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Part 3 - Soft Proofing

One of the most frequently asked Photoshop questions is: "why don't my prints match the screen?" Generally it's down to poor monitor calibration, but on other occasions it's simply 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 with Preview dialog.

This section will discuss the options and commands associated with the Photoshop 7 Soft Proof feature and should also go some way to answering the above question. I haven't included any reference to specific printer driver setups as these have been covered in a dedicated tutorial; see: Managing colour when printing 

Basically soft proofing is nothing more than using your monitor as a proofing device. However, accurate proofing is dependent upon the quality and accuracy of the monitor profile that I described in Part 1. You will also need good quality media profiles for each printer/media/ink combination.

In order that we may get Photoshop in a state ready for soft proofing we must configure the relevant dialogs. This is done via the View > Proof Setup > Custom 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.

The various proofing options are:

  • Working CMYK - soft proofs the image using the current CMYK working space defined in the Colour Settings dialog.
  • Working Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black Plate or Working CMY Plates - soft proofs the image using the current CMYK working space defined in the Colour Settings dialog.
  • Macintosh RGB and Windows RGB - soft proofs the image using the standard Mac or Windows monitor profile (i.e. Apple RGB and sRGB respectively).
  • Monitor RGB - soft proofs the image using your actual monitor profile. If the image look bad when this option is selected you know that your monitor profile is broken and needs to be recreated as described in Part 1.
  • Simulate Paper White - provides a preview of the shade of white for the paper based upon the active soft proof profile . This option requires a very accurate profile otherwise the whites of the image can appear significantly more blue/yellow than it should.
  • Simulate Ink Black - provides a preview of the dynamic range of the image based upon the active soft proof profile.

The screenshot below shows a typical view of the Proof Setup dialog for an Epson 1270 inkjet printer simulation. From this dialog we can easily select, configure and save our 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 Proof profile.




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

Preserve Colour Numbers

This option will only be available if the image and profiles are in sync, i.e. both are RGB or both are CMYK. Selecting the Preserve Colour Numbers checkbox will usually result in a quite awful looking display, this is how it should be. Basically we are simulating how the document/image will appear if it is not converted to the actual device profile.

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.

Use Black Point Compensation

I described Use Black Point Compensation previously when discussing the Conversion Engines. Typically, it will be best to keep it checked.


Again 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. The first Paper White allows you to simulate, on the monitor, the shade/colour of the paper white. The second Ink Black will enable you to simulate, on your monitor, the dynamic range defined by the media profile (i.e. 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. Not all profiles will support both options.

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 (e.g. white takes on a blue cast). This can often occur when using scanner derived printer profiles. 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 Photoshop feature.

To save your customised proof setup simply choose the Save button and give the soft proof profile a name that clearly indicates the printer/media combination for which it should be used. The name of a saved soft profile will be appended onto the bottom of the list immediately below Simulate Ink Black.




The saved soft proof profiles are saved to the following locations:

Windows - Program Files/Common Files/Adobe/Color/Proofing folder

Mac OS9.x - System Folder/Application Support/Adobe/Color/Proofing folder

Mac OSX - Library/Application Support/Adobe/Color/Proofing folder

A comprehensive tutorial describing the technique of soft proofing is provided here


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