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A Computer Darkroom Review

This tutorial is intended to help simplify the process of printing from within Photoshop CS although it also applies to version 7.

 

Before we get into Photoshop and Print Driver configurations let's clarify a couple of matters that still confuse some users.

  1. The typical desktop inkjet printer from Canon, HP, Lexmark and Epson requires that your image be in RGB mode and not CMYK mode. The print drivers supplied with these printers are not designed to interpret CMYK image data and will therefore produce less than optimal results. This type of printer is often referred to as Non-Postscript although you may also see them referred to as GDI (Windows platform) or QuickDraw (Mac platform). 

  2. The colour gamut of an image displayed on a typical VDU whether it be a CRT or LCD cannot be fully replicated in print. We can often get close, but never an exact match, that is unless we manipulate the image such that the colour gamut is significantly reduced, and even then it's questionable.

Common Photoshop Settings

The initial screenshots used below are based upon the Mac OSX version of Photoshop CS but should provide more than ample guidance to anyone using any version of Windows or Mac OS9. The Windows, Mac OS 9 and OS X printer driver settings are available on dedicated pages.

In Photoshop CS the "File > Print" menu option no longer gives the user access to colour management settings. Not to worry - to gain access to the settings formerly found in the Print dialog we must now choose "File > Print with Preview". The new Print dialog (figure 2) will appear and we can begin the process of getting things configured so that Photoshop can print using the more familiar print dialog.

  • Begin by engaging the "Show More Options" checkbox.

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Figure 2 Default Print Dialog

Notice that we now have a more extensive list of options available (figure 3), most of which are of no relevance to those users with the typical desktop inkjet printer.

  • Next click the popup labelled "Output" and choose "Colour Management". The dialog will quickly change form (see Figure 4 overleaf) and low and behold we're back with something similar to the print dialog with which we should all be familiar. We now have access to the essential colour management tools required to achieve high quality output.

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Figure 3

This next dialog is where things get a little more interesting. I've tried to explain the meaning of each option and so give the user a better idea why certain combinations work and others do not.

  • "Source Space: Document": denotes the actual colour space of the "source" image/document to be printed. The example below shows Adobe RGB (1998), but it could be any number of user specified alternatives (e.g. sRGB, ProPhoto, ColorMatch). If the image has already been converted (using the Photoshop Convert to Profile command) to a printer/media profile its name will be reflected here.

  • "Source Space: Proof": if this is active it tells Photoshop to convert the image/document from the source colour space to the ICC profile specified. You can only alter this profile from within the Proof Setup dialog (see: Photoshop View menu).

  • "Print Space: Profile" is where we choose the preferred method of managing the colour output from Photoshop. We have three different options and each has its own specific configuration in the printer driver so you avoid a mix and match approach. Please read and understand the differences between each!

  1. "Same as source" (figure 4 below): Photoshop simply passes the image/document straight to the printer driver without making any print space conversions. There will be no ICC profile embedded in the image and so this option is effectively telling Photoshop to NOT colour manage the process of printing the image/document.

This particular option is usually chosen when printing the special multicolour patch targets that are used with ICC printer profiling applications and is NOT recommended when you're printing normal images.

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Figure 4 - Same as Source (this means - don't manage colour)

  1. "Printer Color Management" (figure 5 below): - choosing this option informs Photoshop that the image/document should be sent to printer driver with the profile listed against "Source Space:" embedded within it. By embedding this profile Photoshop is providing the printer driver with all the necessary information required to ensure accurate colour rendering. The image/document colour management is handled  automatically by the printer driver. This option is probably the best choice for Photoshop users who are not yet familiar with media profiles.

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Figure 5 - Automatic Printer Colour Management

  1. "ICC Profile" (figure 6): - this last option is where we choose a specific ICC profile compatible with the printer and media combination being used. Notice that once an ICC profile is selected the "Intent" and "Use Black Point Compensation" (BPC) checkboxes are activated. Generally you'll want to use Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric and have BPC checked. It's worth noting that with many of the newer models from Epson (e.g. 2100, 2200, R800, R1800, and R2400) it is probable that choosing Relative Colorimetric will produce the more pleasing prints.

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Figure 6 - Using Media (paper) Profiles with Photoshop

Once the Print with Preview dialog has been configured to suit your requirements it's time to press the Print button.

Mac OS 9.x

When you press the Print button (i.e. top right hand corner of Print with Preview dialog) the Print dialog as shown in Figure 7 should appear.

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Figure 7 - Print Dialog

When the Printer driver window appears choose the type of Media (1) that will be used. Next select  "Custom" (2) and  "Advanced Settings" (3).

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Figure 8 - Epson Printer Dialog - Main Window

Chose the highest Print Quality (4) option compatible with the printer/media combination that you require. Halftoning (5) should be set for High Quality. High Speed (6) should be disabled.

Colour Management should be set-up for either Color Controls, PhotoEnhance or ColorSync(7). Using Color Controls or ColorSync mode is probably the best choice for novices and requires that the Photoshop Print with Preview dialog is configured as shown in figure 5 on the previous page. Unless you have good reason to choose differently I recommend leaving the Gamma at 1.8

No Color Adjustment mode is ONLY appropriate when the user is in possession of media type profiles and has chosen to configure Photoshop  as shown in figure 6 (previous page). This setting is the best option for intermediate and advanced Photoshop users.

Note:

  • The Epson GreyBalancer software is NOT compatible with the use of No Color Adjustment mode - ENSURE that it has been completely disabled before attempting to use media profiles.

Mac OS X

When you press the Print button (i.e. top right hand corner of Print with Preview dialog) the "System" Print dialog as shown in Figure 7 should appear. It is important that you configure the printer driver in the sequence that I show otherwise there is a good chance that one of the settings will revert to the Epson default.

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Figure 7 - "System" Print dialog

Press the popup labelled Copies and Pages (shown in the screenshot with a red asterisk). Choose Print Settings from the list of options. When the Printer Settings panel (figure 8) appears choose the type of Media (1) that will be used. Next select the Advanced (2) mode.

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Figure 8 - Epson Printer Dialog - Main Window

Choose Best Photo or Photo RPM for the highest Print Quality (3) option compatible with the printer/media combination that you require. Also, for best quality High Speed (4) should be disabled.

Return to the popup now labelled Print Settings (5) and choose Color Management. For Colour Management (figure 9 below) we have three options (radio buttons): Color Controls, ColorSync and OFF (No Color Adjustment).

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Figure 9 - Epson Print Driver - Advanced Settings

The first two options are designed to automate the process of printer colour management and you have the choice of Color Controls or ColorSync (6). I suggest that you avoid choosing ColorSync as it has been known to produce very unsatisfactory results with some printer models. I believe that Color Controls is the best option for most  novice users. Remember that the Photoshop Print with Preview dialog should be configured as shown in figure 5 above.  With the latest drivers for printers such as the Stylus Photo R800, R1800 and 2400 you will see 3 modes. When not using ICC media profiles my personal preference and recommendation would be Color Controls with the Mode set to Epson Vivid. Lastly, unless you have good reason to choose differently I recommend leaving the Gamma setting at 1.8.

The third setting for colour management is referred to as Off (No Color Adjustment) (6a) and is ONLY appropriate when you're using ICC media type profiles. In other words you should only use this setting if you have chosen to configure Photoshop Print with Preview dialog as shown in figure 6 above. This setting is by far the best setting for advanced Photoshop users. It's also worth mentioning that if you find your final prints are light and magenta in appearance then there's a very good chance that you chose one of the other two settings in error or that the sequence in which you configured the print driver was not exactly as I describe above.

In the following screenshot you can see that choosing Off (No Color Adjustment)  (6a) resulted in the Mode popup, Gamma and slider controls being removed from the print dialog; this is how it should be so don't panic when they disappear.

Iamge

Figure 10 - Saving your settings as Presets

Once you have configured the driver for your preferred media, print quality and colour management settings it's a good idea to save them for future use. This is achieved by opening the Presets (7) popup and choosing "Save As" - do be sure to choose a meaningful name. Next time you need to make a print you can simply choose this media type from your list of Presets. In the example shown in figure 10 you can see that I have preset settings for Epson Enhanced Matte and Semi Gloss media.

Windows

When you press the Print button (i.e. top right hand corner of Print with Preview dialog) the "System" Print dialog as shown in Figure 7 should appear.

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Figure 7 - "System" Print dialog

Now press the Properties button. Once the Printer driver window (figure 8) appears choose the type of Media (1) that you will be using. Next select "Custom" mode (2). The last setting to choose in this dialog is the Advanced button (3).

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Figure 8 - Epson Printer dialog - Main Window

Chose the highest Print Quality (4) option compatible with the printer/media combination that you require. Halftoning should be set for High Quality. High Speed (5) should be disabled.

For basic printing Color Management (6) should be set-up for either Color Controls, PhotoEnhance or ICM. When you choose Color Controls, PhotoEnhance or ICM mode  the Photoshop Print Preview dialog is configured as shown in figure 5 on the previous page. Unless you have good reason to choose differently I recommend leaving the Gamma at 1.8.

No Color Adjustment mode should only be chosen when you are using media type profiles and have already selected the appropriate profile in the Photoshop Print with Preview dialog (figure 6 on previous page).

Note:

  • Don't be tempted to use the Epson Print Preview screen since the results will look terrible and cause you no end of confusion and frustration. The Epson Print Preview is NOT compatible with the use of ICC media profile.

  • The Epson GreyBalancer software is NOT compatible with the use of No Colour Adjustment mode - ENSURE that it has been completely disabled before attempting to use media profiles.

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Figure 9 - Epson Print Driver - Advanced Settings

In the absence of good quality media profiles my personal preference would be ICM mode since it disables the adjustment sliders and removes most of Epson's internal colour/contrast processing. Lastly, press the OK button (twice)  and return to the Photoshop 7/CS Print dialog.

The media profiles listed below were obtained from various sources including Epson UK, USA and Australia. You can download the profiles by mouse clicking the printer name :

Downloadable Epson ICC Media Profiles

Epson Stylus Photo 1290 - (compatible with the 1280)

Epson Stylus Photo 890

Epson Stylus Photo 895

Epson Stylus Photo 810 - (compatible with the 820)

Epson Stylus Photo 1270 (install cd-rom)

Epson Stylus Photo 2000P

Epson Stylus Photo 2100

The profiles are compressed using WinZip and upon download should be decompressed and copied into the windows/system/color folder (Windows 98,98SE and Me) or the system32/spool/drivers/color folder (Windows 2000 and XP).

When you press the Print button (i.e. top right hand corner of Print with Preview dialog) the "System" Print dialog as shown in Figure 7 should appear.

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Figure 7 - "System" Print dialog

Now press the Properties button. Once the Printer driver dialog (Figure 8) appears choose the type of Media (1) that will be used. Next select either  "Photo or Best Photo" mode (2). The last setting to choose in this dialog is the Advanced button (3).

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Figure 8 - Epson 2200 Basic Printer Dialog - Main Window

The following screenshot (Figure 9) is where we make the important selections. Chose the highest Print Quality (4) option compatible with the printer/media combination that you require. High Quality. High Speed (5) should be disabled.

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Figure 9 - Epson Print Driver Advanced Settings

For Color Management (6) we have a number of options, many of which only serve to confuse and are completely unnecessary.

If you have chosen to configure the Photoshop Print with Preview dialog  as shown in Figure 5 (Printer Colour Management) then the Epson driver can be set-up for either Color Controls or PhotoEnhance. These options are best suited to novice Photoshop users.

By choosing ICM (6a) you gain access to the internal Epson printer colour management system and the No Color Adjustment (NCA) mode. ICM mode automatically makes use of the Epson media profiles but does so in a way that means their selection in Photoshop should be avoided. To obtain the best results from this particular mode of operation you should configure the Photoshop Print dialog as shown in Figure 5 on the previous page.

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Figure 10 - ICM Mode

NCA mode also facilitates the use of the Epson media type ICC profiles but requires that the Photoshop Print dialog is configured as shown in Figure 6 on the previous page. By choosing NCA mode you are leaving colour management to Photoshop.

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Figure 11 -  No Colour Adjustment Mode

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