FAQs: ICC Profiles, Paper Curl, Varnish and More

In this article we will discuss the most frequently asked questions we’ve received this month. Do you have a Mac running Snow Leopard and are having trouble with ICC profile output? Want to know an easy way to remove paper curl from fine art rag papers? How about tips on testing new products?

1.   I have a Mac running Snow Leopard and my whites are actually printing gray. What do I do?

Many users have recently run into this problem when upgrading their Mac’s to OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard), and for a while there was no straight answer as to why this was happening. After much review including a phone call to Apple and Adobe, it seems as though there is a quite simple workaround. Apple computer’s API (Application Programming Interface) for color management is ColorSync. This application not only holds all of your monitor ICC profiles, generic printer ICC profiles, and custom ICC profiles; it controls how those profiles are used and output to the various devices they are for. Unfortunately, upon upgrading Snow Leopard from your existing version of OSX, a ColorSync “bug” is introduced to the system. While some of your current profiles will be unaffected, you may come across certain profiles you have successfully used in the past to now have a noticeable color shift. This is most common in the white areas of the print. They tend to print as a light gray cast, and can vary depending on the white point in the image file. One solution to this is to have your profile calculated using version 2 ICC specification. This is an older calculation that will not be affected by the ColorSync bug in OS 10.6.

inkjet printmaking tips

If you are certain that you have a version 2 ICC profile, then you will need to have a new ICC profile created. Whether you have your own device, or are printing targets to send to us for profile creation, you’ll want to follow the steps below:

Open the profile targets in Photoshop

Edit > Assign Profile > Adobe RGB. Click OK

File > Print

Set Color Handling = Photoshop Manages Colors

Set Printer Profile = Adobe RGB

Set Rendering Intent = Perceptual

Uncheck Black Point Compensation

*You do not have to pick Adobe RGB as the profile. You can use whichever profile you prefer, as long as the embedded profile (step 2 above, which assigns an embedded profile) matches the printer profile.

This seems counterintuitive, but it works because you are matching the embedded ICC profile of the targets with the printer profile. In other words, there will be no color shift when the targets get printed. Beyond that, the rest of the driver settings should remain the same. This will allow the targets to be printed the same way they are when you print using “No Color Management”. When printing your image with the new profile you’ve created, just use the profile under the Printer Profile setting in the driver. It does not need to be embedded in the Photoshop dialog prior to printing.

2. I print lots of photos on fine art rag paper. Any advice on removing paper curl?

Edge curl is something that most users have learned to deal with, but there are ways to remove it. If you are the technical type, you could invest in a product like the Bienfang De-Roller. This product comes in various widths, and it quickly and effectively removes the paper curl from your prints. While this is a great tool for this purpose, there is an easier (and more affordable) method for flattening your prints. And the best part is you can use supplies you already have in your print shop! Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  1. An empty 3” core (save the core from your last roll of fine art paper)
  2. 2 sheets of foam packing material
  3. Tape

The first step is to grab an empty 3 inch core. I like to use an empty core from the previous roll of paper I have printed. After you have your 3 inch core, take some foam packing material and cut 2 sheets about the same width as the roll (the length of the foam packing material can be whatever you like, but I tend to cut it about 6 inches longer then the size of my prints). Tape both sheets of foam packing material to the core, aligning the edges of the foam to the roll so that the foam can roll up evenly onto the core. One sheet should be directly on top of the other. After that, grab your print and set it on a flat surface with the print side up. The paper should curl away from the table so the edges will be touching the surface but the middle will be raised. This works best if you do not trim out your prints. Instead, leave them on the full size roll and cut a few inches past that (ex. If your print is 16” x 20” and you printed it on a 24” roll, leave 4 inches of white space around all edges of the print). Slide the print in between the 2 sheets of foam, making sure that the 3 inch core is on top of the printed side. Now, simply roll up the print onto the core. Be sure to roll it fairly tight, and unroll the print. Now, flip the print around 180 degrees and roll it up again (starting from the other end). For added affect, leave the print rolled up for a few minutes with tape, making sure that you place the tape in an area that will not affect the print. You can roll the print multiple times for thicker media, but the end result should be a very flat print!

3. Can I add texture to the varnish I am using to protect my prints?

The beauty of fine art printing is that the prints themselves can be defined and finished in so many ways to make it unique to the artist or printmaker that is creating them. One of these ways is to add texture to your prints to make them appear to have dimension, brush strokes, or just give it a “spackled” texture. The 2 easiest tools to use for this is your foam roller or a painter’s brush. In the following examples, we will be referring to the techniques that have been successfully used on our Optica One paper with Timeless Matte varnish. Apply 1 good coat to your print. Allow it to dry for at least 1-2 hours before proceeding. When the print is completely dry to the touch, apply a 2nd light coat of varnish. Once you have covered the entire print, use a dry roller and lightly roll over the coated print. Since the varnish will still be wet, a small amount of the top surface will be “agitated”, thus creating a texture on the top of the print. This will dry that way, so it’s important to only do this lightly and with no pressure applied. The purpose of doing this on the 2nd coat is because it needs to have a good foundation to rest on. The 1st coat is the most important as it protects the print from UV light and the atmosphere. The 2nd coat is for the texture alone, although it will increase the scuff resistance of the print. One thing to bear in mind is the thicker you coat, the more chance you have of losing detail in your image after you’ve applied the textured look. Think of it like looking through etched glass: the thicker the glass, the less retained detailed there is from the object you are viewing. With an art brush, use the exact same technique described above, only replacing the “dry roller” with the brush. This is a great technique for artists that are printing reproductions and want to add “brush strokes” to the printed piece they have. This works well when the originals are oil or acrylic paints, which tend to have rich brush strokes and texture.

4. What is a safe way to clean coated fine art prints? What about my HVLP gun?

Since Timeless or Glamour 2 are both water based coatings, simply using a wet cloth will work best. Our varnishes are designed to protect fine art print from scuffing, UV light and humidity. When cleaning prints, it is important to avoid using abrasives or solvent as this can wear into the coating and potentially damage the print. While Isopropyl alcohol is a great all around cleaner for printing supplies, it is not recommended for use with coated prints. Alcohol can dry out the varnish over time and eventually will remove it. For gallery wraps, take care not to rub the surface of the print too hard (especially around the corners and edges).

To clean out your HVLP gun, all you need to do is run hot water through it. This works best if you are cleaning your gun soon after you’ve used it. This is especially important with Timeless since it dries at a faster rate than Glamour 2. If you wait more than a few hours the coating may have a chance to harden, making it more difficult to remove throughout the gun. If you have dried up coating in your gun though, there is another solution. Paint thinner works extremely well, and mineral spirits will work well too. Take apart the spray gun and soak it in the paint thinner overnight. When you return in the morning, just run water through it and you’re all set.

5. I want to try a Breathing Color product I’ve never used before? Any advice?

Trying new products can be an exciting experience, but can also be a disappointment if the first print does not end up way you want it to. This is why it’s important to make sure that you not only print with the proper settings, but you also print with great test images. We offer trial rolls for all of our products to give you the opportunity to run test prints, build profiles, and ultimately compare it to what you currently have. When you receive your trial roll, you’ll want to download and install the right profile. To see a walkthrough on downloading and installing our custom ICC profiles,

After that, you’ll want to make note of the print settings. Depending on which printer you are using, you’ll want to take a look at the videos below for Epson and Canon printers. Epson, Canon.

Now that you have the ICC profile and printing instructions, you are ready to print. If you are printing on Lyve canvas for the first time, using the right kind of test image will show you the sharper detail, wider gamut and higher dmax. I like to use a test file that shows photos with many colors, flesh tones, black and white images, gradients, and solid black. The photo below is a test file that I use frequently. The left side of this test image file was created by Onyx Graphics. Onyx is a leading RIP software provider that specializes in printing to multiple printers, consistent color management, and vibrant color. Their sample file is a great example of a test image that shows a wide variation of color and tones.When viewing this printed image, look for the following:

  1. Natural appearance of flesh tones
  2. Shadow detail in woman’s hair
  3. Smooth transition in density of blue sky
  4. True black & white (watch for duotone or sepia-tone output)
  5. Look for true color and detail in the fruit
  6. Wine labels should be crisp and sharp in detail
  7. Knife should have lots of clarity
  8. Color swatches should not have any visible mottling, ink pooling, framing, lack of density, and any spotty color
  9. Check each color bar for a smooth gradient, and no harsh jumps in color values
  10. Check the overall print for excess ink, bleeding, and of course color

On the right hand side, I use the solid black to measure black ink density (dmax). You can use a densitometer for this measurement, or if you have a spectrophotometer (like the Eye-One Pro) you can use the included software to measure black ink densities. You can also soft proof the test file on your monitor to check color accuracy (be sure to calibrate your monitor prior to doing this test).

With a great test file, you can see everything you need to see to truly judge a new print media and accurately compare it to what you are currently using. To see an in depth print comparison as an example, go to our Print Quality Evaluation. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to make the best use of our high end inkjet media right out of the box. If you have questions regarding additional tips on the topics listed above, please leave your questions below and I’ll post a response.

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  • http://twitter.com/ReneeBestaPhoto Renee Besta

    Paul, thanks very much for posting this information. Just discovered this article and it is very useful. As a long-time Mac user, I am very frustrated that Apple has not yet fixed this ICC problem with Snow Leopard; therefore, I have no plans to make things worse by ‘upgrading’ to Mac OS Lion. 

    I had a complete bevy of Version 4 custom ICC profiles made for the many papers I print on with my Epson 3880. These took a lot of time to make and to tweak, and I have had to go back and remake them using Version 2 standards. What a pain! The Snow Leopard updates never fixed this problem, and Apple does not seem to care. But remaking them as v2 has fixed the problem for me, which only caused gray-blue borders to appear in areas where no ink was laid down. No problems on the images themselves. Help: Could you please explain if there is any substantial difference in print quality between v2 versus v4 ICC profiles? It is hard to find reliable information on the differences between these standards. Thankfully, X-Rite devices allow you to choose between the two when making custom profiles. It seems Apple is slowly abandoning the professional print, publishing, and graphics market. There are plans underway to drop manufacturing of the Mac Pro desktop machines, which is upsetting to those of us who have used them for years. Sign #1 was the decision to stop making matte surface displays and to only offer one size ultra-glossy screen. Besides numerous software issues that affect graphics pros, including the latest snafu with Final Cut Pro, we now have the news about Apple management wanting to discontinue Mac Pro machines. Not a happy camper here. Thanks again for this very informative article, and for the tip on removing curl from heavier papers. 

  • http://www.moandmike.com/ Judy

    Hi Paul–This is the first information I have seen that comes close to my problem. I’m on a Macbook OSX 10.4 with PSE 6 installed and printing on an Epson Workforce 1100. I have always gotten incredible prints on fabric, I’m a fiber artist. Recently my color prints have a grayish brown cast but look perfect on my moniter. Do you have any idea what the problem could be? I am so frustrated.

    Judy 

  • Mark

    Profile for epson 9880 for
    Vibrance Metallic, high-gloss metallic photo paper