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Color settings Photoshop


Printing your photos with Photoshop

Published on April 11, 2011   |   Updated on October 31, 2019


Printing from Photoshop has become very simple. If you have a calibrated screen and printer, it can even be pleasant because you won't waste much paper... It is indeed possible to "preview" on your screen how your photo will appear... or almost!

This last page of the Photoshop tutorial on color management is dedicated to printing from this software. Not only does Photoshop allow you to print with the right printing profiles that you have created or had made by an external service provider, but it also has a great function if you have the same ICC profiles and a good calibrated monitor : the printing simulation result on your screen ! On a calibrated graphic chain, a wide screen gamut (if you work with saturated colors) and with non-generic ICC profiles - so made for your printer, it's impressively efficient... at least on paper.



On screen printing simulation: softproofing

It is possible to anticipate to a certain extent on your screen how your photo will be printed. It is possible with Photoshop since version 6, so it has been possible for a very long time. Before I say how, I would like to talk a little bit about it.
As we have seen on the "Color management with Photoshop", the conversion from the image profile to the printer profile is not done, exceptionally, from the Edit menu / Convert to profile but directly in the "Print (CMD + P or CRTL + P)" menu of Photoshop. But before printing, you must choose the conversion mode : relative or perceptual that will be used.
On a calibrated graphic chain, with possibly a calibrated screen (obviously !) with a wide gamut (potentially displaying the Adobe RGB space) if you work with very saturated colors, especially towards greens, it is possible thanks to a simulation on the display. This is called softproofing. This visual conversion simulation does not affect the image at all (does not change the RGB values of your photo) unlike the conversion as we have seen. There is no risk for the image. It is only a simulation in order to visually approach the final result: printing (with all the shades that are appropriate in this case because color management is not an exact science). 
Thus, we will be able to anticipate in part a loss of colour, its possible replacement by a less saturated color, the loss of color gradation, etc... Color management is used to keep the L*a*b* colors to a maximum, i.e. the "true" colors of our original file throughout the processing and printing process, even when a device does not know how to print a particular color. We now know that the choice of conversion mode is essential in this process. The real strength of this display simulation menu is therefore the simulation of a conversion BEFORE printing in order to get a good idea of the final result (while taking into account technical constraints).


About choosing the conversion mode: Relative or Perceptual...

During my on-site training sessions, therefore on very different graphic chains, I was able to verify that the screen / print differences are always present on certain saturated colours or in contrast on certain papers. This is normal and perfectly explainable ! There can only be a match on the common parts of their respective gamut. It is not uncommon to be able to print a "non-displayable" color or the other way around.
If a color is present in the original file, displayable or not on the screen, but not printable, color management will not work miracles ! It will not be printed or more exactly will be printed with the color closest to it (in the colors available for this printer) but more or less slightly less saturated.
Example with the image below : only a small saturated blue part of the sky and the yellow wall in its most saturated part will not be printed as on the original. The other colours will remain particularly close between the original and the print. This is a perfect illustration of this. Move your mouse over the images.

Printing with Relative Conversion Mode

If you move your mouse over the image above you will see the same image that simulates a printing on baryta paper with a conversion to perceptual rendering intent.

Printing with Perceptual Conversion Mode


If you move your mouse over it above you will see the same image that simulates a printing on baryta paper with a conversion to relative rendering intent.

In both cases, it is clear that some parts do not "move" in relative terms (the parts common to both colorimetric spaces) but it is at the expense of the sky which becomes a little flat. In perceptual mode, top photo, we see that everything moves more or less globally, but that a gradient in the clear part of the sky, at the top right, is preserved. The visual sensation is closer to the original, FOR THIS PHOTO, in perceptual mode.
This is on a case-by-case basis...


Simulate a print preview : softproofing or "screen proofing"

If you have created or had created an ICC profile for a printer/paper pair, you will be able to know in advance how your image will be printed and especially what corrections to make to it to correct printing weaknesses. For that you have a very practical menu : the "Display / Proof format / Customized" menu :

  -Customize Proofing Conditions- Menu in Photoshop

First, choose the profile of the simulation device (non-generic if possible, so created by you or a professional) from the drop-down list (1). Then, after checking that the Preview button was checked, choose the Perception and relative rendering mode alternately. (The other two do not interest us). By alternative comparison, you will sometimes perceive differences. It is not systematic. It depends on the photo, the saturation of its colors and of course your screen and especially its gamut. Then confirm with OK.

Note ! Do not check "Keep RGB values", which would make it impossible to choose the rendering mode anyway.

The image on the screen changes its appearance BUT not its profile ??? Yes : look down to the left ! It's a simulation, all right. The image profile does not change. To check that you are in the "Printer profile" display, simply look in the title bar of the image:

  RGB/8/EPSON-7800_Traditional_1440_D50: I am working on an image in my working space, the image is in sRGB and I simulate on the display a print on my 7800 printer, Traditional Epson baryta paper at 1440 dpi and with an illuminant D50


Display your print simulation alternately: with/without

By going back and forth using the keyboard shortcut - CMD + Y or CRTL + Y - I can switch very quickly from a display with or without simulation. I can also access it via the menu bar: "Display / Colors of the test".
As I continue to work on my image in its original space, so here quite large, I can make very subtle and precise retouching. Of course, the image will eventually be converted with the printer profile, but this can be done at the very last moment and after some early corrections. The colorimetric space of a printer being a non-neutral space because of peripheral device, it is necessary to work the image as long as possible in Adobe RGB, sRGB or ProPhoto RGB. Thanks to this display simulation, work is greatly facilitated. With the keyboard shortcut - CMD + Y or CRTL + Y - simply switch from one environment to another by touching up your "EPSON 7800" image and it will print as close as possible to the original image. There should be a minimum difference between the RGB image and the RGB / Pro 7800 display. By the way, I advise you to use the settings layers to do this operation.

Display non-printable colors

Finally, through a third menu of the Display Menu, the "display/non-printable colors" menu (CMD + SHIFT + Y or CRTL + SHIFT + -Y) it is possible to display two things on your screen:

  • Colors that cannot be printed by your printer/paper set
  • and also the colors that cannot be displayed on your screen.

Start by choosing the print profile to simulate as explained above. All the non-printable parts of your photo will appear grayed out :

  Unprintable colors in Photoshop
  All non-printable colors for CE print profile so THIS paper, THIS printer and CE conversion mode appear grayed out in Photoshop. Very practical. On a calibrated screen, it is sometimes even possible to see by which less saturated colors, these out-of-gamut colors therefore too saturated for this couple will be replaced.

About non-printable colors!

There are no "real" non-printable colors. They are obviously replaced by the most saturated and closest colors that your printer can reproduce.

Unprintable colors in Photoshop

However, the so-called "non-printable" colors of Photoshop have a big defect : they are all highlighted with the same grey (photo above) without shade so without informing you about the real difference that there is between the desired color and the printed color. Isn't the non-printable color available for 1%, 10% or 20% saturation?

You might as well say that if a particular color is not printable up to 5%, that is, if it loses 5% saturation when printed, when it is replaced by the nearest color in the reproducible color space, you may hurt your eyes at the play of 7 differences. And yet it is highlighted with the same neutral grey as if this difference were much greater.
Below 15/20%, without side-by-side comparison, it is very difficult to perceive this de-saturation because it only occurs, I repeat, on the most saturated colours. All the others remain absolutely unchanged (at least in relative colorimetric). And even in perceptual colorimetric, they are modified but really marginally.

This is how an interesting function, but implemented "basically", can impress a beginner or even more (!) and make him believe that he will "lose" things while only certain colors - those out of gamut, therefore very saturated with this color - will eventually be reproduced, a little less saturated than they should have been. Whether the saturated color comes out of the printing gamut for 1% or 100%, it is "marked" with the same grey !

  By " diversion ", it is even possible, as I read on Christophe Métairie's website (Thanks for this tip!) to display the colors that cannot be displayed this time. All you have to do is select not a print profile but the profile of your screen. At this moment you materialize the difficulty of softproofing because some saturated colors are themselves not displayable !!!



Photoshop Printing menu

Photoshop has its own printing menu like any other software BUT its menu incorporates the color conversion part directly. This is why the conversion is not done BEFORE printing. Before printing, we only selected the printing settings that are appropriate for THIS photo.

To convert or not with the ICC printing profile?

As we saw on the previous page, you should not convert the image before printing in Photoshop because this conversion is done directly in this menu - illustration below -. The display simulation we have just done just allows us to know which conversion mode is ideal for this photo. It is therefore necessary to retain it for the rest...

Print with Photoshop (CMD + P or CRTL + P)

The printing of an image is done through the File / Print menu. This window has several distinct parts, including the one we are interested in here : "Color management", top right. Figure below:

  Photoshop print options

Screenshot of Photoshop CS5. It is presented slightly differently on CS6 or CC

  Main window of the "Print" menu in Photoshop. We find the two main parts necessary for a perfect control of the color management during printing: the part dedicated to the management of the printing parameters (the same ones that had made it possible to print the test chart during the calibration for this profile) and those dedicated to the color management.
  Print menu with Photoshop
  Screenshot of Photoshop CS5. It is presented slightly differently on CS6 or CC.

To access it, you must scroll down the "Exit" menu and choose "Color Management". As always in color management when converting an image, we find the two important fields:

1 - Source space - where you have to tick "Document"; Below is the profile of the image, so often the profile of the working space.

2 - Color Processing - In the drop-down menu choose the option "Let Photoshop manage colors". If you choose the other option, I won't be responsible for anything!

Attention!  The exclamation mark means that Photoshop takes over the conversion between the color space of the image and the color space of the printout so it is absolutely necessary to disable color management in the printer driver.

3 - Printer profile - Choose from the list your printing profile for this printer, paper, etc.

4 - Rendering intent - This is where you need to work modestly on your memory and remind yourself what was the most appropriate rendering mode for THIS photo between perceptual and relative colorimetric.

5 - Black point compensation - Check this option (except in perceptual rendering intent as it is useless). Due to the lack of dynamics of the printer/paper pair, some very dark grays (close to black) of your image may be printed with the black of your printer, without distinction as in the original. You lose some very dark shades compared to your photo. To compensate for this, Adobe has invented the "Black point compensation" function. So check this option!

One last precaution unless it has already been done: do not forget to open the printer driver properties panel (in the "print settings" section of the Print with Photoshop menu, above) to choose the right print settings. The same ones that were used during the creation of this printing profile. In general, the important points to check because they are very important during the printing of the calibration chart SO during the printing of your photo:

  • Disable printer color management - Essential!
  • Choose the right paper - the brand is not so much important but the type is : premium glossy paper, matte, thick Canson, it is very important because it determines the amount of ink to be used.
  • Choose the outpout resolution - often between 720 and 2.880 dpi -
  • Speed, finest details, etc ...
  • Without forgetting ... to put the right paper in the printer!

Example with the driver of the Epson 7800 printer:

  Epson Pro Printing Options

1 - Printer - Choose printer model in the list.

2 - Choose the right paper support - Choose the right paper - The same you used to print the calibration color target of this printer/paper set.

Attention! This choice only determines the inking rate. If you use paper from the printer's brand, your paper will be in the drop-down list. If you use another brand, choose the same type of paper as at Epson in this example. Indeed, all the brands have the "same" paper ranges : Premium gloss, Archival matt, baryta, etc.

3 - Color settings - Be sure to disable the printer's color management otherwise it would duplicate Photoshop's.

How to choose? The conversion engine in the expensive Photoshop is simply the best current one. That's also why Photoshop can seem expensive and for me it has always been a determining criterion that largely justifies this cost.

4 - Quality - Choose the same printing fineness as when printing the test chart. I even created two profiles at 1440 dpi and 2880 dpi but I admit I'm not sure there's a difference ! (In 2016, I no longer even bother, I only do one profile at 1440 dpi).

You can also choose the speed without, in my opinion, having an influence on the calibration. But note that I never check "Thinner details" because I have a bug on my 7800 Epson when I print my panoramas in very long.



That concludes this series of articles on the introduction to color management. I hope that if this has not convinced you of the interest and above all of the efficiency of a calibrated graphic chain, it will have provided you with some clarification. But since I went to a lot of trouble to write it in order to share, quite simply, I am hopeful....!

Thank you for reading me and I now invite you to ask me your questions by email, Skype or phone, visit my blog so that we can continue to share. Finally, if you liked this page or site, say so around you by clicking below on the Facebook "I like" button. Thank you and see you soon...


To be remembered!

Remember to check if you should choose the Relative or Perceptual rendering mode thanks to the brilliant "Display / proof format" function.

 Also, remember to display non-printable colours with the other convenient function : "Display/non-printable colours". It is not a specific function so it can be unnecessarily scary or impressive because it has an on/off side. It does not indicate whether the non-printable colours are barely or frankly printable.

If you want the highest printing fineness, choose 2880 dpi (for Epson or Canon printers) : this allows you to have more beautiful and progressive gradients in the sky, in particular, especially visible up close so on small format prints as you get closer to them. It's subtle but, personally, I see the difference and I clearly prefer it.

 The dpi of the printer have nothing to do with the dpi (ppi) of the image. If you want to print a photo at 240 dpi, the gradients will be more beautiful if you print it at 2880 dpi (printer) than at 1440 and even more so at 720 dpi. They will also look better at 240 dpi (image) than at 120 dpi.

 Beyond 240 dpi for an inkjet print, I don't see any difference but from 200 dpi I start to perceive it if I get closer to the print run. 300 dpi is only used for offset printing at the printer's but does not contribute anything to inkjet printing.

 Remember to tick the button : black spot compensation if you print by choosing the relative conversion mode. Blacks will be denser and more beautiful because they will be suitable for YOUR paper.

Through these 5 pages I will share with you all my advice to manage the colors of your photos in Photoshop...
- Color preferences in Photoshop
- Choosing your working space in Photoshop
- Informations and color menus in Photoshop
- Color management in Photoshop
- Printing with Photoshop
- Simulating a printing : softproofing
- Printing menu in Photoshop
- 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 !

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

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