printer v monitor or why are my prints so different

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    i have three printers. a canon iP4700, an epson R260 and an epson stylist photo 2200. as a photo mangler i use photoshop 7 ( i have the gimp but haven’t tried printing from it) and sometimes print from the windows print wizard.

    my monitor is a LG 23″ LED and hasn’t been calibrated but from what i’ve read LED monitors don’t have much room for that.

    when i print to the canon i get prints that are lighter than the monitor but ok. when i print to the R260 using “photo” rather than “best photo” the prints are ok. neither produce great prints but they are ok or better. the 2200 produces prints that are way too dark. and that’s with epson paper and using epson’s profiles. or what i take to be epson profiles.

    so far either google hasn’t been my friend or i don’t understand what i’m reading. could one of you point me in the right direction.


    1) Your monitor needs to be calibrated.

    2) Your printers all need to be calibrated to match the monitor – or vice versa. Doesn’t really matter.

    The issue is that when you’re looking at an image on the screen, you’re looking at a transmissive reproduction and when you’re looking at the print, you’re looking at a reflective reproduction.

    Getting the two to match can be painful.

    You’ll most likely want to match your printer profiles in Photoshop first, then calibrate your monitor to match.

    There are many hardware/software tools to do this. I generally use a Huey Pro, but I’m looking at replacing it with a Spyder3Pro.


    part of my problem is not understanding the terminology. it seems that “profile” gets used for both a paper profile (I.E. what particular paper you are using for that print) and what PS does before sending the file to the printer. and the results vary by the printer brand. but IIRC that can be addressed in the PS profile.

    and frankly so far as monitor calibration $60-$100 for a tool to do a one time calibration isn’t in my budget.

    PS 7’s online help is less than helpful since it says things like “set the profile” but isn’t clear as to how one does that. or i’m dense which is within the realm of probability.


    Curious, the science behind color models and mapping profiles is a lot more complicated than it would first appear, at least it was to me. I know just a smidgen about it.

    I don’t know anything about what you called a paper profile (I suspect it’s the same thing as what I describe next, except applied to particular papers), but a device profile maps the entire color space that can be represented in a particular color model to the actual output gamut of a device. The gamut of a device is the subset of colors that the device is actually capable of displaying. Gamuts differ between monitors and printers because they use different technologies to produce the colors (in addition to other physical constraints). Additionally, the color relationships between these devices is not linear nor comparable across devices even of the same type.

    A color model is a mechanism for representing colors. Common models are sRGB and Adobe RGB. Most cameras use sRGB. Neither of those models represent the entire spectrum of visible colors, but they do represent a larger spectrum than can be displayed on most monitors and certainly that can be printed.

    A device profile then contains the non-linear function that maps the numerical representation of colors to the physical capabilities of the device so that what you see on one monitor is what you see on another (assuming they’re all profiled) and also what you get when you print.

    Monitor calibration isn’t a one-time deal, either, as monitor output changes as it ages. You’re supposed to re-calibrate about once a month. And as far as I know, none of the monitor calibration tools in that price range will do printer calibration because that requires a much more complicated calibration tool.

    You might check on the printer manufacturer’s website and see if they have a default profile for the printers. If it’s decent, it might get you close to what you shot (but not necessarily what you see if you don’t calibrate the monitor) and at least should bring some consistency across the different printers. Higher-end monitors also have manufacturer provided default profiles, but that’s hit-or-miss (the one I got from Dell was worthless).

    Bottom line is that if you really want WYSIWIG, it’ll cost. I think the Spyder3 package that includes monitor and printer calibration is about $500. I don’t do printing at home, so I just opted for monitor calibration.

    If you ever need some help getting to sleep, you can read about color models here: and gamut here: Both of those articles have enough links to further reading to keep you busy for hours.


    thanks CauseISaidSo. reading your post will have to be redone when i’m not rushed. and i’ll read the links too.

    a paper profile is similar to a printer profile in that it tells the printer what medium the ink will be applied to. as you no doubt know different paper finishes react/take ink differently. not only is gloss different that matte but gloss brand A is different than gloss brand B. sort of like illford v kodak paper for darkroom use.

    according to the install disc and epson’s site the proper profiles were loaded into PS with the printer installation. or actually the installation of the IIC profiles.

    i’m about to build another box and once that’s done i’ll have to take the time to really learn this stuff.


    I’ll try to make this brief, but it’s a very complex subject.

    I used to manage the color printing dept. for the oldest blueprint house in Nashville. I’ve dealt with it all from architects and photographers wanting their colors “right”.

    First off, calibrate your monitor. You have no idea what you really have color wise if you don’t. Tweaking your monitor settings to make it look right isn’t helping if the original image is not color correct to begin with.

    Second, if your printer software installs a color profile (*.icm), make sure it’s installed and make sure the printer driver is set to actually use it. Note that most profiles are meant to be used only with that manufacturer’s ink and paper. Using anyone else’s ink and paper is probably going to be disappointing and a waste of material.

    With most digital cameras nowdays, the image will have a color profile embedded in the file. Make sure your camera or film scanner is set to do so if it isn’t already. Most should produce sRGB or Adobe profiles embedded in the image file.

    This should get you in the ballpark. Tweaking the printer color settings might get you really close to perfect, if not there.

    If you really want to do it right. You have to establish a color workflow, follow it every time and calibrate everything on some standard you’ve established. Yes, this does cost some money up front, but in the long run, it’s way cheaper than fiddling and tweaking and making countless reprints to get one that looks right!

    1. Calibrate your monitor.

    2. Standardize on an ink and a paper (or papers). Buy in bulk to reduce batch variations, if possible.

    3. Use a printer calibrating service to generate custom *.icm files for each combination of ink and paper you’re using. (see Google for some places which do this. Typically, they send you a file, you print it using the combination of ink and paper you want to profile, mail it to them, and they send you a profile file to use.)

    4. Print color accurate (WYSIWYG) prints on your own system! (Profit?)

    If your printer doesn’t support multiple .icm files or none at all (a lot of large format printers are like this…it’s external for them and usually applied in RIP software), you can use Photoshop to do the work for you. Place your new .icm files where Photoshop expects to see them, load your image, do whatever tweaking on it you want, save your file (still in some RGB format) then Edit > Convert To Profile. From the drop box select the profile you’ve been sent for the paper and ink combo you’re going to print with, and convert. This is usually going to be into CMYK, so don’t be upset if it suddenly looks different. (This is usually from gamut limits in different profiles.) Then send the file to the printer making sure the printer is NOT using any profile. (You just converted it, right?) This should give you 99.9% accurate color if you’ve followed the steps and have everything in calibration.

    Hope this helps!



    Not to distract from the printing aspect of things, but I’ve a question on the monitor calibration side. Is there freeware for such a task? I’ve occasionally wondered if what I’m seeing is close to what others see in my images. I have and ACER laptop, and use the system defaults for viewing, which claim to all be set for ‘photography’. But I still wonder…


    thanks HamstersFromHell it looks like a bunch of work but as you noted better at the front end than each photo.


    Not to distract from the printing aspect of things, but I’ve a question on the monitor calibration side. Is there freeware for such a task? I’ve occasionally wondered if what I’m seeing is close to what others see in my images. I have and ACER laptop, and use the system defaults for viewing, which claim to all be set for ‘photography’. But I still wonder…

    There are freeware monitor calibration tools, and all of them work pretty much the same as the Adobe one you get with Photoshop. However, Adobe has quit packaging their tool with PS (I know it’s absent in CS4 and later, and maybe with CS3 as well). Adobe now says not to use those tools to calibrate flat displays, as they were intended to use with CRT monitors, which behave differently than flat panels. is a good place to start on learning hows and whys of calibrating monitors. He also links to the freeware calibration tools.

    For the money, the basic Spyder can’t be beat. You can often pick one up on eBay for cheap, use it, then resell it if you’re not going to recalibrate all the time. (And even getting it right once is better than not at all…even with monitor drift, you’re still well in the ballpark for all but hypercritical viewing.)



    Thanks much for the info!

    //Who was that masked hamster?


    put together a windows 7 box today and set it up with dual monitors. boy howdy is there a difference in the color. once i get to image mangling and printing it will be interesting to see what develops.

    some time soon i’ll play with the color settings but for now to much else to do.

    i have to admit that windows 7 is easier than XP was as far as the installed drivers. there are lots of them. but i had downloaded the drivers from canon for my i850 printer prior to the OS install. it didn’t install correctly but when i ran the troubleshooter windows found the right driver and fixed the problem.

    and when i connected my D3000 it saw the NEF files/photos and displayed thumbnails. i still installed nikon ViewNX2 for transfer and file conversion. the odd thing is that when using explorer to view files not only do the NEF not show thumbnails but if you click the blank icon you get the the “file type unknown what now” box. i’ll have to see if there is a RAW windows viewer like i have in XP.

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