Printing with Profiles (Colour Mgmt II) (Podcast 21)

Printing with Profiles (Colour Mgmt II) (Podcast 21)

Welcome to Episode 21 which is the second part of two Colour Management Podcasts. Last week I discussed monitor calibration. You don’t really need to listen to both of these episodes to benefit from either of them, but if you didn’t catch last weeks episode and are interested in the tools and steps I use to perform my own monitor calibration, it might be better to listen to that first then come back to this.

Before getting into the main topic for today, I’d like to briefly mention that last week I said I didn’t know of a way to calibrate the second monitor on a Windows multi-monitor setup, but Tomas Wangen from Norway mailed me saying that it should be possible by starting the ProfileChooser that is installed with Spyder2PRO. It was not actually possible with the ProfileChooser on my system, but I reckon it is to do with my Video Card. I do have a great card installed, but it doesn’t act the way Tomas says his system works. Anyway, if you choose the Spyder2PRO, you might well be able to do this. Thanks very much Tomas for your advice. This may well be very useful for other listeners.

There actually one other thing we should touch on before moving on to today’s main topic which is printing with profiles. That is that I always use AdobeRGB as my working colour space. I set my Canon digital SLR to record images in AdobeRGB and therefore ensure that I continue to use that colour space in Photoshop. To do this, from the Edit menu select Color Settings and in the Working Spaces section set the RGB pulldown to AdobeRGB (1998). I use AdobeRGB as it has a wider gamut, which means it is capable of mapping more colours than sRGB, which is the basic colour space that PCs use. One thing to note is that although some monitors will display AdobeRGB colours, most only display the sRGB range. This means that hypothetically if you never print your images, say you know that your images will only ever be viewed on an sRGB monitor, you don’t need to worry about this. However, using AdobeRGB will provide you with better colours when printing, and as you probably can’t say with any certainty that you will really only ever view your images on an sRGB monitor and never print them out, it would be a safer bet to use AdobeRGB.

When I’m editing older images that were shot in sRGB I usually leave the colour space as sRGB, but if I am going to alter the brightness or saturation etc., pretty much anything that will change the appearance of the image, I convert it to AdobeRGB. Note that for viewing on the Web it is better to convert to sRGB though, because as far as I know, Web browsers are likely to not understand how to display the image if it is using AdobeRGB, so the colours may be misrepresented on screen. Usually this will result in slightly less saturated colours in your image.

There are other colour spaces available such as CMYK, which is used by some professional printers, but unless intend to send the digital files to these kind of service you don’t really need to worry about this. There are also even wider colour spaces, but currently the widest colour space that Canon cameras will create an image with is AdobeRGB, so I reckon this is enough.

So now we’re using a calibrated monitor and the AdobeRGB colour space in Photoshop we’re ready to print.

I use a printer capable of printing up to 13 by 19 inch prints, which is the A3+ paper size. My printer is an Epson and is called PM-4000PX here in Japan. I believe this is known as the Stylus Photo 2200 in the US and other parts of the world. As much as I love Canon gear, I have only ever used Epson printers. I hear that Canon printers are now very good, but I still use Epson.

When you install your printer driver after buying your printer, there is also a set of standard profiles that gets installed to your system, and using these when printing to Epson papers should produce great results. However, whenever I buy photo printing paper other than Epson, I check to see if there are downloadable profiles for that particular paper and printer combination. For example, I extensively use Pictorico papers, and I downloaded the profiles for my printer for each of these papers and installed it to my computer so that I can select the necessary profile each time I print. There are usually instructions with the profiles or online with regards to how to install them, but basically, you copy them to the windowssystem32spooldriverscolor directory on a Windows XP system, or the librarycoloursyncprofiles directory on a Mac I believe.

Last week I mailed Pictorico’s Support team and found that they actually no longer produce ICC profiles for their papers due to the maintenance cost. They suggested that you can have profiles made at for under $100. The colormanagement site also has lots of information on colour management, so it might be worth checking out even if you aren’t looking to get a profile made. If you don’t mind fighting the Japanese screens though, you can still download profiles for a number of Pictorico paper and printer combinations from the Japan site. I’ll include both the colormanagement and Pictorico Japan’s profile page in the show notes.

You can also buy devices similar to the monitor calibration tool I talked about in Episode 20 to profile the output of your printer to any paper and create a profile for it, which you also drop into this directory. Originally I gave up on this idea as I was advised by the guy at one of the photographic equipment stores I frequent here in Tokyo that this will be no better than the ones you can download from the paper manufacturer. I’ll probably need to reconsider this decision though if the general trend is going to be for paper manufacturers to stop making profiles available for download. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. The thing is, you need a profile for every paper you print to and if you have multiple printers, you need a profile for each printer too. This would soon make the investment in a printer calibration tool worth while.

So moving on; although you will be doing various modifications to your image after loading it to Photoshop, and I won’t go into this today, do note that it is always advisable to sharpen your image specifically for printing once you’ve completed all your changes, as ink bleeds to various degrees depending on the type of paper you use. I use a Photoshop plug-in called PhotoKit Sharpener from Pixelgenius that I also mentioned in Episode 12 of this Podcast on my Digital Workflow. I’ll add the link to Pixelgenius’ Web site again to the show notes for your convenience. From PhotoKit Sharpener I select the Output Sharpener, and from there you can select the degree of sharpening to apply, based on the dpi or “dots per inch” of your image and the target paper type, the options for which are gloss and matte.

Once I’ve sharpened for printing, I usually make a copy of the file with the details of the options I applied appended to the filename. This is so that I can come back to this file later to create exactly the same print, and also gives you a reference point to fine tune the process. If you found it was not as sharp as you’d hoped, you can see what you used previously and increase the effect a little next time.

Note here too that you can actually use Photoshop to soft-proof your images before printing to get a good idea of what the image will look like printed using any of your printer/profile combinations. When used, Photoshop will only show you colours on the screen that your printer can reproduce. To do this, select Proof Setup, then Custom from the View menu, and then under “Proof Conditions” select your “Device to simulate”, or in other words the ICC profile for your printer. This will show you on screen pretty much exactly what you will see when you actually print. I don’t use this all that often as I am usually pretty confident that I can get good results by just going right ahead with printing. One very useful purpose for soft-proofing in my workflow is when I have the choice of which paper to print on. When I am making an original print for an order, I can’t choose, as the customer already chose. Also, for consistency, I always print my portfolio images on Pictorico Velvity paper, so again I don’t have a choice, but if I am not bound by these restrictions I sometimes soft-proof to see which type of paper an image will look best on. Take a look at this for yourself. You’ll probably be surprised by the difference between various profiles.

So, moving on; now that we’ve got a sharpened file that we want to print, I’ll tell you how I go about actually creating the print. I always print from Photoshop, mainly because it allows me to select the exact size of the image on the paper and allows me to select the printer/paper profiles mentioned earlier.

I start the actual process of printing by selecting “Print with Preview” from the “File” menu. The first thing you want to do here is set the target paper size and orientation. That is, if you are printing to A3+ paper size with the Landscape orientation, you’ll need to click on the “Printer Settings” button and make these selections. Having done this, you can now see what percentage the image will be printed at on that particular paper. As I always shoot in RAW, I set my RAW workflow software to output images at 240dpi, which is just about the exact size I need to fill an A3+ page at 100%. If you use an 8Megapixel camera, you might want to output at 180dpi if you print to A3+ regularly. If you print to A4 mainly though, a higher DPI will still fill the paper. This is all pretty relative though, and Photoshop and your printer will adjust this as necessary, using as many pixels as available. Remember, you are not actually increasing the image size by selecting a higher resolution. The width of the image in pixels remains the same.

There have been many conversations on this across the Web, but basically I find that if you have a sharp image to start with, even from a 3 megapixel camera, you will get an acceptably sharp print up to A3+, perfectly suitable for viewing from 3 feet or so away while hanging on the wall behind glass. I think though ideally, for A3+, that is 13 by 19 inch prints, 6 megapixels or larger is definitely better.

So, be sure to click the “More Options” button on the right, and then below, there will a pull-down that contains both “Output” and “Color Management”. Select “Color Management” and leave the “Print” option set to “Document” and the AdobeRGB profile will be displayed, if that is the colour space you used. Below you will also see a section called “Options”, select the “Colour Handling” pull-down and make sure that Photoshop does the colour handling and not your printer. The next pulldown is where you select the printer profile. This is where you select the profiles that were either preinstalled by your printer driver, or those that you added for other papers, like the Pictorico papers I mentioned earlier. Now, for the next option, “Rendering Intent”, I always select “Perceptual” as I find this to be the best option for photographs, but this is somewhat down to personal preference. You could try the other options to see how you like them. I also always turn on “Black Point Compensation” too.

So you can either modify your printer settings now from this screen, or Click OK to continue then select the printer settings as you proceed, and you’ll want to select the type of paper and then go into the advanced settings and turn off high-speed printing. This will increase the quality of your output image. Also ensure that you select “No Color Adjustment”, to make sure that the printer driver doesn’t mess around with the output, as you already told Photoshop exactly how you want to do this.

Once you have made your settings here, it will save you from remembering the settings if you save them with a meaningful name. I usually include the name of the paper here, so that I can find it easily when printing to the same paper in future. I then really don’t even open these dialogues again. Just select the preset and press OK.

Now, as long as your monitor was calibrated correctly and you chose the right profile for the paper you output to, your print should be very close to what you saw on the screen. One thing to note is that many papers need anything from an hour to 24 hours to fully dry and until that time has elapsed, you may find that the image looks substantially darker than the image on your monitor. In that case, don’t worry for now. Wait until the time has elapsed and recheck the print. On occasion, I do have to brighten the image for printing, because it doesn’t brighten up. If you need to do this, I suggest performing this on a copy that you might be saving specifically for printing, and not the original image.

And that’s it. I hope this has been useful. Again, this is really just my way of doing things. If you do find anything useful, drop it into your workflow.


Before we close, just two pieces of housekeeping. First, Phil from Pennsylvania, USA, screen name Damaxx in my forum, recently pointed out to me that there is now a Customer Review system in iTunes to allow you to write reviews against Podcasts. If you have any comments about the MBP Podcast and would like to support the show, please go along and find the Podcast under “Photography” in the “Art & Entertainment” section iTunes. Once you find the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast in the list, click the little circle with the arrow in next to the title. A section will then open at the top of the window, and the Customer Reviews link should be visible below the square image for the Podcast. At least, it says Customer Reviews in Japanese. If it says something different in English, please let me know.

And finally, I have finally gotten around to updating the Forum and Gallery software for my Web site and will be taking the site offline for a little while to update the live version. This will not affect the Podcast feed or downloads, it just means that you will not be able to browse the forum or gallery for an hour or so during the upgrade. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but if you should visit the site and find it inactive, please come back in an hour or so. If all goes well it should be back online.

Also, I haven’t said this for a while, but remember if you have any feedback or ideas on this Podcast, you can contact me via email or Private Message from the forum if you are a member, or better still, post it straight into the forum. If you don’t want to register, which by the way is of course totally free and just takes a moment, you can mail me from the contact form on the Podcast page.

So that’s it for this week. Have a great week, and I’ll be back next week with another episode of the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast.

Show Notes
The Music in the first 28 Podcasts is copyright of William Cushman © 2005, used with kind permission.


Subscribe in iTunesSubscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).

Download this Podcast in Enhanced Podcast M4A format. This requires Apple iTunes or Quicktime to view/listen.

Monitor Calibration (Colour Mgmt I) (Podcast 20)

Monitor Calibration (Colour Mgmt I) (Podcast 20)

Welcome to Episode 20, which is the first part of two episode on colour management. In this episode, part one, I’m going to discuss how I calibrate my monitor to ensure that what I am seeing is the same as anyone else that also have a correctly calibrated monitor, and more importantly to ensure that the image I work with can be printed with faithful colours. Following on from this, in part two next week, I’ll explain how I use printer profiles in Photoshop to ensure that what I output to any given paper is as close to what I see on my calibrated monitor screen as possible.

I first mentioned that I would do a Podcast on this in Episode 12 on my Digital Workflow. Thanks to Julian Foley, screen name FireBall on the MBP forum for prompting me to talk about this. Julian from Angus, Scotland, has just bought a new monitor and was hoping for some calibration tips. Congratulations on your new monitor Julian. Today I’m only really going to talk about what I do, but I hope you and the other listeners find it useful.

The importance of calibrating your monitor is two fold. Firstly, you need to know that the colours you are viewing on screen are an accurate representation of the colours you’ve captured with your camera. Without doing this, you may well not be able to print an accurate image either. Also, you need to know that what you see on your screen is exactly the same as what someone else will see on a properly calibrated monitor. I’ve heard photographer’s say that they do not like showing images on the Web because they have no control over the colour rendition, brightness and contrast on the monitors of the viewers. This is very true. The only way to really minimize this concern is if everyone calibrates their monitor. Of course, that’s unlikely to happen, but it is a state in which it would be nice to be.

Anyway, moving on; if you are going to calibrate your monitor, and you use Adobe Photoshop, you will probably need to disable the Adobe Gamma Loader before hand, as this will conflict with the profile that you create with your calibration device and software and later load each time you boot your machine. To do this on Windows, you just need to delete the Gamma Loader shortcut from the Startup folder in the Program Menu and reboot your machine. I’m not sure how to do this on a Mac, but I’m sure it’s just as simple. Maybe someone could let us know on the forum.

We should also note at this point that some cheaper monitors don’t allow you to modify the RGB, or Red, Green and Blue colour settings individually using your monitor’s menu. You can do a certain amount of calibration without this but I don’t know how much. If you want to get the most out of calibration, I suggest you first check that your monitor allows you to modify the RGB colours individually. On my monitor which is an Eizo, I can modify these by selecting Colour Management and then Gain from the Screen Manager, which is the monitor’s menu accessible with the buttons on the front of the monitor. Another tip here is, if your monitor’s menu allow you to move the menu to locations other than the center of the screen, move it to the top right, or one of the other corners. This will allow you to change the settings while you have the calibration sensor in place on your screen.

I use a tool called a Spyder2 Pro from ColorVision. This tool is made up of some software that you install on your computer, and a Spyder or sensor, that you hang over the front of your monitor. Apparently Spyder2PRO can be used to calibrate CRT, LCD and laptop monitors and digital projectors. There is also a product called Eye-One Display 2 from Gretag MacBeth which does pretty much the same thing. There are cheaper and more expensive calibration tools in both of these company’s ranges and I’m sure there are other companies around that offer similar products. I’ll include a link to both the Spyder2Pro page and the Eye-One Display 2 page in the show notes. You can take a look for yourself and compare the specifications and other offerings from these companies to decide which to go with. The important thing is that both provide a sensor that fits onto your monitor screen and views the colours your monitor produces, and after calibration create a profile file that is loaded when you turn on your computer.

As I say, I use the Spyder2PRO. Note that the first time you use it you have to install the software etc. but you can change the settings at any time later during the process I’ll work you through next, so I won’t go into details of the installation today. It’s really just a case on banging the CD into the tray and clicking through the install.

Firstly attach the Spyder (or sensor) to the USB port of the computer and start the calibration software. The Welcome screen tells me that the assistant is going to help me to adjust my monitor and create a custom ICC profile. During the process the Tonal Response or Gamma, the White Point or Colour Temperature, and the Black and White Luminance will be adjusted.

I click the next button and I’m reminded that the monitor needs to be turned on for at least one hour and the Spyder has to be connected and allowed to warm up for at least five minutes. I need to disable screen savers so as the screen doesn’t change during the process and make me have to start over. I also have to ensure that no light is falling onto the monitor face. I usually do this at night and just turn off the lights while running the tool. If you do this during the day, draw the curtains or pull down the blinds. I’m also reminded that for best results set the display to 24bit colour or better.

When I click next I’m told that I have selected LCD as the monitor type, this was during the initial setup and the name of my monitor is also displayed. The Gamma is set to 2.2 and the White Point or colour temperature of my monitor is set to 6500 Kelvin. The luminance mode is set to Visual as this is usually fine. You can choose Measured Luminance Mode which allows you to specify the desired values for Black Luminance and White Luminance. These values are then displayed during the luminance adjustment steps and you are prompted to adjust the appropriate monitor control until the measured value meets the desired value. If you leave the Luminance Mode as Visual, the tool will set these values for you without any intervention. Note too that you can select the Change button here and change any of these settings as required.

On the next screen I can select the controls which exist on my monitor from Brightness, Contrast and Backlight. I don’t have a backlight option or brightness option so I only have a Contrast selected here. On the following screen I’m reminded to set my Contrast back to the factory defaults.

On the next screen I can change the contrast to adjust the White Luminance. It is recommended to leave this as the factory default, as this usually provides the best results. Basically here I’m just making sure that I can distinguish between the four separate blocks on the screen. On the next screen I can select the colour controls that I have. On my monitor I have RGB controls and preset Kelvin values, but I don’t have a Kelvin slider, so I just check the two that I have.

From the following screen I am guided through setting the RGB settings. At this point I have to place the spyder in a position in the center of the screen so that the colour displayed on screen by the software can be read by the spyder, and then click the continue button. The sensor is initialized and the the Red, Green and Blue samples and the White Point are read in succession. I then see a three bars, one red, one green and one blue, and I have to adjust the RGB gain controls until the top of all the bars is aligned within a range displayed on the monitor. I’ve been calibrating my monitor for 6 months or so now, and the values remain pretty constant at 92% red, 96% green and 100% blue.

Once I click the continue button after this, the black point is read first, and then the program reads through the red, green and blue samples again in minutely varying stages. It starts off at black and then gradually changes to a full red and then resets to almost black and works through the varying stages of green then blue. After this, it works through a selection of gray samples and that is the last stage of the actual calibration. The calibration process takes about ten minutes or so to complete so including the settings I made earlier the whole process takes between 15 to 20 minutes. You don’t have to touch anything during this final stage, so it’s a good time to go and get a cup of coffee or something. Just don’t turn the light on, or you’ll need to repeat the process from scratch. Once done, you remove the spyder from the screen and click through a few more dialogues and then you are given a suggested name for the new custom profile that you’ve just created, which you can change if you want. This new profile is automatically set, until you change it again that is, each time you boot your machine. On the second to last screen you can actually switch between the previous settings and the settings after calibration to see the difference. The very last screen gives you a quit button or the option to calibrate again.

And that’s it. Your monitor is now as close to a standard as it can be, so you can be sure that what you see on your screen is very close to what others with an accurately calibrated monitor will also see. Of course, the saturation and other attributes of your monitor may well vary, but you know that it is as close as it can be. Note that if you use a Mac and have multiple monitors I believe you can actually calibrate both separately and apply the ICC profiles on a per monitor basis. Unfortunately Windows does not allow you to do this, but as I only use my second monitor for things like the toolbar and various palettes of Photoshop, I’m not too worried about the colour. Also, my second monitor is a very cheap LCD that I stand on it’s side and rotate the image so that I have the feel of a very wide monitor, but not as expensive.

So now that we have a calibrated monitor and know what we are looking at is accurate, let’s talk about the next stage, which is setting the colour space in Photoshop and then on to printing.

Show Notes
The Music in the first 28 Podcasts is copyright of William Cushman © 2005, used with kind permission.


Subscribe in iTunes for Enhanced Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast in MP3 format (Audio Only).