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Print with Lightroom

Published on June 14, 2015  |  Updated on October 31, 2019


Printing from Lightroom has become very easy (from a color management point of view). If you have a calibrated monitor and printer at your disposal, it can even be pleasant because you won't waste lots of paper... It is indeed possible to "pre-view" on your monitor how your photo will be printed...


Photo Epson printerThis last page of tutorial about color management in Lightroom is thus dedicated to printing from this program. Not only does Lightroom enable to print with the right printing profiles, like Photoshop now, that you created or subcontracted to an external service provider, but it also features a great functionality if you have those same ICC profiles and a good calibrated monitor: simulation of the printing result previewed on your screen! With a calibrated graphic chain, a wide gamut screen (if you work with saturated colors, it is even better) and with non-generic ICC profiles - hence made just for your printer -, it is impressively efficient... at least theoretically! We'll see why.



Simulate a print preview: softproofing or "screen proofing"

It is possible to anticipate the differences between your digital file and your file before printing on your monitor, to a certain extent. It is possible with Lightroom since version 5. Before discussing how, I'd like to talk about it a little.

Important note! Lightroom being very different from Photoshop, we'll navigate between two tabs in this page: "Development" and "Print".

I hope I convinced you to calibrate your printer through this guide, in order to get the best possible print results meaning a print as close as possible to your expectations and if you have a good calibrated monitor, to what you're seeing on it.

To get a result that is as close as possible to your expectations, it is sometimes useful tu use "screen proofing" though, meaning to simulate a preview of different ICC profiles and above all, to choose the right conversion mode between the usual "Relative" and the sometimes very useful "Perceptual".

Simulate the preview of the image to print: "screen proofing"

If you created or had someone create an ICC profile for you for a printer / paper pair, you'll be able to know beforehand how your image will be printed and above all, to know what corrections to make to correct the weaknesses of your print. For that, you need to change tabs to go the "Development" tab and there, you'll have to check the button "screen proofing", quite logically:

  Option display proofing screen in lightroom

Note that when you click on this "Screen proofing" button, a new field appears under the histogram:

  Proofing settings in Lightroom

It is in this field that you'll be able to choose the printing profile  (1) - and compare it - and above all the conversion mode (2) you'll use for the print in the "Print" tab.  

1 - Profile - You just have to choose your printing profile for your printer / paper pair from the unfolding list of all the profiles installed on your computer.

2 - Mode (conversion mode) - You just have to click Perceptual or Relative and see the effect on your screen.


About the choice of conversion mode : Relative or Perceptual.

During my training courses in the field hence on graphic chains often very different, I could check that the screen / print gaps are still very visible on certain colors saturated or in contrast on certain papers. It is normal and completely understandable! There can only be a match on common parts of their respective gamuts. It is not unusual to be able to print a color that can't be displayed, nor the contrary. If a color is in the original file, that it can be displayed or not on the screen but can't be printed, color management won't make miracles! It won't be printed, or rather will be printed with the most approaching color (in the range of colors available for that printer) but slightly less saturated.
Example with the image below: only a small blue saturated part of the sky and the yellow wall in its most saturated part won't be printed as in the original. Other colors will remain particularily similar between original and print. Here is the perfect illustration. Hover your mouse over the images.

If you hover your mouse, you'll see the same image simulating a print on baryta paper with a conversion in perceptual mode.

If you hover your mouse you'll see the same image simulating a print on baryta paper with a conversion in relative mode.

In both cases, you can clearly see that some parts don't "move" in relative mode (the common parts to both colorimetric spaces) but it is to the detriment of the sky that becomes a bit flat. In perceptual mode, the first photo, you can see that everything changes more or less, but that a gradation in the light part of the sky, at the top right, is kept. The visual feeling is closer to the original, FOR THIS PHOTO, in perceptual mode.
It must be chosen on a case by case basis...



Display non-printable colors Display non printable colors

Finally, it is possible by clicking on a button on the right just above the histogram to display non printable colors in  red highlighting:

  Non-printable colors option of Lightroom
  Two important remarks! As you can see, if you check this button, you won't be able to choose your conversion mode because the "sensitive" zone is now highlighted in red. Secondly, even if can visualize non printable zone, you can't know whether those colors are slightly non printable hence slightly too saturated or very saturated hence far from the original. For that to be really accurate, you would need very wide gamut monitors hence close to ProPhoto but we're still a long way from it because certain monitors just overpass Adobe RGB. It is just a piece of information that lacks accuracy...

About non printable colors!

There are no colors that are "really" unprintable. They're of course replaced by the most saturated and closest colors that your printer can reproduce.

"Unprintable" colors in Lightroom have a big defect: they're all highlighted with the same red without shades hence without letting you know what gap there really is between the color you want and the color you'll print. Is the color non printable for 1%, 10% or 20%?

You'd better understand that if the color can't be printed for 5% (hence 5% for the most saturated component of this color) and that it is replaced by the closest color in the color space that can be reproduced, you might burn your eyes trying to see the difference.

Here is how an interesting functionality implemented "basically" can impress a beginner or a more advanced user (!) and make him think that he is going to "lose" something while certain things only - colors out of the famut hence very saturated - will possibly be reproduced a bit less saturated than required.


Last remark: you can leave the button "Simulate paper and ink" unchecked for a closer rendering.


"Print" tab in Lightroom

Lightroom features since its first version a tab dedicated to photo print. Rather basic at the principle - from a color management point of view, which is what interests us here - it became more and more complex as time went by. Nowadays, it enables to print from print ICC profiles, like Photoshop.

Start by choosing color management settings in Lightroom

  Color Management for Printing in Lightroom

1 - You just have to choose your print profile, possibly as you just did in screen proofing.

2 - and to choose the conversion mode between Perceptual and Relative, as you also just did.

Set print parameters - very important!

A few final settings and one last precaution regarding print settings or the printer, which comes to the same thing.

Very important note! As you just chose your printing profile above, you'll then ask Lightroom to take care of the conversion of your RGB file in CMYK. This conversion must only be done once. So it is absolutely compulsory to deactivate color management on the printer. Here's how... 

1 - Click the button "Print settings" at the bottom left or the button "Printer" at the bottom right:

  Print Options in Lightroom

2 - In both cases, you'll open the driver of your printer(s). If necessary, choose your printer and set the following options...

Example with the driver of the printer Epson 7800:

  Print Options for an Epson Photo Printer

1 - Printer - choose the model of your printer in your printers list.

2 - Choose the right paper - the same that was used to print the calibration chart for this paper / printer pair during calibration.

Caution!  This choice only determines the inking rate. If you use paper of your printer's brand, your paper will be in the unfolding list. If you use another, choose the same type of paper as Epson's in this example. All brands have the "same" ranges of paper indeed: glossy Premium, matt Archival, baryta, etc. 

3 - Color settings - Be sure to deactivate color management on your printer or it would be redundant with Photoshop's. Very important!

4 - Quality - Choose the same printing thinness as for the print of the chart. I even created two profiles at 1,440 dpi and 2,880 dpi but I have to admit I'm not certain to see a difference!

You can also choose the speed without it influencing calibration, according to me. But note that I never check "Thinner details" because of a bug on my 7800 Epson when I print very long panoramas.

Last remark! Theoretically, you shouldn't need the cursors "luminosity" and "contrast" if you use custom ICC profiles.

Click the button Print, let it dry for ten minutes at least and contemplate!


To be remembered!

Be sure to check whether you need to choose the Relative or Perceptive rendering mode thanks to the awesome functionality "screen proofing" in the "Development" tab.

 Also, remember to display non printable colors thanks to another convenient functionality: "Display unprintable colors", at the top right of the histogram. It is not a precise functionality so it can frighten or impress without a reason because of its on/off look. It doesn't indicate if the colors that are unprintable are just slightly or frankly unprintable.

 Make sure to deactivate your printer's driver's color management.

 If you want the thinnest possible print, choose 2880 dpi (for Epson or Canon printers): it enables to get better and more progressive gradations, especially in the sky, mostly visible at a close distance on small format prints because you see them of a closer point of view. It is subtle but personally, I can see the difference and I really prefer it.

 Your printer's dpis don't have anything to do with your image's. If you want to print a photo at 240 dpi, gradations will look better if you print it at 2880 dpi (printer) than at 1440 and of course at 720. As well as they'll look better at 240 dpi (image) than at 120.

 Over 240 dpi for a bubble print jet, I really can't see a difference, but I start perceiving it from 200 dpi on if I get closer to the print. 300 dpi are only used for offset print at the printer's but it doesn't make any difference for a bubble jet print.

Through these 2 pages I will share with you all my advice to manage the colors of your photos in Lightroom...
- Color management in Lightroom
- Print with Lightroom - 2/2
  - Softproofing with Lightroom
- "Print" tab in Lightroom
- To be remembered...

- My 35 monitor reviews!
- How to choose your monitor ?
- How to calibrate your monitor ?


Calibrate your photo printer with the best quality/price ratio: X-Rite i1 STUDIO !

Read my full review...  


Calibrate your monitor with your favorite colorimeter : Datacolor SpyderX PRO !

Read my full review...










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