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How to manage consistent colours using Adobe Photoshop

RELATES TO:

  • Colour Management.
  • Adobe Photoshop.

EXPLANATION:

When was the first time you heard about 'colour management'? When your print did not match the image displayed on the monitor and you had to spend time, money and ink to tweak the colour settings of the printer driver or the monitor display in order to get an acceptable print? We have created this 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 and then print with an Epson driver. Windows XP is used to demonstrate the workflow; however Mac OS X 10.4 and higher will be similar. The Epson Stylus Pro 7800 printer is used as an example in these steps, but the workflow is similar for other Epson printers.


The monitor is your window to colour

    Computer Monitor


    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 the screen and the print if the monitor is neither calibrated nor profiled.

    Today you can find affordable and good quality instrument solutions with a colorimeter or spectrophotometer. We recommend that you purchase one of these solutions. Do not try to perform a visual calibration and profiling as your eye is not precise and reliable 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. As displays change over time, monitor profiling should be repeated on a regular basis - at least once a month.


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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 it is correct to send an image file that is in a RGB colour space to your Epson inkjet printer driver. The 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 available inks, is needed to reproduce any CMYK value.


    Notes Icon Note:

    The printer driver will follow your settings for the Paper Type and Quality settings you select. Therefore it is important that the paper selected in the printer driver matches the paper actually being used.

    Generally Resin-Coated or Resin-based photo paper can have more ink on its surface than plain paper before ink may appear to blur or bleed.


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Adobe Photoshop colour setup

    Notes Icon Note:

    Before you open any image to print it is essential to correctly set up your application's colour management. Start by opening Adobe Photoshop.


    1. From the menu bar, select Edit and then Color Settings.

    2. This will bring up the Color Settings dialogue window. Then click on More Options:


    3. Now you have to select an RGB Working Space.


      A good RGB working space isn't too big and can cover most reproducible colours of your monitor and printer. Generally, 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 article.

      Next you should set the Color Management Policies to 'Preserve Embedded Profiles', and then activate all the options under Profile Mismatches and Missing Profiles (tick the option boxes). This ensures you will display the opened images colour correct and avoid any unnecessary conversion steps.

      Under Conversation Options, leave the default 'Engine' setting. For photographic prints you can either use Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric as the rendering 'Intent'.

      Leave Black Point Compensation selected as this ensures that you don't get blurred or washed out shadows after a colour space conversion. Select Use Dither as this ensures that posterization does not occur in gradients.

      Now that you have set up Adobe Photoshop's colour settings, you can open the image you want to print.


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Opening an image in Adobe Photoshop

    If you see the following message regarding 'Embedded Profile Mismatch' when opening an image, select Use the embedded profile (instead of the working space) option and click OK:



    This message indicates that 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 correctly and you avoid an additional conversion step. Each conversion will always result in some loss of image quality.

    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 an RGB working space. If you don't know its original RGB working space you have to guess and to assign any RGB working space.



    You could start this process by selecting 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 each change immediately.



    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:


    sRGB ProPhoto RGB Adobe RGB
    Too dull and low in contrast. Too saturated, reddish skin. Good tonal differentiation and natural skin tones.


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Adobe Photoshop Printing

    The key to a consistent and predictable colour print is to apply the right printer profile and Media Type settings. The following workflow can be applied to printing colour images and can also be applied to printing greyscale, black and white, or sepia images.

    However, if you wish to print in B&W or sepia and have an Epson UltraChrome K3 printer we recommend viewing the following article to take advantage of the specific technology: A guide to achieving professional quality B&W prints with an Ultrachrome K3 printer


    1. Open File then Page Setup.

    2. Select the correct Paper Size and Paper Source for your printer.

    3. Select Portrait or Landscape as the Orientation of your image. Click OK.

    4. Open Adobe Photoshop's print dialog from File and then Print with preview (all versions up to CS2) or Print (CS3, CS4, and CS5).

    5. Make sure your printer is selected before making your print settings.

      • Photoshop CS3 and higher: Make sure your printer is displayed in the Printer: menu. You can change this using the drop-down menu if necessary.

      • All Photoshop versions up to and including CS2: Click on Page Setup, then click on the Printer button. Select your printer from the pull-down menu, and then click OK.

        All Photoshop versions up to and including CS2:

    6. You return to the print with preview window.
      • For Photoshop versions up to and including CS2, click on More Options to access the advanced settings and then choose Color Management from the pull-down menu. The following additional options appear.

    7. Make the following selections under 'Color Management':

      • Select Document under 'Print'. If you followed our suggestions, the 'Profile' is set as your current working space, 'Adobe RGB (1998)'.

      • Set 'Color Handling' to Let Photoshop Determine Colors or Photoshop Manages Colors (depending on your Photoshop version).

      • Set 'Printer Profile' to the proper ICC profile. This profile is for your printer and the paper type you will use for the printer. Epson ICC profiles are listed for Epson media types only. 

      • For the 'Rendering Intent' choose Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric. Both are suitable settings for photographic images. If your image contains very saturated colours, the perceptual rendering intent may work better as it reduces the colour saturation so the colours will fit within the printer's colour gamut.

      • Tick the Black Point Compensation check box. Doing this will ensure that the shadow detail in the image is preserved by using the full dynamic range of the output device. We recommend you leave this on as otherwise you can end up with totally blocked or washed out shadows.

      Figure 4. Adobe Photoshop version CS3 and CS4


    8. Open the printer driver. The workflow at this step differs slightly between Photoshop versions.
      • All Photoshop versions up to CS4: Click the Print button. Make sure your printer is still selected. For Windows, click Properties or Preferences. For Mac OS X, click Print Settings.

      • CS5: Make sure your printer is still selected in the pull-down menu and click the Print Settings button. For Mac OS X, select Print Settings from the pull-down menu.

      Note:

      For version CS5 the workflow is slightly different. Page Setup has changed to Print Settings. You must access Print Settings before you click the Print button or Print Once; otherwise, the print proceeds without you having the option to make your changes to the driver settings.


      Set the rendering intent


    9. The Epson printer driver dialog opens.

        Notes Icon Note for Windows users:
        1. The Main tab opens by default.

        2. Open the Advanced section of the driver.
          • In some drivers, you can access this under 'Mode', select Custom and click the Advanced button.

          • In some drivers, you will not see these options. Instead, you should click on 'Advanced' found in the bottom-right corner of the 'Main' tab. Other drivers may have a dedicated 'Advanced' tab which you should click on (located beside 'Main').


    10. Next, select your print settings.
      • Select the Paper Type you are going to use from the pull-down menu.

      • Select the Print Quality. For photographic images you should generally choose a high quality or something between 720, 1440, and 2880 dpi.

        Notes Icon Note:

        In some printer drivers, the print quality is not represented by 'dpi'. 'Photo' represents 720 dpi, 'Best Photo' is 2880 dpi, and 'Photo RPM' is 5760x1440 optimised dpi.


      • Turn off the High Speed setting. In some Windows drivers, you should turn off the Edge Smoothing, and Finest Detail settings if available.

      • Turn off printer colour management in the driver. If you forget about this, the printer driver will apply additional correction to the image and produce inaccurate colours.
        • Mac OS X: Select Color Management from the pull-down menu, then select No Color Adjustment.

        • Windows: Under 'Printer Color Management', select Off (No Color Adjustment).

          Notes Icon Note for Windows users:

          Depending on which printer you have the Off (No Color Adjustment) setting can be in different location. In some printer drivers, you will first have to select 'ICM' and then 'Off (No Color Adjustment).



    11. Click OK and proceed to print. For CS5, click Print in the print preview window.

    If you wish to display a preview of the print layout before printing, you can activate the Print Preview setting in the printer driver. 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. Don't use this 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 printout that matches the image display of your screen quite well.

    However we recommend further reading from books and the Internet as colour management is a complex subject.


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