It is an exciting moment. You have worked for hours
at your computer, using all your know-how to
create an image that looks just the way you want it,
and now you are ready to print. You take a deep
breath and press the button to send the file to the
printer. If, then, the printer produces satisfactory
results for most images, without any intervention
on your part or setting up, you are lucky (make sure
you note the settings in the printer driver for future
reference). Unfortunately, a common experience
for many photographers is that the results of
printing will be disappointing.
No blame
An important point is that a mismatch between the
monitor image and the printer is not, in the first
instance, caused by any malfunctioning on the part
of your printer or monitor. The basic problem is
that the monitor produces colors by emitting a mix
of red, green, and blue light, while a print reflects
a mix of light to produce the colors you perceive.
These fundamentally different ways of producing
color lead to a difference in gamut, which is
the range of colors that can be produced by
a device (see p. 61).
There are two main approaches open to you.
You can adjust the image to compensate for the
differences between what you see on screen and
the resulting print, then print again and again,
repeating the process until the print is satisfactory.
This is not only wasteful and unreliable, but the
adjustments apply to only one image. A far better,
and more methodical approach is to adopt a color-
managed work-flow.
Printing with color management
The starting point for any image manipulation is
the calibrated and profiled monitor (see pp. 182–3)
as that is the way to be sure that the tones and
colors that you see on screen are the tones and
colors that you want to see on your print (or your
website). Given the basis of a calibrated and profiled
monitor, you can be confident that when you send
color data to the printer, it will know how to
interpret the data.
The basic idea is that you tell your printer what it
needs to know to convert your image into the print:
it needs to know the color space of your image—
sRGB is a safe, reliable working color space, but you
can use Adobe RG B (1998) if you really need a
wide color gamut.
Next, the printer needs to know how to convert
the image data into spots of ink so that the print
looks the same as the image. This is job of the
output profile; it is specific to the combination of
printer, ink, and paper being used. For general
purposes, generic output profiles give satisfactory
results, but for exhibition and other demanding
tasks, it is necessary to use bespoke profiles. These
are created by printing a standard color pattern
onto specific paper, then analyzing the color
pattern: this gives excellent, reliable results. The task
Color settings
The dialog box controlling color settings looks complex, and
careful attention is needed to make full sense of it.
However, there are many guides—such as those provided in
printer and software manuals—that should help you master
it. The crucial point to keep in mind is that, unless you are
producing work to be printed by a commercial press for
a mass market, you need not worry about these settings.
You can get by without touching them: however, if you
can control them, it will be far easier to obtain reliably
good prints from your desktop printer.

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