When was the first time you heard about “colour management”? When your print did not matched the image on the display and you had to spent some money and ink to tweak the colour settings of the printer driver or the monitor display in order to get an acceptable print? This is why we created this little workflow guide to provide you with the correct application and profile settings in order to print consistent and predictable colour. You will learn how to set up colour management in Adobe Photoshop CS2 and then print with an Epson driver. We use Windows XP to demonstrate the workflow; however MAC OS 10.4 will be similar. The EPSON Stylus Pro 7800 printer is used as example in these steps, but the workflow is similar for other Epson printers.
The monitor is your window to colour
A well calibrated and profiled monitor is essential for any colour work that should be predictable and consistent throughout the workflow. You cannot colour correct on screen nor expect any match between screen and print if the monitor is uncalibrated and unprofiled.
Today you can find affordable, good quality instrument solutions with a colorimeter or spectrophotometer. You should purchase one of these solutions. Do not try to perform a visual calibration and profiling as your eye is not precise and repeatable enough. The application of an instrument based solution does both – calibration and profiling. Calibration ensures that your monitor works in an optimal, stable and repeatable state. Profiling describes the present colour reproduction capabilities of your monitor. Because displays change over time, monitor profiling should be repeated on a regular basis – at least once a month.
Inkjet printers are RGB devices
In general inkjet printers are RGB devices; even if they use cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink for printing. Therefore send an image file that is in a RGB colour space to your Epson inkjet printer driver. The Epson inkjet printer driver will follow your driver settings to convert the image data from RGB to CMYK values and will calculate how much ink of the up to 8 inks is needed to reproduce any CMYK value. The driver takes also into account the media type you use. Generally RC based photo paper can have more ink on its surface than plain paper before ink is blurring.
Adobe Photoshop’s CS2 colour setup
Before you open any image to print it is essential to correctly set up your application’s colour management. So start by opening Adobe Photoshop.
Select from the menu bar EDIT and then COLOR SETTINGS.
This will bring up the COLOR SETTINGS dialog. Then click on MORE OPTIONS.
Now you have to select an RGB WORKING SPACE.
A good RGB working space is not too big and can covers most reproducible colours of your monitor and printer. In general a good choice is ADOBE RGB (1998).
We don’t change the other working spaces as they are not important for the type of workflow we discuss in this document.
Next you set the COLOR MANAGEMENT POLICIES to “PRESERVE EMBEDDED PROFILES”.
Then activate all PROFILE MISMATCHES and MISSING PROFILES dialogs. This ensures you will display opened images colour correct and you avoid unnecessary conversion steps.
Leave the default CONVERSTION OPTIONS. For photographic prints you can either use the PERCEPTUAL or RELATIVE COLORIMETRIC RENDER INTENT.
BLACK POINT COMPENSATION ensures that you don’t get blurred or washed out shadows after a colour space conversion. USE DITHER makes sure that you will not get posterization in gradients.
Now you have set up Adobe Photoshop’s colour settings and you can open the image you want to print.
Opening an image in Adobe Photoshop CS2
If you see following message, select USE THE EMBEDDED PROFILE (INSTEAD OF THE WORKING SPACE) option and click OK. Your image has a profile embedded that is different from your selected RGB working space. However with a colour managed workflow you will display the image colour correct and you avoid an additional conversion step. Each conversion brings always some image quality loss.
Sometimes you may open images that are untagged. This means the images don’t have an embedded profile. In this case you have to assign a RGB working space. If you don’t know it’s original RGB working space you have to guess and to assign any RGB working space.
Start the guessing with your default Adobe RGB working space and click OK.
When your image appears on screen, evaluate the colour balance and saturation, the contrast and tonal differentiation from bright to dark colours.
If you think the overall image look can be improved, select EDIT, then ASSIGN PROFILE and try sRGB or any other RGB colour space profile. With the activated PREVIEW check box you see immediately each change.
Finally take the one that has in your opinion the best colour saturation and tonal differentiation from bright to dark colours. So which RGB colour space profile would you assign in the case of the image below?
Too dull and in low contrast.
Too saturated, reddish skin tone
Good tonal differentiation and natural skin tones.
Adobe Photoshop’s CS2 Printing
The key to a consistent and predictable colour print is to apply the right printer profile and media type settings.
Open Adobe Photoshop’s print dialog from FILE and then PRINT WITH PREVIEW. Then select your print settings by click on PAGE SETUP.
Click directly the PRINTER button.
Select your printer form the pull down menu. Then click OK.
Select the correct PAPER SIZE and PAPER SOURCE of your printer.
Select PORTRAIT or LANDSCAPE as the ORIENTATION of your image.
Click on MORE OPTIONS
Choose COLOR MANAGEMENT from the pull down menu. Additional options will appear.
Activate PRINT DOCUMENT. You see the current profile of your image. If you followed our suggestions it is your current working space, the ADOBE RGB colour space.
Under COLOR HANDLING select LET PHOTOSHOP DETERMINE COLORS.
In PRINTER PROFILE select the proper profile. This profile is for your printer and the paper type you will use for the printer
As the RENDERING INTENT choose PERCEPTUAL or RELATIVE COLORIMETRIC. Both are suited settings for photographic images. If your image contains very saturated colours, the perceptual rendering intent may work better as he reduces the colour saturation so that the colours will fit within the pritner’S colour gamut.
Check the BLACK POINT COMPENSATION check box. You will ensure that the shadow detail in the image is preserved by using the full dynamic range of the output device. It is recommended to leave this on as otherwise you can end up with totally blocked or washed out shadows.
Then click the PRINT button.
Make sure your printer is still selected in the pull down menu and then click on PROPERTIES.
The Epson printer driver dialog will open.
Activate CUSTOM and click the ADVANCED button.
Select the MEDIA TYPE you are going to use from the pull down menu.
Select the PRINT QUALITY. For photographic images you should generally choose something between 720, 1440 and 2880 dpi.
Turn off the HIGH SPEED, EDGE SMOOTHING and FINEST DETAIL setting.
Select OFF (NO COLOR ADJUSTMENT) for the PRINTER COLOR MANAGEMENT. If you forget about this, the printer driver will apply additional correction to the image and produce inaccurate colours.
Depending on which printer you have the Off (No color adjustment) setting can be in different location.
Click OK and again OK to print.
If you whish to display before printing a page print layout, you can activate in the printer driver the PRINT PREVIEW box. However the print preview displays a “layout only” representation of the image. This is only useful to visualize the position of the image on the selected paper size. Do not use it for judging on colour matching.
If you have a well calibrated and profiled monitor and you follow these set up recommendations you should get a print out that matches the image display of your screen quite well. However we recommend you further reading from books and the internet as colour management is a complex subject.