Printer output

Do you find that the colours you print out look different from the colours on your PC screen? Our Helproom Editor explains how to make printed out colours match those on your display.

QUESTION I'm using Adobe Photoshop CS4 on my Windows XP PC with an LG monitor. When I print photos on my Canon printer the colour is very different to that shown onscreen. It's very frustrating to spend hours tweaking a photo and then not getting the results for which I had hoped. How can I tweak my monitor and printer so they are both reading from the same page, so to speak?

HELPROOM ANSWER This is a very common problem that can be mitigated by employing some level of colour management. Colour management is a complex topic, and it can be time-consuming and expensive to achieve professional-level results. Nevertheless, it is possible for home users such as yourself to improve on a completely unmanaged colour setup.

The first step is to ensure your monitor, printer, Photoshop and Windows all adhere to the same colour profile, such as sRGB. This is a lowest-common-denominator approach, which probably won't make the most of your printer's capabilities, but it will ensure that all devices are working in the same colour format and minimise unexpected variations.

If you wish to accurately calibrate your system, you can purchase a tool such as the Datacolor Spyder 4. It measures your screen colours and creates a colour profile to match. A similar device is available to calibrate printers; using the two together you should be able to achieve accurate colour reproduction.

You don't say how old your monitor is, but all flat-panels will degrade with age.

LCD displays generally become dimmer and colours get increasingly yellow, for example. If your display is very old, you will either need to calibrate it using a hardware calibrator or, preferably, buy a new screen.

Even if you calibrate an old monitor to improve its accuracy, there will be many colours that no amount of tweaking will enable it to display. The further the monitor has shifted from its original colour setup, the worse this problem will become; any built-in colour settings, such as sRGB, will no longer be accurate.

It's important to bear in mind that monitors and printers aren't capable of displaying the exact same colour range. When creating a print from a photograph you should look to achieve the best translation from onscreen image to print. Ultimately, some further tweaking may be required to get the most pleasing prints.

For more tips on printing, visit Printing Advisor.

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