Color Management and Soft Proofing Workflow

monitor color calibration in professional photo printing

Screen to print matching is one of the more difficult portions of a good digital workflow to achieve.  Some of the factors involved are: the color and brightness display characteristics of the monitor, viewings conditions for evaluating the prints, the physical attributes of the person doing the evaluation, and quality control at the output side.   In this article we will look at how to minimize the effect of the monitor.

Monitor Calibration Settings:

First, let’s look at recommended monitor calibration settings.  Here is an excerpt from http://www.updig.org/pdfs/updig_photographers_guidelines_v40.pdf:

2. Monitor Calibration

Monitors should be calibrated and profiled with a hardware device. Visual calibration is not adequate for professional image editing. An accurate visual representation of the image is extremely important to the imaging process. Calibration standards range from:

• Gamma — 1.8 to 2.2 (or L*).

• White point — 5000K to 6500K.

• Brightness levels — 80cd/m² to 140 cd/m2

As a general calibration guideline, use gamma 2.2 and 6500K for both Windows and Mac. A white point of 5000-5500K is a common recommendation for offset printing. Set brightness levels in relation to the room’s ambient lighting. A calibrated and profiled monitor, in conjunction with good print profiles, will allow you to “soft proof” the intended output. A daylight (5000K/D50) light source at correct brightness is necessary to visually match monitor to print.

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At H&H, we recommend using a gamma of 2.2 and a starting white point of 5800K.  The brightness (luminance) setting will vary based on the ambient light /viewing conditions of the room.  Keep in mind the brighter the room, the higher value is needed.

Once you have achieved a good monitor calibration, it is not uncommon to find that most colors match the prints very accurately, but some colors are different from what you see on the screen.

What is Soft Proofing?

This information on soft proofing taken from:  http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/soft-proofing.shtml

Soft Proofing

Soft proofing is simply a mechanism that allows you to view on your computer monitor what your print will look like when it is on paper. A specific paper. That paper and ink combination has been defined by the profile that you or someone else has made for your printer / paper and ink combination. When a printer profile is made the colour of the paper is one of the factors that is figured into the profile, because the spectrophotometer is reading the combination of the ink, and the paper that lies beneath it.

So, if you were able to view your image through the printer profile, you would be able to see how that particular combination of ink and paper would reproduce it, taking into account the gamut as well as other characteristics of the inks used.

To help predict this, H&H provides Soft Proof Profiles. These profiles are set up for a variety of products that we offer such as luster paper, pearl paper, and different album papers, etc. On this page you will find H&H’s Soft Proof Profiles and instructions on installing them on your system.

How do you implement Soft Proof workflow?

The following link gives a great example of a soft proof workflow:  http://www.drycreekphoto.com/Learn/profiles.htm

Here you will find the eighteen step workflow and some good tips to remember.

To conclude:

Without a good monitor calibration, implementing a soft proof profile workflow will not help give “predictable results” in your color management.

Soft proofing in your workflow will help identify colors that fall outside the output devices color gamut and allow you to adjust those tones.

For H&H, do not embed the soft proof profile in your image. Work in either the sRBG or Adobe1998 Color spaces and embed those profiles in your images.

H&H Color Lab

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