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Part 3 - Soft Proofing and Printing

The most frequently asked question that I receive is "why don't my prints match the screen?" Generally it's down to poor monitor calibration, but on other occasions it's down to the fact that the user has unrealistically high expectations of what can be printed or worse, they have made the wrong selection in the Photoshop Print dialog.

This section will discuss the new features and commands introduced with Photoshop 6 that should go some way to answering the above question.


Soft Proofing

There will be many colours that simply cannot be printed accurately on an inkjet; the secret is to figure out before hand what they are. With Photoshop 5 there wasn't any simple way to preview on-screen how an RGB image would print to an inkjet printer, although a few workarounds have been published. Photoshop 6 has addressed this issue with the new Proof Setup and Proof Colors commands.

Basically soft proofing is nothing more than using your monitor as a proofing device, however, accurate proofing is dependent upon the quality of the monitor profile created as described in Part 1 and a profile for the printer. Note that when I write of printer profiles I mean those for specific media. In order that we may get Photoshop in a state ready for soft proofing we must set it up. This is done via the View > Proof Setup menu as shown below.




Although Proof Setup will only affects the current or "active" image on your desktop, you MUST configure the proof setup via the Custom menu option with NO image/document open. If you attempt to configure Proof Setup with an image/document open then the existing Photoshop default Soft Proof profile will be retained as the default.

Before explaining how to configure Proof Setup I hope you also notice the three RGB options towards the middle of the drop-down menu. You can actually use these to preview how your image will look on other platforms, e.g. Mac or PC and on your own computer outside of Photoshop using the Monitor RGB option. . The Monitor RGB option is effectively the same as switching OFF the "Display Using Monitor Compensation" checkbox in Photoshop 5. Assuming that you are NOT using a VERY wide working space e.g. EktaSpace or Adobes Wide Gamut RGB the Monitor RGB option also provides an effective method of checking the quality of your monitor profile. If on selecting Monitor RGB, the image turns very ugly you can take it as read that the monitor profile is messed up. By ugly I mean significantly different, large colour shifts. Not just a bit brighter, darker or flatter (e.g. whites turn yellow).

The screen grab below shows a typical view of the Proof Setup dialog for printer output simulation. From this dialog you can easily select, configure and save your own customised soft proofing setup for any number of different printer profiles. Remember, make sure you have NO images/documents open when going through the process of defining your own default Soft Proofing profile.




We begin the process by choosing the Profile; in the example shown above I have selected the Epson profile for Photo Paper. This choice will be the profile for the media that you want to simulate on the monitor.

Preserve Color Numbers

This option will only be available if the image and printer profiles are in sync, i.e. both are RGB or both are CMYK. Selecting the Preserve Color Numbers checkbox will usually result in a quite awful looking display, this is how it should be.

One purpose of this option is to enable you to see how the image would print if the media profile had not been selected in the Profile pop-up menu. There are apparently others, but these all well beyond my understanding. Normally it is best the leave the checkbox unchecked.


I described Intent previously when discussing the Conversion Engines. Typically, it will be best to stick with Relative Colorimetric or Perceptual when printing photographic type images.


There are two options (or checkboxes) shown in this section of the Proof Setup dialog. In theory, the first Paper White allows you to simulate the colour of the paper white. The second Ink Black will enable you to simulate how dark black will appear on the media you are printing to. Note that selecting the Paper White checkbox will cause the Ink Black to be selected and greyed out. The resulting soft proof display can be quite disconcerting in that the overall tone of the image may tend to look compressed or slightly colour shifted. This may especially be the case when attempting to use scanner based profiles to soft proof the Epson 870/1270/2000 series printers. In such circumstances it may be best to ignore the use of the Paper White and Ink Black since it is VERY unlikely that they are in fact providing an accurate soft proof. No doubt things will improve as the suppliers of the profiling software update their programs to be compatible with this new Photoshop feature.


Printing to an Epson Inkjet

At first the new Print dialog in Photoshop 6 will appear a bit more complex than its predecessor. It contains a few new options and has (on the surface at least) omitted an option that caused considerable confusion in Photoshop 5, namely the Printer Color Management checkbox.

When Print is selected from the File menu a dialog similar to that shown below should appear. You should check to see the image Source Space and the Print Space: Profile. You will NOT be able to change the Source Space, nor do you really want too. The Source Space tells us which one of the Photoshop Working Spaces the image is actually in. If you were to leave the Print Space: Profile as Same as Source then the resulting print is likely to be less than optimal.

The following 4 examples show how to configure the Print dialog and driver if using an Epson printer if using the Mac OS and Windows drivers. 

Example 1 - Epson Recommended Automatic Settings (Mac OS)

The image should be in a Photoshop Working Space such as ColorMatch, Adobe RGB (1998), BruceRGB, etc.



Photoshop 6 Print Dialog Configuration


  • Choose the media type (I show Photo Paper).
  • Select Printer Space Pop-up menu and choose "Printer Color Management". This ensures that the correct profile for the image is embedded into the image file and that the printer will carry out the correct colour space conversions.  Do Not leave the profile set for "Same as Source"
  • Choose Custom Mode.
  • Select Advanced, the following dialog appears.
  • In Color Management choose either of the options "Color Controls, PhotoEnhanced or ColorSync".
  • Select your preferred Print Quality setting.



Epson Advanced Settings Dialog (Mac OS) - Epson Profile



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