-down selection of available printer profiles and choose the profile file for the printer you are using and the paper you have loaded. Under that is a selection for Rendering Intent. You may select for photo printing either Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric. You may want to try each and make your own choice on the basis of which provides the most pleasing print result.
All Photos © 2008, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved

Once your display is calibrated and profiled be sure the new profile is set as the default for your system by going to (Windows) Control Panel>Displays>Advanced>Color Management. In the dialog list your new profile should be listed and marked as default.

Windows Vista Alert: When Microsoft’s Windows Vista was released a bug was found that interferes with the display profile function. Each time an on-screen security alert occurs with a pop-up window, the alert knocks out the display’s set state created at boot-up, making it function as a non-profiled display. To my knowledge this bug has not been eliminated, and there are just three possible workarounds: 1) Turn off Windows Security (dangerous); 2) Reboot every time a security alert window pops up (a pain the…); or 3) Delete Vista and install Windows XP Pro.

The Adobe Photoshop CS, CS2, and CS3 Print Preview dialog provides the means to execute a color managed print workflow by designating Photoshop as the control of color in a profile-to-profile process. If Photoshop Color Settings are used to assign Adobe RGB (1998) as the RGB work space profile, Adobe RGB (1998) becomes the Source profile. Then you select the printer, and the Destination profile that matches the printer and the paper that is loaded for printing. Select the Rendering Intent, either Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric, and finally, in the printer’s Driver window dialog select “no color adjustment.”

2. It’s not enough to calibrate and profile a display to obtain screen to print matching performance. You must be using a photo application that supports color management and it must be set up correctly. Applications that support color management include all current versions of Adobe’s Photoshop from CS to Elements, Adobe’s Lightroom, Apple’s Aperture (as well as most Apple graphic programs like iPhoto), Corel’s Draw and Paint Shop Pro Photo X2. Most inexpensive Windows photo applications do not provide support for color management functioning for screen to print matching.

With all Adobe applications and most others that have color management support, to initiate the function you need to open Color Settings and that dialog window should indicate that the application recognizes the display profile. Then set the application’s RGB work space profile, which should be Adobe RGB (1998) for printing or sRGB only for output to the web. (With Elements choose the setting for print output to work in Adobe RGB.)

A workaround to correct for too dark prints is possible with any of the CS full versions of Photoshop. In the Print Preview dialog window select More Options and in the extended lower part of the dialog window select the tab Output rather than Color Management, then click on the Transfer button.

3. When you select to make a print use the Print Preview window and choose to have Photoshop “control color.” And, note when this option is selected (Adobe RGB is designated the Source profile), you also need to select the Destination or Printer profile for the printer and paper you will be using. Finally, after the Print button is triggered, and in the Printer Driver dialog window, be sure to select “no color adjustment.”

The Transfer Functions window somewhat resembles the Photoshop Curves dialog with a graph and curve line from the lower left to upper right. Use your mouse cursor to click in the exact center of the curve line and drag the point toward the lower right corner of the graph. This action should cause a number to appear in the 50 percent box at the bottom in the column just to the right of the graph. That number will decrease in value as you drag the curve line down. From my experiments you should try making your first test print at 40 percent, and decrease it more if the print is not light enough or increase the value to higher than 40 percent if the print is too light. Trial and error should establish an ideal lightening percentage. When you arrive at that percentage click on the Save button and save this Transfer Function, which you can then Load for future prints that need lightening.

4. Photoshop CS, CS2, and CS3 “print too dark” correction: You can control the print lightness/darkness with the full version of Photoshop using a Print Preview option that’s located in “more options” at the bottom of the Preview window by clicking on the Output tab, and then on the Transfer button. With the Transfer dialog window up, the procedure is fairly straightforward using the graph interface similar to Curves. Use your mouse cursor and click on the exact center of the graph, which activates the 50 percent value box at the bottom of the column to the right of the graph. If you then drag the curve down so it bends toward the lower right corner, and then click OK and continue the print procedure normally, the resulting print will be lighter. In my tests I found reducing the 50 percent to 40 percent was a good starter lightening level. That was just a guess that may have to be refined by trial and error print testing. Once a reduction in the 50 percent middle value is tested and established to correct for the fact your prints are too dark, then on the far right of the dialog you can save the Transfer adjustment as a file you can open later for subsequent printing. However, you may find that you may want to experiment with this Transfer curve adjustment to suit different subjects and tastes.

David Brooks can be reached via e-mail at: