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A Computer Darkroom Tutorial

 

I can't recall where, but I once read an article that included the following comment: "you don't need to be an expert in colour management to print from Photoshop, but it helps".

 

Well the engineers and interface gurus at Adobe must have been reading the same article because the print workflow within Photoshop CS2 has undergone a very significant overhaul. In this tutorial I will discuss these changes in detail, so that by the time you finish reading it you too will be an expert in Photoshop print colour management (dream on!).

However, before I get into describing the various Photoshop and Print Driver configurations I need to clarify two aspects of print making that still seem to confuse a lot of Photoshop users:

  1. Desktop inkjet printers from Epson, Canon, Hewlett Packard, et al may use CMYK or CcMmYK coloured inks but this doesn't make them CMYK printers. Occasionally you'll see this type of printer referred to as Non-Postscript, but more often they'll be described as GDI (Windows platform) or QuickDraw (Mac platform) printers. The reason I stress this point so much is that the device drivers supplied with these printers are not designed to interpret CMYK data. So any attempt to produce a CMYK print directly  from a desktop inkjet printer will result in disappointment.

  2. The image displayed on a typical computer monitor whether it be a CRT or LCD cannot be fully replicated in print. Yes we can often get close but an exact match is rarely if ever possible.

Note that while the initial screenshots used for this tutorial are based upon the Mac OSX version of Photoshop CS2 they should still provide more than ample guidance those of you using either Windows 2000 or XP. Nevertheless, the actual printer driver screenshots are OS specific; therefore I've included separate instructions for both Mac and Windows versions. These instructions and screenshots are based on the Epson Stylus Photo R2400, but should be compatible with most other current models from Epson.

A Swedish language translation of this essay is available from Here

An Adobe Acrobat version of this tutorial can be downloaded by clicking the Acrobat icon

Producing an Inkjet Print

As I mentioned at the outset Adobe has made some very significant changes to the Print with Preview dialog, alas I fear that many of these changes will likely lead to even more confusion than previous attempts to simplify printing from within Photoshop.

Photoshop CS2 has five Print menu options: Page Setup, Print, Print with Preview, Print One Copy and Print Online. By-the-way, the Print menu option opens the "System" print dialog, which means that none of Photoshop's print colour management options are available. I just thought I'd mention that because you would not believe the number of folk who still contact me asking were all the colour setting have gone. Anyway, this tutorial will be concentrate on Print with Preview, which is where the printer colour settings have lived since Photoshop 7.

The Print with Preview menu option is only available for selection when an image is open on your desktop so if you're following along I suggest that you open an image now. Figure 1 below shows the default view of Print with Preview.

 

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Figure 1 - Photoshop CS2 Print with Preview

 

If you've been using an earlier version of Photoshop you'll immediately notice that we now have a more extensive and very different  list of options available. Firstly, the Color Management settings are now shown by default, although you can change this if you wish. Anyway, to keep things simple I will focus on the Print and Options sections of the dialog. I will also try to explain the meaning of each option, and hopefully give you better idea why certain combinations will work and others don't: -

Print:

  • Document: denotes the ICC profile embedded within or assigned to the document to be printed. The example shown in figure 1 shows ProPhoto RGB, but it could be any number of user specified alternatives (e.g. sRGB, Adobe RGB (1998), ColorMatch). If the image has already been converted (i.e. using the Photoshop Convert to Profile command) to a printer/media profile this will be the colour space reflected here. It's actually a good way of double checking that you haven't mistakenly converted the image already.

  • Proof: this field will normally display as (Profile: N/A). Once it's activated via the radio-button it tells Photoshop to convert the image on-the-fly from the image source colour space to the destination ICC profile shown in brackets. You can only alter the destination profile from within the Proof Setup dialog (see: Photoshop View menu). Also, note that you'll only ever need to use this option if you are intending to make Hard Proofs or Match Prints (i.e. trying to emulate another printer such as a press), therefore I don't intend to discuss this workflow further in this tutorial.

Options:

  • Color Handling  - this is the new pop-up menu  from which you choose the preferred method of managing colour when printing. By adopting this approach Adobe have separated the workflow aspects of  printing from the media choices. In theory this should make life easier for the user, but only time will tell us whether it has. There are four different choices: Let Printer Determine Colors, Let Photoshop Determine Colors, Separations, and No Color Management. Each of these choices has its own associated preset configuration in the Print with Preview dialog thereby helping you avoid erroneous settings.

  • Printer Profile - as its name implies this is the pop-up menu form which you choose the ICC profile associated with the printer/media combination you'll be using. This pop-up will only be active when the Let Photoshop Determine Colors is selected in the Color Handling pop-up.

  • Rendering Intent and Black Point Compensation - again, depending upon your choice in Color Handling one or both of these settings may be greyed out.

  • Proof Setup Preset - by default this pop-up menu is greyed out and will only be activated when the Proof radio button is selected. As mentioned above this option is normally only used when simulating or proofing other output devices such as a Press.

  • Description - this is a useful addition to the Print with Preview dialog in so far as it provides short explanations for each of the settings and options. The description itself is triggered when you hover the mouse cursor over the various buttons and popups (e.g. Color Handling, Rendering Intent, Black Point Compensation, etc).

It's all about Workflow

There are four choices or more accurately workflow options contained within the Color Handling pop-up. However, this tutorial will only discuss three of them, leaving the fourth (i.e. Separations) for others to explain.

Print Workflow 1

The default configuration for the Print with Preview dialog is shown below as Figure 2. Notice that Color Handling is set to Let Printer Determine Colors. For the purpose of this tutorial we'll call this setting Print Workflow 1.

If you've just upgraded to Photoshop CS2 from an earlier version then Let Printer Determine Colors is the direct equivalent of Printer Color Management in Photoshop 7 and CS. Let Printer Determine Colors is probably the easiest and safest choice for new Photoshop users or those who are not yet familiar with how to integrate printer ICC media profiles into their workflow.

When you choose Let Printer Determine Colors you're in fact informing Photoshop that the document should be passed directly to printer driver complete with details of the ICC profile listed against Document. Photoshop will not make any adjustments to the document colours nor will it take any account of the media specified in your printer driver. By tagging the document with the ICC profile Photoshop is providing the printer driver with all the information required to ensure accurate colour rendering of the print. The document colour management is handled solely by the printer driver.

 

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Figure 2 - Print Workflow 1

 

Tip: Depending upon your printer model it is possible that Rendering Intent may not be active for this workflow. Even if it is active there is every possibility that the printer driver will ignore your choice and use Perceptual, but don't worry either way.

 

Print Workflow 2

This workflow is really intended for the more advanced/demanding Photoshop worker who needs total control of how their documents are rendered to print. With Color Handling set to Let Photoshop Determine Colors you are able to choose: specific ICC media profiles, the Rendering Intent, and whether or not Black Point Compensation is to be used. Trying to relate this particular option back to earlier versions of Photoshop is difficult because there was no direct equivalent.

When Let Photoshop Determine Colors is selected you'll immediately be given access to the Printer Profile pop-up. By default the profile shown in this pop-up is the Working RGB profile (defined in Photoshop Color Settings), but you'll very seldom want to leave it at Working RGB. It's important that your actual choice of Printer Profile matches the media and printer model that you'll be using otherwise poor quality prints are almost a certainty. The best quality will be obtained when you use an ICC media profile, which has been created for your specific printer. These can be created by you using specialist software/hardware or purchased from a third party.

Tip: Many Epson printers are now supplied complete with ICC media profiles for a range of media types although with some models you may have to install the PIM driver (see the cd-rom supplied with your printer) before they become available.

 

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Figure 3 - Print Workflow 2

 

Notice that once a printer profile is selected both Rendering Intent and Black Point Compensation" (BPC) are activated. Generally you'll want to use Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric, and have BPC checked. It's worth noting that with many of the newer models from Epson (e.g. 2100, 2200, R800, etc.) it is probable that choosing Relative Colorimetric will produce the more pleasing prints.

Tip: The important point to note about this workflow is that your printer driver MUST be configured so that ALL colour management features are disabled. Often you'll see this workflow referred to as the No Color Adjustment (NCA) workflow, but as we'll see later Epson have made changes to their recent drivers that may render the term  NCA obsolete.

Print Workflow 3

The final workflow choice is No Color Management. This particular workflow is primarily intended for Photoshop users who are creating customised ICC media profiles or printing the multi-patch targets for others to create them on their behalf. It's NOT recommended when printing normal documents. If you've just upgraded to Photoshop CS2 from an earlier version then No Color Management is the direct equivalent of Same As Source in Photoshop 7 and CS. With this choice  Photoshop simply passes the document straight to the printer driver without making any colour adjustments or conversions. There will be no ICC profile embedded in the image, so this option is effectively telling Photoshop to NOT colour manage the process of printing the document.

 

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Figure 4 - Print Workflow 3

 

Tip: As with Print Workflow 2 it is important that your printer driver is configured so that ALL colour management features are disabled. I'll show this can be achieved later in the tutorial.

Once the Print with Preview dialog has been configured to suit your requirements it's time to press the Print button.

Tip: by holding down the Alt/Option keyboard button you will find that the Done button changes to Remember. Using this keyboard modifier will allow you to save the Print with Preview settings for future use.

For more details on how to configure the Printer driver you should follow one of the links shown below. Each link will take you to an Operating System specific set of instructions. Alternatively you can simply press the arrow button at the bottom of the page and progress to the next page (the Mac OSX driver is discussed on page 2 and the Windows XP driver on page 3)

  1. Epson Printer Driver Settings for Mac OS X

  2. Epson Printer Driver Settings for Microsoft Windows

Whilst on the subject of things Colour Management I think it's worth mentioning a book "Color Management for Photographers" by Andrew Rodney (aka as the Digital Dog). This book contains a wealth of useful information, tips, tricks and tutorials. Better still it's right up to date in that it covers all of the changes made in Photoshop CS2. I was privileged to have the opportunity to review the book prior to publication and would have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone interested in learning more about the practical issues of colour management facing photographers. Copies can be obtained from Amazon

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2005 Ian Lyons. All Rights Reserved