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8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on the monitor

Awesome submissions this week! Donal and all who submitted a response this past week, thank you! I don?t think members could ask for any better explanations on this topic.

I encourage all of you who have more advice or questions on this topic to post below in this thread. This way we can all get a better understanding of color calibration and hopefully achieving better matching results from your monitors output to digital photo prints.

Thanks again everyone!
-Lee Koo
CNET Community


Question:

Why is it every time I print a digital photo, the colors or
lighting from the prints never match what I am seeing on my
monitor? I want to be able to print exactly what I see on my
monitor, color for color, to my printer. Help!

Submitted by: Donna P. of Orlando, Florida



Answer:

The short answer on how to match the colors produced by your printer to what you see on the monitor: it is impossible, since the digital print uses reflective light from inks to produce colors; the monitor uses far more brilliant transmitted light. Any printer, no matter how expensive or what technology it uses, has to compress the very large brightness range of color on the monitor to what inks are capable of rendering, which necessarily involves altering those colors into duller versions of themselves.

That being said, it is possible to do a better job of it, but it can be tedious to get it right.

The first step is to calibrate your monitor so that the colors on it display correctly--a gray is truly gray, not a green-gray, for instance. Your monitor and operating system usually have software or controls to do that.

The second step is to make sure your printer is using fresh ink and of the type intended for it. Cheap off-brand ink is usually not what you want to produce vibrant color.

Third, and this is where it gets fun, you have to use the controls available to you in your image software and your printer's driver to alter the colors to what you like. Both programs affect the final printed color and do not always work well together, alas. Start with your image software and see what options are available, not only for printing, but for color
display itself. It may take some time to understand what each one actually does, but try. Next, check out the options in your printer driver when the print dialogue box opens. Some printers even have more than one driver available for them, some third-party, which you may want to try; make sure at least you are using the current version for your operating system - most manufacturers have websites with downloadable drivers. Make many test prints, keeping notes of the
settings for each. Look at them under good-quality full-spectrum light (not some ancient fluorescent fixture, for instance).

Did I say use good photo-quality paper? Did I say put aside an afternoon
(or 2) for this exercise? Finally, not all printers are created equal,
some will always give you inferior results no matter what, and you may
want to consider buying a better quality printer. Once you have done
all this and preserved your settings, though, you will not have to go
through it for every printing session. Occasionally, you will have to
check your monitor calibration, since it does change slowly with time.


Submitted by: Donal H.

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Honorable mentions

In reply to: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on the monitor

****** HONORABLE MENTIONS**********

Answer:

Printers rarely, if ever, print the exact colors we see on our monitors. Without going into too much theoretical background, let's assume that you have adjusted your monitor to the point where the colors are pleasing to you. The next step would be to adjust the settings on your printer to produce similar colors.

Some printers allow significant adjustment, whereas others allow almost none. Check your printer manual to see what kind of adjustments your printer allows. On less expensive printers, look for adjustments such as economy, better, best, or something like that. If those are the choices you have, always select "best" for photos. Also look for adjustments in brightness and contrast. The more expensive printers allow for adjustments not only in brightness, contrast, and overall saturation, but for saturation adjustments in each individual color. Given that you have adjustment capability, then it's a matter of trial and error to get the print the match the monitor. Since it can often take five or more attempts until a match is obtained, I suggest you cut your paper into smaller sizes and print smaller prints until the colors come out the way you want. In making adjustments, adjust only one factor at a time so you can gradually gain control over the end product. Otherwise, you may find yourself adjusting all over the place without any significant gain.

Be patient! Adjusting the printer to get a match can take a good bit of time. The upside is that once you have your adjustment, you may find that it will work for most of your pictures.

Good luck and don't give up. Most printings calling themselves photo printers will allow enough flexibility in adjustment to enable you to print beautifully.

Submitted by: Bert K. of Boynton Beach, Fl.

**********************************************************************

Answer:

How much are you willing to spend? You can calibrate your system to do
this, just like thousands of businesses offering print-for-pay services, but
you'll likely need to lay out more than $1000 for a decent value-priced
spectophotometer system (such as GretagMacbeth's EyeOne Photo) to measure
color values and coax the right color combinations from your printer.
Most of us aren't looking to spend that much, if anything. You should check
to see if you've properly calibrated your monitor (something that's in the
setup of programs such as Adobe Photoshop

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Re: Honorable mentions

In reply to: Honorable mentions

There is a simple way to achieve this but you will have to spend $99 or more, try the package from Pantone ColorVision's ColorPlus to calibrate, it ensures that what you see on your CRT, LCD, or notebook screen is what you get in your prints.

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Re: Honorable mentions

In reply to: Re: Honorable mentions

NICE ARTICLE!
But how do you DO the things that you mentioned ? Even tough they take a long time.

Thanks
Eyezak

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Re: Honorable mentions

In reply to: Re: Honorable mentions

I was not specific because the hardware/software combinations will vary with your computer and operating system, monitor, budget and tenacity. I, for instance, have a Mac G4 with two different monitors attached. To calibrate the monitors I use a combination of the tools included in Apple's OSX, a visual program called SuperCal, the relatively elaborate adjustments available through included software on the 2nd LaCie monitor, and finally, a program which uses a sensor, called OptiCal. Much of this specific software or gear may not work on another system, but there are comparable products available for every system which is why I did not go into those details. The same holds true for the literally hundreds of combinations of printers/paper/inks that are out there. The other responses, however, do give some names which may be helpful. What I would recommend, before buying anything, is trying the procedures I outlined on whatever system hardware and software you do have already; if you like the results, great. If not, try to isolate the problem (poor original image quality, cheap paper/ink, lousy printer, as examples) and see what correcting that alone does. Photoshop, for instance, which has been mentioned, is a fabulous program but it is not cheap, and takes some time to learn; if all you will ever use it for is color correction, that is overkill. I should perhaps have added that the most important tool is a pair of educated eyes. Spend the time to learn something about color theory, what the pure colors look like, how they mix, the differences between saturation and hue, etc.

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

Printers are commodity items. Generally speaking, the more money you put into it, the better the results. That said, you will not achieve good results with a $50 inkjet printer. Also, the importance of a high quality paper should not be left out of the discussion...the paper is the final step in the equation.

Bottom line: buy a top of the line Epson or Canon. Buy their paper, and try to understand the choices of the different types of paper finishes. Calibrate your monitor AND learn about color profiles and color spaces.

Achieving great color output is perhaps the hardest objective in the computer world...it's a huge can of worms.

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

In reply to: Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

I agree with the comments concerning the choice of papers.
If I use something other than Epson on my printer, it can show a big difference in the print's color. HP tends to be too red overall and Kodak seems to lack the red.
I have also tried offbrand papers and most of the time the results are a disaster!

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

I have my display settings for color at 256 but my colors are not right, I do embroidery setups and the colors on the designs show up like they are speckled,not solid colors. Do you know how I can change this. Ledgerock

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

In reply to: Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

With you display set to 256 colors there is no way to see all of the colors. I asume that you are using Windows. Right click on your desktop, click on properties, on the window click settings, on the colors click the arrow and choose a higher setting, click apply, on box click ok, then on the next box click ok. you should now be set a higher color seting.

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

I am working with a laptop, lcd monitor. I am using the adobe gamma settings for the display, which are totally unreliable.
according to the adobe gamma wizard, when I follow the settings correctly I get a very pale image on paper. how can I make them match?

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

In reply to: Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

I don't think that you can ever get a good match while using an LCD or most flat screen monitors like what is on your laptop computer. I have looked at many flat screen monitors and I am not impressed with their ability to reproduce colors accurately. The only monitors I have seen that do a pretty good job of reproducing colors accurately are the standard bulky CRT screens and the new plasma flat screen monitors. I wouldn't use anything else for color photography.

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

FYI, I am a certified ISF video calibrator working in the DC area and would like to add some commentary to Donal's answer. I know this is long, but it is worth reading.

First, it is true that monitors tend to be brighter than print and the gray must be fixed (with a color analyzer ? your eye can see the difference, but it can?t measure it), however it is important to realize that the color space on a monitor is far more limited than ink. That is, even though we can in theory display millions of colors, the phosphors cannot display all the colors we can see. Neither can inks, but they display a lot more than monitors.

Second, monitors are usually set way TOO bright, with blacks so light you lose your contrast and whites so high that different gray/white levels blend together. Calibration involves a lot more than just gray correction. Keep in mind that all brightness and contrast on your monitor, including that in color, is controlled by the black and white levels. Note also that the Brightness control sets the BLACK level and the Contrast or Picture control sets the WHITE level. Weird but true.

Third, color balance must be set also. Reds are usually pushed too high so when you print, often the reds seem dull compared to what you saw on the monitor. This is NOT always the case with other colors, especially blue which we don?t see very well.

Another main problem with comparing monitors and print is that inks is that look opaque while monitor colors appear translucent. Inks can look very bright under good light. Also, you are not always seeking brilliance. It depends on the image.

Further, there are different standards for ink colors (e.g. CMYK, ) just as there are for monitor/display colors (NTSC/SMPTE, ATSC?). Your monitor (RGB) is based on Red Green Blue primary colors; print on Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. If you can CALIBRATE YOUR MONITOR TO A CMYK COLOR SPACE, the output will look much more like print than if you use normal calibration. However, this may look a little off on normal display (e.g. web pages). It is also important to note that while TVs are basically bound by display standards, monitors are not so your monitor can be difficult to calibrate if the manufacturer went off on their own.

Finally, the kind of monitor you have makes a great deal of difference. LCD monitors are bright and have a small footprint, but you get this ?cool? factor at the price of contrast. This is real contrast not advertised contrast. The human eye can see a contrast ratio of about 800:1 in color and 1200:1 in B&W. Movies in a theater appear to be around 200:1. Your 4000:1 plasma doesn?t do you any good. Besides, it is probably at about 350:1 if it is properly calibrated. Contrast ratio is measured with a displayed checkerboard, so black and white can be measured concurrently. Some manufaturuers measure white with contrast and brightness turned up all the way and black with the set turned off in a darkened room.

Sorry if this was too lengthy, but hopefully it will help. Color display is not asimple subject and some image tolls (e.g. some Adobe products) try to help with the difference correction by providing multiple color engines emulating different color spaces. You may want to try something like this.

Good luck.

Dan Liberman

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(NT) (NT) Thank you Dan, this is great information to know!

In reply to: Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

Although I think this message is helpful, it doesn't mention what I found, anyway, to be the crucial factors to getting reasonably good, and consistently good, visual matches between printer and monitor:

1) Calibrate the monitor with a hardware calibration device ("puck") and software. I use Profile Mechanic, from Digital Light & Color, but there are many others, most of them around $200.

2) Profile the printer/ink/paper combo. Some paper manufacturers make quite good printer profiles and they are usually free -- Ilford, for example, supplies profiles for its Gallerie series of papers for the Epson 1280 and 2200 -- and some profiles for the printer manufacturer's papers are built into the driver or come with the printer. However, these are still not as accurate as having your actual printer and paper profiled. This can sometimes be done with scanner-based software such as Profile Prism, but I have not found that the results are much better, if at all, than the "canned" printer profiles. A way to get the best of both worlds is to find an online service that will profile your printer/ink/paper combo for you, for a fee ranging from $40 to $100. Find a paper or two that you like and send for the profiling kit; print the supplied target; mail it to the profile maker; and get the profile back in an e-mail a few days later.

Following these steps, trial and error is mostly eliminated. You will still have the occasional image you have to tweak with an adjustment layer in order to get a good match, because the profile's idea of an equivalent rendering of transmitted light to reflected light may not be yours, but the results are much more consistent than on a non-profiled system. Total cost: $200-$300, depending on the "puck" you buy and where you have your profiles made. I've saved that several times over compared to when I tinkered with printer settings and Adobe Gamma to profile my monitor.

Just my two cents.

- David

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

Read all of the responces there is a lot of good info here. I come from a photography background, have a color darkroom and getting good color and consistant color is not an easy task. One of the problems is that Windows does not have a good color management so getting an exact match requries a lot of work at times.
You may have to make several pints and make changes as you go to get what you want.

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

A Simple Approach:

While there has been much valuable discussion about complex calibration, I have found a simple approach that has worked very well for me as a professional photographer.

My method is to send a photo to the printer that contains an image most consistent with what I normally print. (ie. I take mostly portraits.) After I have the print in hand, I adjust the monitor brightness, contrast, and RGB values to most closely match by eye the print in front of me.

You will want to perform this adjustment with the same type of lighting environment that you will normally have when sitting at your monitor. Ambient light type and intensity will affect how your eye perceives colors on the monitor.

When performing this visual calibration, your eyes may become saturated from looking at the monitor. You might want to take a short break and come back to it to re-check your adjustments.

Now that I have calibrated the monitor, I use my image editing software to achieve the desired color balance or corrections of my image and the printer produces output very close to what I have seen on the monitor.

Obviously this method may not be for those needing very precise color-matching. But it is a method that has worked well for me, costs nothing and eliminates the frustration that many home users may experience.

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

I have an idea about matching the printer output with the display that I thought I would run by the list. I haven't tried this myself.
Do it in reverse. Print the picture and then using the picture, tweak the computer monitor settings so that the monitor picture corresponds with the printed picture.
Then using that monitor profile, tweak the computer photo to what you want it to look like. Presumably then the print would match the monitor.
That monitor profile may not be desirable for other work so one could change back to another profile after saving the special picture print profile.
Regards,
Jerry Buc

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

In reply to: Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

OOPS, I didn't realize that the post previous to mine said it much more eloquently.
Regards,
Jerry Buc

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

Oh my Gosh!!
Thank you so much Donna for asking this question. I am an amatuer Photographer and I have been so frustrated with my photo's printing out so awful. They are beautiful on my monitor tho.
Thanks so very much to all of you who gave such wonderful
information.

Paula Ingram

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

In reply to: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on the monitor

Most of the answers seem to be either very hit and miss or expensive. I now use MonacoEZcolor together with a Pantone Spyder and PreCAL/OptiCAL and they work extremely well and are easy to use.

However, previously I used the Nova Digi-colour CD, which includes a small neutral gray "mouse". With this you print their software and set the numbers given in the dot that best matches the gray plastic mouse. This gives excellent results and can be used on any computer with any imaging software that can print a tiff file. It is obtainable from www.novodarkroom.com. This is in the UK but I'm sure they would ship to the USA. It costs

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

Doanl H. has got it.

After spending 30+ years and far too many hours in the dark trying to make dreck look like rembrants I switched to Digital Cameras and Computers, now at least I'm not quite so much a mushroom!

That is the correct answer - it was the same for slides versus prints and stays the same for Monitors vs Prints. Yes, you can come close, very close with some thought and some labor but it's a classic apples versus oranges situation.

A different approach is to realize that when you can't match print to screen you are shooting in the wrong direction. Look at your print - what's wrong with it? Now fix that - as soon as you've turned the monitor off the screen image is gone anyway!

cvt

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

In reply to: Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

Thank y'all SO much! I have learned more about the relations among monitor-printer-ink-paper from this Q&A than in 20 years of computering. I appreciate the range of suggestions, and will try them in order of expense and complexity. A few comments were absolutely new info to me and brilliantly clarify muddles that I've wasted days on:

-Resizing reduces overall resolution by removing some picture data; it does not dictate actual print size.
-An image should be scanned in the color mode of its final use (CMYK for color printing and RGB for on-screen viewing)
-The Brightness control sets the BLACK level and the Contrast or Picture control sets the WHITE level.

Thank you all for taking the time to share your experience, and thanks Donna for asking this question!

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

In reply to: Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

Clarification: First, "resizing" will cause loss of picture detail if the file's size is reduced, as does saving to a compressed format such as jpeg. However many image editor programs and printer drivers do have a resizing feature that can alter the printed size of a picture without loss of any data by increasing or reducing the dpi by a proportionate amount (the Photoshop command Image->Image Size-> Constrain Proportions is one such).
Second, scanning in CMYK is normally not desirable unless the image is going to be used in 4-color lithography (commercial color printing). File size will increase (you have one extra color data channel) and the brightness range of colors is compressed. Editing is more complex because of the extra channel, and the RGB set-up you generate for matching color may not work with a CMYK image. Also, most inkjet printers are really designed to be used with the RGB color space, because among other things, that is what digital cameras give them, and many printers today use more than 4 inks anyway. They do not need CMYK because their drivers incorporate software tables to automatically convert the RGB color to the inks they use. Of course, they can print a CMYK image because they have tables for that, too.

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

In reply to: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on the monitor

I'm not sure that what Donal H. said about inks is totally true. If that were the case then profession photographers would never use digital photography. I do believe that the limitation is price dependancy of the printer. The high end equipment (costing thousands of dollars) should be able to reproduce photographic colors quite accurately. But most of us can not afford such equipment. I do believe that even on the low end of things that the price and quality of the equipment that a person uses will make a great deal of difference on the the quality of the pictures. If you are using a printer that is in the sub $200 range, you can't expect to get the kind of quality you can get from a $500-$1000 printer. I have noticed that the quality of the printer paper and inks can make quite a difference. Also inkjet printers are not usually the best photographic printers. I have seen better photo quality printing from $2000 color laser printers than anything I have seen from inkjet printers todate.

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Re: 8/20/04 How to print digital photos that match what's on

Well now I just went down to Walyworld and bought, on sale for $47.77 (Canadian), a Lexmark colour printer that came with a package of Fuji Photo paper and a photo editing program. I was fooling around with a template for making a brochure, and I was really very impressed with how the photo printed.
Maybe you are trying too hard?

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