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A Computer Darkroom Tutorial

This tutorial is intended to aid Adobe Photoshop Lightroom users who use Epson printers with Mac OSX 10.5 (aka Leopard). It's a tutorial that many pundits, myself included, thought would not be required. So, why is it needed?

Long story short - instead of the print workflow being simplified it has been made more complicated by including driver options that either don't work as users expect or more accurately don't need to be used at all.

 

Photoshop Lightroom and compatibility with the Leopard Print System.

Before discussing the procedure for configuring Lightroom and the Epson printer drivers for application color management it's important that we understand what is meant by Leopard compatible. However, rather than me trying to put my slant on things I'll leave it to the Lightroom Product Manager Tom Hogarty. Tom has put together an excellent article that describes why Lightroom and printer drivers needed to be updated for Leopard. His article can be found at the Lightroom Journal. This article also allows users to provide feedback on their own experiences when printing from Lightroom, so, I would encourage you to give it a read.

The key point to take from the article and associated user feedback is that even though Leopard may have shipped with drivers for certain printers they are unlikely to be "fully" compatible with the new operating system and/or some applications. That said, most of the printer vendors are at time of writing this tutorial in the process of releasing newly updated drivers that should be fully compatible. Focusing on Epson, it seems that many of the new series 6.x drivers are working well with Lightroom and Leopard, although it appears that there may be an issue with the R1800. The variance between those drivers that are known to work and those that don't likely explains why in some regions Epson have defined them as beta, whereas in others they are listed as GM.

Tip: Epson series 3.x printer drivers whether they be shipped with Mac OSX 10.5 or downloaded from various Epson support sites are not "fully" compatible with Lightroom 1.3.1. Therefore, printing from Lightroom 1.3.1 with these drivers will result in double color management (i.e. prints will tend to have a magenta color cast).

With the release of Lightroom 1.4 full compatibility with Epson legacy drivers (series 3.x) has been restored.

Print Setup Step-by-Step

This tutorial will concentrate on what is known as application color management, which basically means that the ICC profile associated with a particular paper/ink combination must be selected in Lightroom rather than the print driver itself. Also, since the tutorial is intended to be useful to new and existing Lightroom users I will also include some of the basics associated with Page Setup and saving Print Templates.

 

Figure 1 - click image for larger view

Step 1 - Page Setup

Regardless of printer, paper, ink etc the first thing you should do before attempting to make a print is to decide on the paper size and orientation that will be used.

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Figure 2 - Page Setup

  • In Print module click on Page Setup button (Figure 2, shown above will appear).

  • Ensure that the correct printer is selected.

  • Select the Paper Size that you intend to print on.

  • Select the correct orientation (example shows landscape to match with image in figure 1).

  • Ensure that Scale is set to 100% (for best quality do not scale images in page setup).

  • Click OK button when satisfied that everything is correctly set.

Step 2 - Print Job Setup

Figure 3 below shows how the Print Job panel looks before a profile has been selected (i.e. color management is handled by the printer). This is the step where you configure Lightroom so that it handles the image to print color management. As noted above this is more commonly referred to as application color management and requires the user to select an ICC media Profile and Rendering Intent.

Note: For the purposes of this tutorial I will assume that your Print Job panel is configured as shown in figure 3 below.

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Figure 3 - Color Managed by Printer

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Figure 4 - Available ICC Profiles

  • Click the pop-up labelled Profile: Managed by Printer. The drop-down menu will either contain multiple ICC profiles or just Managed by Printer and Other. If no profiles are listed you will need to select Other, then choose from those available in the ColorSync folder (figure 4 shows an example of the profiles available to me). You MUST tick the profiles before they become available in Lightroom then lick OK to close the list.

  • Select the profile that you wish to print with.

  • Set the rendering intent to Relative or Perceptual. For most situations Relative is likely to produce the best results, but it's always worth making a print with Perceptual to see if it improves anything.

Figure 5 below is an example of how the Color Management panel should look when this step is completed.

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Figure 5 - Choosing an ICC Profile and Rendering Intent

Step 3 - Print Settings

Next up, the part of the process that appears to be causing most confusion. Why? Because the Epson series 6.x drivers look and behave differently to any previous drivers. Clicking on the Lightroom Print Settings button will open the new driver and as can be seen from figure 6 it's different, from the series 3.x drivers that most Mac OSX users will be familiar with. Even so, there's really no reason why it should be causing the degree of confusion that's being reported on just about every web site with even a passing interest in Lightroom and Leopard. So, the question still remains - why do Lightroom users of all skill levels find the new Leopard compatible drivers from Epson so confusing?

Answer - Color Matching!

Unfortunately, the new Epson driver color matching panel is giving users access to a feature set that isn't really appropriate when using application color management  Further confusion arises when they revisit the panel and find that it's greyed out and doesn't match with the settings they had previously applied. So, what's the workaround?

Answer - Ignore Color Matching!

Yes, you read right - ignore Color Matching. You may well ask why I recommend ignoring this particular panel. Unfortunately, I can't give a definitive answer, but will point out that the same panel is greyed out when the driver is accessed via the Lightroom Print button and when application color management is used with Photoshop. Some might argue that this behavioural discrepancy may well be a symptom of the beta status that Epson USA have placed on the drivers. In fact, if all is working well with the driver  the settings chosen in Lightroom at step 2 above should and do override the printers internal color matching (R1800 may be an exception). So, being able to access it or even change the settings within it seems pointless.

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Figure 6 - Print Settings Options

OK, so now I get back to the only panel within the Epson Print dialog that does need to be configured i.e. Print Settings

  • Select Print Settings from the pop-up menu that normally displays Layout (figure 7 below should open).

  • Choose the Media Type that matches with the profile selected in step 2 above.

  • Color Settings should be switched to Off (No Color Adjustment). This option is critical in so far as Off will prevent the print driver carrying out any color matching, instead leaving it to Lightroom.

  • Print Quality and any other model specific options (e.g. speed, detail, etc) can be set to match whatever you normally use. For best quality it's usually better that the highest print resolution is selected whilst leaving High Speed off. Depending on the media type selected earlier Finest Detail may be set to On and greyed out.

  • Click the Save button when all the options are set correctly. This will ensure that the settings are stored and ready for creating a Print Template.

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Figure 7 - Final Print Settings

Step 4 - Print Templates

For many Print Templates are a real boon, but for others their behaviour is a complete mystery that often leads to frustration. This section of the tutorial is therefore intended to help clear up the mystery. and may be some of the frustration.

Print Templates can be used store the: page size and layout design, print resolution and sharpening settings, Lightroom color management settings, and printer driver settings.

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  • Having clicked the Save button in step 4 above you should now press Cmd+N keys to create a new print template (you can also find this as an option on the Lightroom Print menu at the top of your screen).

  • When the New Template dialog appears insert a descriptive name (e.g. Pro3800 - A4 Epson Prem-Gloss Landscape).  This example includes the printer model, page size, media and orientation. Also, note that you should leave the template location (i.e. Folder) at the default, which is User Templates.

  • Click the Create button and the new template should appear within the User Templates section of the Template Browser on the left side of Print module window.
     

Warning - any changes (inadvertent or deliberate) that you subsequently make on the right side panels will override the active print template. Fortunately, you can easily determine which, if any, print template is active because it will be highlighted in the Template Browser. If none are highlighted make sure that you select the appropriate template before making a print.

Tip: To update an existing print template with new settings you should Ctrl+click the name in the Template Browser, then choose Update with current settings from the context menu.

If everything has been setup correctly you should find making a print should now be a relatively straight forward process:

  1. Select the image or batch of images that you wish to print.

  2. Switch to Print module.

  3. Select a print template from Template Browser, this will automatically configure the page size and layout, profile, rendering intent and driver settings for you.

  4. Click the Lightroom Print button.

  5. Click the Epson Print button (note that you should NOT need to change anything).


Tip: You can combine (d) and (e) into one mouse click by holding down the Option key when clicking on the Lightroom Print button.
 

23 February 2008 (Lightroom 1.4 update should make the following workaround redundant - 13-March-08)

Not long after publishing this tutorial it became apparent that many Lightroom users were still experiencing some difficulties when using custom media profiles. The problem usually manifests itself in slight colour casts and/or dark prints. While it's not clear where exactly in the print pipeline the problem lies a number of users on the Adobe Lightroom User-to-User forum have identified a workaround (see post 17 by Jason Hicking) involving a minor but nevertheless important adjustment within the Device section of the Apple ColorSync Utility.

The following screenshot demonstrates the necessary changes for a typical Epson printer. In this example I associate my custom Epson Semigloss profile (built using Xrite ProfileMaker Pro 5.08) with the appropriate Epson media profile (i.e. Pro38 PSPP). Apparently the same procedure will work with Canon and HP printers, but I know next to nothing about either so can't offer any advice on how the actual print driver needs to be configured.

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Figure 8 - Apple ColorSync Utility

Tip: while above procedure needs to be repeated for each Custom-Factory profile combination it need only be carried out once.

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