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In this course, photographer and author Ben Long explores the art and the craft of creating beautiful, archival-quality inkjet prints. The course looks at the anatomy of a print job: how a printer works, how to adjust and prepare your image to get the best results, and what happens to your photo in its journey from pixels to paper.
After a discussion of how to choose a printer, the course covers the process of preparing both black and white and color images using Adobe Photoshop. Ben describes how to take images from looking good onscreen to being properly adjusted for best results on paper, covering details such as sizing, sharpening, and color management.
With photographer and master framer Konrad Eek, Ben explores the creative decisions that photographers should address before printing. What size print? How does print size relate to the message of the photo and to the space where the photo will be displayed? What kinds of paper choices do you have, and how does your photo's content relate to the paper you choose?
The course also describes how to properly evaluate a print and how to handle common challenges that crop up during the printing process.
I have got my monitor profile installed, I have got my printer profiles installed, I have got lot of them because I just downloaded every Epson printer profile that I could find, but my screen doesn't really look any different. As I mentioned before, simply installing a monitor profile and a printer profile doesn't mean that suddenly Photoshop will be showing you what things are going to look like on paper. You have to go through an explicit soft proofing step. In other words, I'm generating an electronic proof of what the whole system thinks my final image is going to look like.
So you saw this image before. And what I need to do now is tell Photoshop that I want to see what this is going to look like when printed on a very particular piece of paper in a very particular way. To do that, I go up here to the View menu. And you'll see a few different things. Everything in this upper section up here is related to color management, color matching, and soft proofing. I want to go to Proof Setup, which is where I will configure exactly what type of paper I want to print on and some additional controls about how the ink is going to go on to the paper.
So I have my Customized Proof Condition dialog box here. I can actually load and save presets, so once I get this built, I could save all this up here. Instead, I have got to work all this out by hand. Device to Simulate, you are going to see a whole bunch of things in here. A lot of these are stock devices that are installed with Photoshop, everything from here down to here and a few things after are going to be in Photoshop, no matter what else you have done. What I've got here is some Hahnemuhle paper that I download a profile for off of the Hahnemuhle website.
This is their Photo Rag Duo, so I am going to pick that, and as soon as I do that, my image changes. Now you probably missed it here. So I am going to uncheck this preview box, so you can see it, this is before and after. Again, before and after. Number of interesting things are happening here. Watch her chin right here. There's a shadow that's there before I soft proof that goes away after. We are also seeing a lot of change in her skin tone here. Again, that's before, that's after. Seeing a lot of changes down here.
Before we really evaluate those changes and decide if we like them, it's just interesting to note that, okay, something is changing. Photoshop is generating a different image based on my proofing settings. So I picked the device that I want to simulate. The next really major thing that I need to decide is Rendering Intent. So you've already seen that when my color spaces don't match or when my gamuts don't match, I have colors that fall outside the range of different devices. So what does Photoshop do if my image has colors that fall outside the gamut of, in this case, my piece of paper? Well, it has to try and figure out how to work them back into the gamut. It has to do a conversion.
There are lots of different ways that I can do this conversion. Well, actually, there are four. But I am going to consider that a lot because I have to explain all of them. The first one is Perceptual. Perceptual Rendering Intent tries to preserve the visual relationships that exist between colors. It's designed to mimic what color looks like to the human eye. It's a good choice for images that have out of gamut colors. So here's what Perceptual looked like, and you can see it did just change between Perceptual and the rendering intent I had before. I have picked up a little bit of the shadow back, I have gotten more detail back in here, I'm liking these skin tones, that looks pretty good.
Let's see what else we have got. Saturation, really effected no change here at all. It's actually not a rendering intent that's relevant to photos, it's designed for charts and business graphics, things that have big solid blocks of very saturated colors. So you can almost always ignore that one. Relative Colorimetric tries to preserve--or actually does preserve--the white point in the source and destination spaces, but then all the other colors are shifted according to what that white is. The idea with Relative Colorimetric is that it will preserve more of the original colors in the image than the Perceptual intent that we saw before.
Let me switch between those two for you so you can see this is Relative Colorimetric, and that's Perceptual, again, Perceptual, Relative Colorimetric. With the Relative Colorimetric, I'm seeing more contrast show up in here. Her hair is looking a little more yellow to me here than it is here. There is an overall loss of saturation with perceptual, and that's probably to do as it's shifting the colors around once it has determined the white point. Absolute Colorimetric is the last option here.
It actually does the opposite of what Relative Colorimetric does. It starts with black, and it adjusts for differences in the black points between my source space and my destination space. And then it maps the full range of colors from the source space into the destination space. This is great if your original image and your paper profile have roughly the same size gamut, mine don't actually. It's not a huge change here, but here's Relative Colorimetric, here is Absolute Colorimetric.
So do you need to remember all that stuff? No, you don't need to remember the definitions of those things. Just remember that Saturation is never going to do much for you. What you need to do here in your Soft Proof is just pick the one that you think looks the best. I can't tell you more than that, pick the one that you think looks the best. Trust your own eye and your own taste. Know that below that is also this Black Point Compensation box, which is going to change how Photoshop thinks about black in the image. It's worth turning that on and off. And actually turning it on fixes the shadow here, drains some saturation that I didn't like there.
Let's see what it looks like over here. Not all of these give you a Black Point Compensation option, Perceptual does. I think that I'm going to go with Relative Colorimetric with Black Point Compensation. All I am looking for are the things we have been looking for throughout this course, good white, good black, a range of colors that I like. And now I am going to remember that, Relative Colorimetric and Black Point Compensation. So this is what I think-- I'm going to hit OK now. This is what Photoshop thinks my image is going to look like when it's printed.
Based on this, I can now do some image editing if I wanted. I'm probably not going to get a big shift in blacks. If I'm seeing a color shift that I don't like, I could try to edit it away. Bear in mind that when soft proofing is on my editing tools are not going to feel like they have got as much latitude, they are not going to feel like they are doing as much because my colors are constrained to the paper gamut colors. So I may not be able to pull a really bright red out of the image that I could get with soft proofing turned off. So there is my soft proof. When I get it the way that I like it, I am ready to print. That's just what you've always done. I go to File, and I choose Print.
And now I need to be sure that I have configured the Print Settings, which I am going to do up here. This takes me to the normal Print dialog box, and what you see now may differ on your printer, because Print dialogs differ from vendor to vendor and even from printer model to printer model. My main concern here is that I want to be sure that at least on an Epson printer, under Print Settings that I have chosen the media type that I'm printing on. Now I'm not going to see a third-party printer paper in here. So I don't see Hahnemuhle, but I know that Ultra Premium Presentation Matte is a good choice for the type of paper that I am printing on.
I want to be sure that Color Settings is turned off. Now in the later versions of the Mac OS and some Windows operating systems, Photoshop can communicate to the print driver and turn that off. I want this off because Photoshop is already manipulating the colors. I don't want it to manipulate the colors and then hand that to the printer driver and the printer driver go, oh my! These colors are all wrong here, let me adjust them for you. I want to be sure that that's all turned off. This is a critical step in the color managed printing processes is making sure that the driver is not interfering with your color.
With that all done, I am ready to hit Save, and then I can print. I have already printed this image. So we don't have to wait to see the results, I am going to just cancel out of here. I want to make sure the Proof Colors is turned on, this lets me toggle my proofing on and off once I have got it configured. So I've got Proof Colors turned on, and now I want to see how things compare. So I am going to hold my print up to the screen here. Now, this is a little bit tricky because you are seeing this through a video camera and then the video is being compressed, and I don't know what your monitor is like.
So, you may not be seeing what I'm seeing here, but I am going to tell you what I'm seeing. And what I am seeing is a pretty good match, but not a perfect match. I am liking these pink tones down here, I think they're good. The overall tonal relationships are right. My shadow detail down here is about what is up here. Up here, her hair is a pretty good match. Where the image is falling apart is in two places. Here in these white tones on her shirt, those are warmer in my final print and here in the sky, the blues are way off.
Here I am getting a really cyan blue, here I'm getting more of a magenta blue. So at that point, I might want to think wow, where--what's the problem? Something interesting comes up if I go back here to ColorThink and do a little graphing. I have got my image graphed against my paper profile. So this blob here is showing me the gamut of my paper profile. And what I'm finding is that almost all of the images that are falling out of gamut are in the blues to magentas. So first of all I can say right off the bat, well, yeah, blues and magentas are going to be hard for me to print, this image on this paper because the paper can't handle those tones.
But the whole point of color management is that Photoshop is supposed to know that the paper can't handle those tones, and it's supposed to adjust image on my screen to compensate for that, and that's not happening. So what that makes me think is it's time for me to go back and tweak my monitor profile. As I said, profiling more than once you might get different results. I am also in a situation where it's difficult to profile. So I am going to go back to my Spider Software, build another profile, run the profile analysis software on it and see what it says about the cyans and try and get that profile built up to something better.
I am going to keep the old one because I need to compare all of these things. What you've just seen is a pretty typical color management situation. I've got it almost matching--it's not quite matching. It's never going to match all the way, but this shift in color and sky is something that I would like to know about. I don't expect my image to look like an illuminated image on screen, but I do want to be able to have predictable flesh tones and predictable large areas of color, because as it is, I might go, well, the sky is too magenta. I was really expecting it more cyan.
To do that, I am going to have to go back and adjust my monitor profile and hope that it works. And there's no guarantee that it will. This is the tricky bet, it may be that my monitor is not accurate in those tones, especially if it's an older monitor. It may be that the monitor used to be, and now it's got a little older, and by a little older, I mean maybe only two years. So I am going to have to go back and juggle with that. That's all going to take time, it's going to require more test prints and so on and so forth. If I can get it working, it's great, but it is going to take some work. So that's the thing I want you to know about color management is you can invest in the hardware, and you can get it to work, you have got to think about whether it's worth the time and the money and the consumables you are going to go through.
One last thing I want to know to mention, this is Photoshop managed color. I think it's a nice print. Earlier, I did a print done with the Epson driver, it was also a nice print. in some ways it was a better print, it didn't match the screen, but I still liked the results. Maybe it would've taken me a test printer, too, to get everything exactly the way that I wanted it, but it's actually turning out that that's going to happen with my color managed workflow, too, at least for a while. So these are the things you want to think about and consider before you could dive too heavily into color management. I am not saying you shouldn't try it, I'm not saying it isn't great when you get it working, all I am saying is that getting it working can be a little tricky.
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