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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Color Printing Technique

The leap from computer monitor to printed output is where most professionals experience issues of color shift and a loss of punch in a photograph. Los Angeles-based pro Lee Varis takes us through the steps to get perfect prints.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Figure 3. The version on the left shows the original RGB (Adobe RGB) screen version; the version on the right shows a Paper White simulation of CMYK (U.S. Web Coated—SWOP v2).
Paper White isn’t as white as a backlit monitor. Once you understand that, you can begin to see how this simulation might be useful. The problem is that our eyes are confused by all the white in the interface visible on the monitor. You can mitigate the effect of all this white by toggling to Full Screen mode. Press the F key to hide the desktop and place the image on a gray background. Press the F key again to get a black background, and press the Tab key to hide the panels. Without the white reference of the interface, the duller image doesn’t look that bad. In many cases, with desktop inkjet printers, the simulation will be only slightly duller; however, it can give you a heads-up warning about how the contrast will change—low values might get muddy and highlights might get less intense.

To most people, the screen simulation looks worse than the final print because matching the visual context of the print for screen viewing is very difficult. However, the simulation is still quite useful because it helps you get enough contrast in the image to produce a good print. You can leave Proof Colors on and use any adjustment tools to optimize the image for your output. Usually, simple Curves can be used to add extra contrast to punch up the image for the more limited dynamic range of the typical output. Many photographers leave the simulation on when they display images on the monitor to their clients. This reduces the clients’ expectations, and they have fewer problems accepting a final print.

Figure 4. Select Color Management in the drop-down at the upper right.
Desktop Printing
After sharpening, previewing and adjusting, the moment of truth will finally arrive when you have to make an actual print. Even if you’re sending the file to a commercial printer, you’ll want to make a desktop print to use as a rough proof or aim print. As a digital photographer, you’ll probably be printing from Photoshop. For your first step in the final sequence, go to the File menu (File > Print).

When the print dialog comes up, make sure you have Color Management selected in the drop-down at the upper-right corner; most of the important printing options for our purposes are in this area (Figure 4). This is where you set up all the Profile options for your prints.

At the center of the dialog, Position controls how the image lays out on the page. The Center Image check box provides a quick way to place the image. Directly below that is the Scaled Print Size area; by default, this is set up for 100%. If the image is way too small or way too big on the page preview, click the Print Settings button and make sure you’re using the right-sized paper. Checking the Scale To Fit Media check box is a quick and dirty method of sizing the image to fit the paper; just beware that your quality will suffer if the reported Scale percentage is overly high. It’s far better to set the size properly in Photoshop before using the dialog. The Bounding Box check box is useful when you have an area of white canvas in your image—the bounding box shows the edges of the image against the white of the paper.

The important color settings reside in the right third of the dialog box. The two radio buttons directly under the Color Management drop-down identify whether you’re going to print the document directly or generate a simulation proof; if you’re making prints for your portfolio or to sell to a client, you’ll probably check Docu-ment because this generally will provide the highest-quality print for your image. This sets the profile to the document color space and determines from where the color starts in its journey to the print.

Next is the Color Handling area. For RGB images, the Color Handling drop-down shows Photoshop Man-ages Colors, Printer Manages Colors or Separations.

Photoshop Manages Colors. Select-ing Photoshop Manages Colors allows you to select the Printer Profile in the drop-down menu just below this one. This is the most straightforward way to set up color management for the print. If you select Photoshop Manages Colors, remember to turn off color management in the printer dialog!


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