Printing What You See

Clive R. Haynes FRPS

One of the most frustrating things about any imaging program is the inability at times for the printed output to resemble what you see on the monitor screen. This is somewhat inevitable as the dynamic range of the original scene will most likely be very much wider than your camera will record, your monitor 'transmits light' with a wider dynamic range than printed paper can reveal, whilst paper itself can only reflect light which of course is subject to the ambient lighting conditions wherever you choose to view. Then, of course your memory of the scene will be another factor.

We have all experienced prints that haven't lived up to out expectation and it's very annoying. There it is, your masterpiece in all its glory on the screen and when printed, the colours are slightly different or there's a colour cast. What to do?

The good news is that something can be done. However, it's very important to be precise in settings, follow instructions carefully and use high-quality papers from dependable manufacturers where the quality remains consistent from batch to batch.

In order to have a good chance of printing what you see, I lay out some basic guidelines. These are based on my experience and those of a number of my colleagues.

I also suggest that if you're using an Epson or a Canon printer, you begin your tests with Epson or Canon paper (say, 'Glossy') as at least both paper and printer should be compatible! However other papers are available from different manufacturers and suppliers. See my reference to PermaJet below.

For older computer systems and Photoshop pre CS versions only:
Adobe Gamma
(now discontinued).   If you have an up-to-date operating system (eg. Windows after 'XP) then Continue below, few lines down, from 'Use a Monitor Calibrator'.

I include Adobe Gamma here for completeness only. If you have an up-to-date operating system or Photoshop CS or CC then skip this bit. It was very much a 'general purpose' tool and technology has moved on. The utility helped to set the 'gamma' brightness/contrast point of the monitor.

If your using a computer with an older operating system, up to Windows XP, you may be able to use the 'Adobe Gamma' utility to do this. Adobe Gamma is usually to be found by this route, Start > Settings > Control Panel > Adobe Gamma. With advances in Photoshop this option has disappeared.

A bit more about working with Adobe 'Gamma'. When setting the Brightness & Contrast, do try to make the almost-dark square in the centre of the black square with the white border so it's just visible. To better adjust the 'single gamma' and Red, Green, Blue gamma settings, I find it best to be at arms length (and I'm 6'3" tall!) and squint slightly to diffuse the image - this way the squares and horizontal lines merge more successfully. To change from 'Single Gamma' to the Red, Blue Green Gamma, click in the small box to 'tick' or 'untick' as appropriate.

If you choose 'Control Panel' (as opposed to 'Step by Step Wizard') in the initial Adobe Gamma dialogue box, you will find all options available at the same time. Note that the top, apparently solid black horizontal band, in the Brightness & Contrast box does in fact have an almost black alternate pattern set within it. You'll need to look hard, however it takes the place of the black/white rectangle in the 'Wizard' instructions.

Use a Monitor Calibrator.

The Best Method of adjusting your monitor is to use a 'calibration device'. These can be obtained from several manufactures. Numerous photographic societies and camera clubs have one and make it available to members. They're straightforward to use and generate an ICC (International Colour Consortium) Profile which when matched with a Paper Profile (also ICC) will provide you with the best colour match for your work-flow. However, the calibration system usually sets only 'colour'. You need to correctly adjust the brightness of your monitor by 'eye' or make test prints with a graduated brightness / contrast scale, this is sometimes known as a 'step wedge'.

Tip for Adjusting your Monitor Settings: Remember to set everything up under whatever 'normal' ambient lighting conditions you prefer. The light falling on the monitor screen will influence your colour set up. Ideally the monitor screen should be away from any direct light and it's best to work under low level illumination and in consistent conditions. Generally speaking stand-alone monitors are far superior and easier to calibrate than laptop screens.

'Hardware white-point' is usually 6,500K (daylight).

Colour Space
Set your Photoshop Colour Space to your preference, this will be either Adobe (1998), sRGB or Pro Photo.

Printer Settings
The best advice I can offer is to visit the PermaJet website as this company specialists in digital ink-jet media, papers and inks. They have an excellent paper profiling service and will generate an ICC printer profile based upon your printer, your ink and paper combination. There's also a downloadable 'patch' pattern with around 1,000 colour segments and lots of information about how to set up your printer. The website also has 'generic profiles' compatible with PermaJet papers and ready for download. However a 'bespoke profile' is always best.

You'll probably need to download the Adobe 'ACPU' utility (free) to enable your printer to be used without allowing the printer itself to manage the colour settings. It's important the printer remains 'neutral' when the test print(s) is being made. This 'neutrality' ensures a correct profile. Adobe ACPU Link: ACPU

Here's the link to PermaJet:


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