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How to Use Your Printer Profile

Extract your newly created profile(s) from the “zipped” file you downloaded to an easily accessible location on your computer, using WinZip or Stuffit. Once the file is unzipped, it will be necessary to install the profile in the proper location in order to use it.  The profile must be installed into a specific sub-folder of the operating system on your computer, or it will not work.  Installing a printer profile in Windows is automatic and easy.  Simply right-click on the file and select “Install Profile” from the pop-up menu that appears.  The profile will automatically install a copy of itself in the appropriate folder.  If you need to install manually, install the profile here:  C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\color.  To install on a Mac, you must place the profile into the correct folder manually:  MacHD/Library/ColorSync/Profiles.

Using a color-managed workflow to print your images with the printer profile is not difficult and should yield good results, as long as you follow some basic guidelines.  I recommend that you read – and then re-read – the Color Management 101 page.  There is some good basic information there about how to set up your system to print with a printer profile. It will not only help you with WHAT to do, but it will also help you understand WHY you are doing it.  And it is much better to have an understanding of why you are doing something than to just take a cookbook/menu-driven approach to your workflow.

If You Have Problems

If you experience unsatisfactory results when you try printing with your printer profile, the problem is almost always attributable to one of two conditions – either the target image was for some reason not an accurate representation of how your printer prints colors; thus rendering the profile created from it equally inaccurate – or – there is something fundamentally wrong with your color-managed workflow that prevents the profile from working with your printer the way it is supposed to.  If the target image was not correctly printed, there is nothing you can do in troubleshooting your workflow that will fix the problem.  The only solution is to print another target image and create another printer profile.  This should be the last step in your troubleshooting process, so let’s just skip over that possibility for now and focus instead on potential problems with your workflow.

First and foremost, it is important that you have a properly calibrated and profiled monitor.  The reasons for this are discussed in Color Management 101, and the importance cannot be overstated here.  If you are working with a monitor that is not calibrated correctly, then the colors you see on your monitor may not be accurate.  Your printer profile may be working correctly, creating accurate colors from your printer, but you will never know it if you are trying to compare those colors to a monitor that is not properly calibrated.  So, when you look at your printed results, if what you see is not what you are wanting to see, then the first thing you should do is re-calibrate your monitor.  Without a monitor that is displaying accurate color, you will never be happy with the results you obtain with a printer profile.  Period.  It is that simple.

After re-calibrating your monitor, if your printed results are still unsatisfactory, it is important to review all the steps in your workflow.  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you using your printing software to manage the color output?  That is, are you making your color management choices from within the software, and not the printer driver?  (The software should be managing the color output.)
  • Is color management turned OFF in the printer driver?  (It should be.)
  • What rendering intent are you using? (It should be either Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric.)
  • Have you tried switching rendering intents to see if you get better results?
  • Are you using Black Point Compensation (BPC), if available? Have you tried Relative Colorimetric WITH -and- WITHOUT BPC?

In order to adequately evaluate the colors from your printer, you should not rely on your own images – at least, not at first.  There are dozens of “printer test images” that have been specifically created to test the color-printing capabilities of your printer.  These are “synthetic” images that are designed to display the full gamut of colors that your printer can handle – and then some.  They have bright colors, soft colors, pastel colors, and very saturated colors. They have bright areas and shadowed areas, large expanses of color and fine details. They almost always will have some grayscale and/or color step charts.  Usually, there are a few people in the scenes so you can evaluate the accuracy of printed skin tones and hair color.  Also, there are usually objects that evoke “memory” colors – like an orange, an apple, a banana, blue sky, green grass – all items for which we intuitively know whether or not their colors look right or wrong in a picture.  Images like these are available from dozens of sources on the internet – just perform a Google or other search for  “printer test images,” and you will bring up a pretty comprehensive list of sites that offer these test images for download.

My favorite test image over the years has been the “Granger Rainbow,” several versions of which are abundantly available on numerous open photography forum websites.  A simple Google search on “granger rainbow” will bring up a sizable collection for you to try.  The Granger Rainbow is a specialized printer test image that contains a variety of colors that are out-of-gamut for even the most state-of-the-art printers.  This test image is an excellent starting point in evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of your profile.  The image contains smooth color transitions and gradations that provide an excellent test of your printer’s linearity.  And if there are problems with your printer’s reproduction of certain colors in this image, it allows you to see where your profile fails to accurately map certain colors to your printer.  In these circumstances, you have the opportunity to understand where you need to selectively edit colors in your images to compensate for these weakness in your profile.  When using printer test images, it is always a good idea to print two copies of each – using both Perceptual and Relative Colorimetric rendering intents.  Also, you may get subtly different results when you print with each of the three profiles delivered to you – try each one:  Colorful, Saturation, and Neutral.

If you are not seeing a problem with your workflow, then it is time to get more scientific with your approach to evaluating your profile.  Most color management experts agree that it is important to evaluate your printed images by viewing them under D50 (5000K) lighting conditions.  However, I believe that 99% of the time you will know whether you are getting the color you want, even without the high-tech lighting set-up.  If the picture you printed looks good to you compared to your display, you will usually know right away – and if it doesn’t, you will know that, too.  It is really only in those situations when you are unhappy with the results that I think you need to go to the next step of reviewing your images under D50 lighting.  But this is definitely the next step.  Light booths and desktop lamps that use specialized 5000K light bulbs are not exactly a bargain purchase, but there are a few relatively inexpensive lamps available.  If you get to this point and really need some D50 lighting, I recommend you visit the website of Norman Koren, an accomplished photographer and color management expert, who offers a wide array of online tutorials about color management.  His web tutorials are very informative and useful, and he addresses the issue of D50 lighting here: .  Norman Koren recommends using a SoLux Desk Task Lamp with a  4700K, 36 degree, 50W bulb for viewing prints.  The SoLux lamp has a CRI (color rendering index) of 0.98, which is a measure of how accurately a light source can render color.  A measurement of 1.00 is perfect.  The SoLux lamp, while not exactly 5000K, is close enough to provide viewing results that are essentially indistinguishable from true D50 lighting.  A simple Google search on “SoLux lamp D50” will bring up a number of commercial sources for SoLux proofing products you can purchase, if you are so inclined.

Norman Koren covers the subject of color management and how to review printed images for color accuracy with considerable more detail than I have discussed here.  I heartily recommend Mr. Koren’s website to anyone who needs an in-depth study of the subject of color management and its practical applications.

At this point, if you still believe you have a problem with your profile, and if you believe you can safely rule out any issues with your workflow, it is time to get hold of me.  If you are having problems, click on this link — or on the  Contact  link that appears in the menu at the top and bottom of each page.   Send me an email explaining in as much detail as possible the issue(s) you have encountered.  At a minimum, you should include some basic information in your email about you and the system you are using for printing:

  • Your name?
  • Address?
  • Telephone number?
  • Best hours to reach you?
  • Operating system?
  • Printing software – program name and version?
  • Printer — brand and model?
  • Paper — brand and type?
  • Printer driver version?
  • Are you using the manufacturer’s inks?
  • If not, what are you using?

Please explain in as much detail as you can the problems you are having.  If you are able to include screen shots that clarify your program and driver settings, please feel free to include those.  Once I have received your email, I will contact you immediately with an email reply.  If the nature of the problem you are having warrants discussing the issue with you, I will give you a call by telephone.  I will make every effort to help you solve any problems you are having with your profile — up to and including providing a new printer profile from a new target image that you provide.  In the rare and unusual circumstance when we have exhausted all possibilities and we still fail to resolve your problem, I reserve the right to bring closure to the issue by providing a refund of your payment for the profile.


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