Prints too dark? This is one of the most common issues we hear from our customers, and it’s a tough one to troubleshoot because of the variety of factors that can cause it.
As such, we want to devote some time to educating our blog readers on the many missteps in the formatting, proofing, and printing processes that can lead to prints coming out too dark.
In this episode, professional printmaker Renee Besta walks through the printing process from start to end, noting the key points that could lead to dark prints – first for digital c-prints ordered from a lab, and then for inkjet prints done at home.
Also be sure to download Renee’s additional resources PDF – find it in the show notes below!
- What looking at a lab’s ICC profile can tell you about the quality of prints they produce
- Paying attention to your viewing environment
- Troubleshooting dark photos in Windows Photo Viewer
- Changing the default ICC Profiles Version from 4.0 to 2.0
- ColorMunki Profiles
- Media settings and prints that are too dark
- Setting display luminance (brightness) value correctly
- Paper types and prints that are too dark
- Checking the histogram
- Much more!
Listen in to learn about why lab and inkjet prints can come out too dark
- Listeners featured in this episode include Albert from K & D Photography, and Chuck.
- For a bit of bonus talk on dark prints, we also covered the issue on Episode 16 of #AskBC.
- For Renee’s additional resources and information from this episode, including a checklist for troubleshooting dark prints and a visual demonstration of the ICC profile mentioned in Question #1, click here.
- Check out Renee’s website at RenMarPhoto.com.
- Love the show? Have some feedback for us? Leave us a review on iTunes.
Prefer to read over listen? Want to save this conversation for reference later? We transcribe all of our shows for these reasons! Download this episode’s transcription below:
Or, to view a web version of the transcript:
Announcer 1: You are listening to the AskBC podcast – your printmaking questions, answered by the experts!
Justin: Hey guys, this is your host Justin. Today we talk about images appearing dark through Windows Photo Viewer, choosing a responsible print lab, and brightness settings on your monitor.
Welcome to Episode 31 of the AskBC podcast. We have back with us today, a special guest. Renee Besta joins us, from renmarphoto.com, and we are going to mainly today be discussing dark prints. Let’s go ahead and jump into the show.
Justin: Hey Renee, thank you so much for joining us again today. We’re recording this on a Friday, so happy Friday to you! How is it going today?
Renee: It’s going great! Good morning and happy Friday to you, too, thanks for having me back, I appreciate it.
Justin: Thank you, always good to have you here. Let’s go ahead and jump into the first question. This one comes from a gentleman named Albert. He’s with KND Photography. Albert asks, “Why after editing my images in Photoshop, and saving the images to my print folder, do they look darker when viewed in Windows Photo Viewer?” He says, “My monitor is a top of the line Eizo and is calibrated with the ColorMunki, yet when I send them to a lab for printing, they come back too dark despite having soft proofed the images using the lab’s profile and in the sRGB colorspace that they demand.”
So obviously this is a pretty loaded question from Albert here, it’s got a few different parts. We went ahead and reached out to Albert via email to see if we could get a few more details, and Albert mentioned having used this lab before. I guess his group uses this lab regularly, and it’s pretty common to get dark prints back from this lab, you know, as compared to the files that they’re viewing on their own displays, so that’s one piece of the — some more detail we got.
He also said that he printed on an inkjet printer in-house and that the photos looked fine in terms of darkness, so that’s kind of interesting. So I asked him to send me over one of these files that he sent out to the lab that came back with the dark print, and he sent over one of those files, so, Renee, you’ve had a chance to look at all of these details and the file and everything, what are your thoughts on this?
Renee: Okay, lots of thoughts on it. First of all, thank you very much Albert for being willing to provide us with one of your images to take a look at, and actually giving the information that enabled me to do some online research and find out which minilab you were using to source those dark prints out to.
So there’s like several questions and issues here to be addressed, and I’d just like to say, today’s podcast’s whole theme is kind of the dark print. Because we have two questions and this question we’re going to focus on dark chromogenic prints – so-called “digital c-prints,” and in the next one will be for dark inkjet prints.
So there’s a lot of issues within this question, and I’ll first start with the images appearing darker in the Windows Photo Viewer and then start drilling our way down the list. Should be helpful.
SO let’s just start with the Windows Photo Viewer application. First of all, I would just say I recommend always viewing your images, preferentially either in Lightroom or Bridge, unless Alberts using an older boxed version of Photoshop, as you probably know, Adobe products are now cloud subscription-based. So the photography package automatically includes both Photoshop and Lightroom. I really prefer lightroom for almost everything. It’s just a great way, easy way to view and rank your images.
So, let me just say the Windows Photo Viewer application is fully color-managed, however it is somewhat notorious for its inability to display certain display profiles correctly.
The problem is definitely not Photoshop. The problem is that the Windows Photo Viewer is displaying the image incorrectly, as it cannot properly interpret the display profile. So instead, it more or less chokes on it. And this is kind of common. So first of all, Albert should check and see what display profile is selected in his Windows Color Management device settings. There’s a device tab under “Color Management.” Sometimes, for whatever reason, that will default to some generic monitor profile. So it may not be the ColorMunki profile he made for the Eizo display, so he needs to check that that most recent profile he made is showing up under “Device Settings” in Windows Color Management.
So when making that display profile, I would always advise to save it with a custom name. Some people don’t, they just click, you know, click “Enter.” include the date so you know which profile you’re using, because you’re going to continue to recalibrate it over time.
THe problem is ordinarily always that display profile. So that’s one issue – check and make sure it’s on the ColorMunki profile he made. Something that really kind of gave me a clue, was when he said “ColorMunki,” because I’ve used a ColorMunki. Now I don’t know if he’s using just the ColorMunki display device, or the ColorMunki Photo, which is a more complete solution for making paper profiles as well, but you have to be forewarned that ColorMunki itself defaults to using the most recent ICC version for profiles, which is, I think, version 4.2.something-or-the-other.
It is really best to set the ColorMunki to make ICC version 2 profiles, not version 4. Version 4, unfortunately, even though it’s been out for a very long time, I think it was around 2001 or 2002 when it came out – seems like a really long time ago. Version 4 has many known issues with various applications and operating systems. INcludes problems with display profiles, with printer profiles, a lot of things.
So you would think, “Gosh, it’s been out fourteen-or-so years!” But color management in general in the industry kind of moves at a glacial pace, so I’ve had these problems when I first – years ago – got a ColorMunki Photo when it first came out to make custom profiles for my older 3880, I thought, “What the heck is going on?” I would make prints and I would see this light gray border all around the image. The image was perfect, it printed perfectly fine, but I’d look around the outer edge, there’d be a light gray.
I’d be like, “What’s going on?” I’d go to x ray and then I first started getting a clue that there were a clue with this version 4, and this started in Snow Leopard on the Mac.
So what you basically have to do is make sure he is downloaded the latest software for the ColorMunki, that will enable you to choose, under your preference settings, to make ICC version 2 profiles and not version 4.
So again, I don’t know if he’s doing version 4 or not, but definitely the Windows Photo Viewer will choke on ICC version 4 display profiles. It just – other applications may be able to interpret them, but it can’t, and I can also send you a link to the international color consortium ‘s website, which is just color.org – there actually is a test image on there that will show you whether your display is version 4 compatibile or ready or not. Or just version 2, or not at all. So, that’s a good thing to do.
Justin: That’s handy.
Renee: So anyway, that should resolve that. Again, like I said, check his Windows Color Managmeent device settings, make sure its set for the ColorMunki profile he made for the Eizo, and then I would remake it and make sure it’s set to version 2. But that still might not even work. It just depends on his operating system, but again i would view it in Lightroom or Bridge.
So then, let’s go to the Eizo display calibration. When people always say all the time, and I get these questions from students, “but I calibrated my display!” But then you have to ask, “Hello? What did you set the luminance target for?” and they’re like, “Well, what do you mean?”
They just think this device just fixes everything to some industry standard – there are many different industry standards. We have a standard white point of d-50 for prepress and graphics professionals that’s been used forever, that’s why most viewing booths are set to d-50, you know, it’s been known for a long time that it’s preferential for photography to set that white point at d-65. D-50 is generally, for most people, and I’m not saying every photographer does this, is a little too warm for most people to edit their images in. But basically when you’re talking dark prints, one of the number one issues, whether you’re talking inkjet or chromogenic prints, would be what people call the “brightness” setting – it’s actually the luminance.
So on the monitor, when you get these monitors from the factory, they are set way, way, way too bright. So again, I don’t know. Here’s the issue – even on a ColorMunki you can choose the easy method for doing the calibration, which is basically “boom,” you press a button and it does its thing, or advanced options. And I would always choose the advanced, because then you can specify, you know, your prefered luminance target, white point, the gamma. The gamma, which is really the tonal response curve, should be set for 2.2. But basically, I don’t know.
Now with an Eizo, thank god, out of the box, that’s going to be at a relatively good starting point in terms of the candela value. Most people add it somewhere between 90 and 120, I think maybe some people are up to 140, I’ve seen some people say, “I’m at 85.” You’re going to need to determine that by your viewing environment, but it’s still important to have a target value that matches your working environment.
So he didn’t say how that is set, but since he does inkjet prints as well, you know, it is really important. He may also want to look at, because he’s using an Eizo, it’s a very high-end, the highest end – the Cadillac of monitors – you probably remember, Justin, we did a podcast on monitors before, and people were asking how can they get an inexpensive or entry-level wide color gamut type of display, which there really is no such thing, and it’s basically NEC or Eizo.
But we did talk about, in that podcast, that NEC makes their own device for calibrating their display, along with the SpectreView software – it enables you to assess the internal LUT or look-up table, within the monitor, such that, you’re not really, you know, the software is controlling all of these things. You don’t have to press buttons on the monitor to set luminance, to set anything, it does it. Otherwise, you’re calibrating through your computer’s video card, and we talked about that.
So, I don’t know about Eizo, I mean, I can’t afford one. I have an NEC PA series, which I love. And their device and SpectreView software. So maybe Eizo, I don’t know, do they make a device, the ColorMunki will not do justice to a piece of equipment like that, so that’s just something as an aside you might want to look into.
Justin: Yeah, that’s a good thought. I’m not sure whether they do or not, I imagine they probably do.
Renee: Yeah, they may well make their own software, otherwise how do assess the internal LUT, I don’t know, I haven’t checked on their website, so it’s worth looking into.
So, let’s get into the meat of this – why are minilab prints most likely too dark? So basically, and again, thank you Albert, based on the additional information you sent on your photographic society and you clued me in on that website was information on ordering prints from your local minilab. Just doing some online research, I found what lab that is and went ot that lab’s website, went to their technical support section where you can download and take a look at their provided ICC profiles for the three Fuji papers that they offer.
Doing so was highly illuminating and enlightening, and the results of that, you know, it speaks volumes and it really explains why the prints for that lab come out pretty poorly, so I’ll go over some of these points.
First of all, the profile for the Fuji glossy paper was made way back in 2008. I mean, you can see, when you open up a program like ColorThink by Chromix, or if you’re working on a Mac there’s a built-in wonderful utility called ColorSync, which I mentioned before in other podcasts. Totally free, you can see all of this data in there. This is not a custom profile made by that lab, so I say, shame on them, more or less.
It’s a canned profile most likely provided by Fuji. You have to understand, whether you’re doing inkjet prints or chromogenic prints, paper manufacturers will still provide profiles, just like Breathing Color does for their papers.
But, is that optimal?
If you’re in business, and you’re a big commercial lab, you should be making your own custom profiles for your machines, your work environment, your chemistry, your situation. So this is gonna hold true whether or not, you know, you’re talking about inkjet prints or chromogenic prints. And they’re not, I mean we’re in 2015 – that’s seven years old. What does that say?
And I’m like, “Oh my gosh,” and then I did a gamut plot looking at all three profiles, comparing it to sRGB – which, as we know, is a very small color gamut – it was, you know, developed for the web, and for monitors, and it’s much, much smaller than Adobe RGB let alone ProPhoto RGB, but you would think, and I’ve looked at a lot of these profiles from various labs that produce chromogenic prints, and most of them will encompass close to the entire sRGB color gamut.
The ones I downloaded, these were significantly smaller, and it was really quite surprised when I saw this. I mean, I don’t know, I’m not really in that industry, I prefer inkjet prints for many reasons, but for this lab, they were much, much smaller than sRGB. So when you continue to reduce your gamut, your color and tonal values are going to get compressed, and informations going ot get thrown out that will lead to color shifts, and certainly, potentially, darker prints.
So I’m gonna provide an example of a couple of these plots in the show notes and you can see what I’m talking about. You can look at, these are LAB plots, so you have luminance scale on an A and B, which represents the hues, and you can see in various regions where it’s bright or dark, how far the gamut extends, and if you can’t extend the colors into the lighter ranges, what does that tell you? You’re going to get dark prints.
So it kind of explains it. And this is specific for this lab, of course, not everybody’s lab. So, I’m just gonna back up and say, when you’re dealing with photo labs in general, you have to keep quite a few things in mind. And there’s a lot of very, very good ones, no question about it. What you have to understand is there are a lot of them that are really not so good. There’s a lot of people that have gone into the minilab print business, as it’s very profitable, just as there are people that have gone into the inkjet printing business because it’s profitable, it doesn’t mean that everybody is of equal quality or cares deeply about the quality of the prints.
So, the dark print problem is the number one issue that I’ve seen with everybody i know, even locally, whatever, with minilab prints. They’re at the top of the complaint list. Even people I know that use my local Costco, it’s the number one issue. So you have to understand why is that, I mean, nothing is going to be custom produced unless you ask for it and pay for it, and they may not even allow that.
This printing process is just like in the days when we shot film, and if I was shooting transparencies or professional color or black and white film, that went to a custom lab. If I’m just shooting my snapshots, that just went to a regular lab, same type of thing. It’s all automated for the masses. It’s mass-process. The pricing reflects that.
So I’m sure, like you’re probably aware, that they have their machines set on an autocorrect feature, just like in the dark room days, and it’s really intended to release blown-out highlights. Now that’s going to be really important for people shots, portraits, and that’s a large chunk of the business.
But then, that auto-correction feature has the effect of blocking up your shadow areas in the image, so what does that do? You have to dark of a print, if that makes sense to you.
Justin: I didn’t realize that, I’d never heard of that before.
Renee: Well, you’re too young to probably remember photobooths. With a photobooth, I mean when we did our general snapshots – family events, just friends, people shots, I’m not gonna take it to a custom lab to get an enlargement, we just got the standard four by sixes or whatever, wallet sized prints, and they’re all run through a booth. They’re so cheap, and it’s not going to be custom done. Hopefully, again, it’s very common in that industry -they don’t have a lot of people, they don’t have, as you’ve just seen from my comments, high quality profiles.
And they’re using canned profiles, so therefor think about what happens when someone like Albert is trying to soft proof his image using a profile like this. I mean, you’re mucking up – you’re changing pixels in your image to get them to match this profile, which is a canned profile, it’s a 2008 profile, which isn’t custom-made for their machine, you know, expectations – they’re not gonna come out very well.
Other thing to keep in mind, not all these labs calibrate their printers regularly. Some of them are awesome about it, and do it routinely. Maybe they don’t change the chemistry. This is still live process, it may not be changed frequently enough.
So if you’re looking at the archivability of a print, the degree to which it is archival is very reliant on that chemistry, just like in the dark room days. So, you know, maybe they don’t remake the profiles often enough, they’re just using canned profiles.
I’ve actually seen profiles, from labs I will not name, very large, commercial labs, that are dated back to like 2003. That’s just absolutely incredible, so, again, that explains a lot of that.
And people should keep that in mind and be asking these questions, and if it doesn’t work for you -take your business somewhere else. THere is no excuse for using generic, canned profiles when you’re in business commercially! To produce prints for other people. If you don’t have anyone in house you hire someone like a Scott Martin or any other color management expert to do these for you. At least provide that for the customer because if you’re soft proofing based on that, you can imagine, you know.
Justin: Yeah, we see it right here, you know.
Renee: You can see it right here. So then finally, I think his final question is, “gee, if my Eizo display is calibrated to industry standards, then how can my prints be so underexposed at this minilab?” Well, the monitor is only one part of the pipeline, and it’s basically kind of irrelevant to the minilabs output if the lab is not properly calibrating their machines and they’re using canned profiles, and the profiles aren’t so good, and they aren’t maybe using fresh chemistry….color management chain is broken. Period.
So, you know, and again, how do you define industry standards when you speak of your display? I went over that earlier. What are your settings in terms of your luminance value, the quote “brightness” setting, your white point, the tonal response curve. Everybody uses something different depending on what their goal is, and what is there environment.
And I can guarantee that lab isn’t using an Eizo. It’s a completely different process than inkjet printing. Therefor, it gets calibrated differently. So they’re not even editing images on a screen, they’re just using a screen to run the machine, and it’s not monitor-dependent. So…anything else you can think of that I didn’t cover? Because I think that’s about it for these questions.
Justin: yeah, I think that’s about it. I think you covered a majority of it for Albert.
Renee: Yeah, and I’m really grateful, again, thank you very much for giving me the additional information and sending your image over, I really appreciate it. It was really helpful, and as you saw, your inkjet printer prints the image fine, and sending it to a different minilab gave you good results, so again, find the good ones. Just be aware that these things can happen.
Justin: Yeah, being able to ask the right questions. I think that’s an important bit you touched on. You know, know what to ask.
Renee: Yeah, you’ve got to go down in tech support, sometimes people don’t want to talk to you. If they don’t, find another lab.
Justin: right, yeah that’s a bad sign, if someone doesn’t want to talk to you or they’re not knowledgable about what’s going on in their own lab.
Renee: Happens all the time.
Justin: Yeah, yeah. I can imagine it does. Alright, let’s go ahead and jump on to question 2 of this episode.
THis one comes from a gentleman named Chuck. Chuck says, “The biggest issue I have is prints coming out too dark on paper. I understand the difference between viewing an image versus on paper, but I haven’t found a reliable way to match the two.” He says his screen is calibrated with the DataColor SpyderPRO 4, he uses Photoshop and Lightroom, he’s open to any suggestions that might work. He says, “In the old days, I would do test strips.” and he says he still does, “to get lower values than dodge, burn, and mask.” So, Chuck doesn’t mention what kind of display he’s using, along withs ome other details. We tried to reach out to him, but we haven’t heard back yet, so, with the details we have in front of us, what are your thoughts, Renee?
Renee: Yeah, again, thanks Chuck for even sending in a question, and, as Justin said, we did reach out, in fact I came up with this idea – “Hey, this would be really great.” Because I know people get frustrated, because often you read in printing forums or books or when you ask these questions, you seem to get these same answers, in a way – “Did you do this, this, and this?” and people get frustrated.
Justin: Right, generic.
Renee: I am really willing to have someone email to me a sample image that they say printed too dark. Again, don’t know if he’s talking about inkjet prints or sending out to a lab like Albert, I’m presuming inkjet, and I’m gonna answer it that way, because I’ve already gone over the minilab potential issues.
But I’d be very happy to make some prints on my printer and see how they come out and snap some photos and send them back to you, but we haven’t heard back yet.
As much information as possible, again, anybody that wants to send in a question. Please do so. Or leave comments, providing different information underneath the podcast where the Discus comments are displayed.
But, let’s just…I’m just going to go over the top reasons why inkjet prints come out too dark. First of all, as I’ve discussed previously, you gotta talk about your monitor luminance, or so-called “Brightness” setting. I don’t know what make and model display he’s using – is it a wide gamut display? Again, out of the box, most monitors come at extremely high luminance values. Sometimes 300 nits or higher! In fact, I just did a podcast that hasn’t aired with someone asking my opinion on Apple’s new 5K retina iMac. Gorgeous display, but even if you read Apple’s specs on that, they say, “Oh, the brightness can go over 400 nits!”
Justin: Jeez! For what!
Renee: Jesus, I mean they really are set at over 300. You need to be at less than half of that to do proper photo editing. So that’s an issue. And again, I just can’t emphasize that enough, and he hasn’t said, so basically what happens – if your luminance is set too high on the monitor, you’re making your image-editing decisions based on those viewing conditions. So the image is gonna appear brighter than it really is. It’s going to look like the shadows are open and there’s some detail in there, but in fact there isn’t. The print will come out too dark.
Well, you know, what’s the fastest way to check that? People always forget this, I mean I’ve taught a lot of classes in printing and Lightroom and other things, it’s just amazing to me even though histogram is readily available, people always – or, quite often, I should say – forget to check that histogram throughout the editing process.
You need to be sure your blacks and shadow areas aren’t blocked up or clipped, the same as your highlights and the whites. Sometimes in Photoshop people have the navigator tab selected at the top of the pane there, instead of the histogram. I always make sure that isn’t. It’s one reason I love Lightroom, it’s there always. Doesn’t matter where you are in what module.
So if you look at it, and you’re seeing that you’ve got blocked up areas or clipping, or it’s shifted to the left, that’s a big clue right there it’s gonna print dark, period. No matter what you do and how your monitor is set. So if it looks really good, you know, on the monitor, make sure you look at the histogram that it has good tonal distribution.
Justin: Yeah, that’s a good note. I’d say that’s the most common reason for prints coming out “too dark,” as they’re compared to the displays is that people have their displays way too bright. Maybe like 80% of people that call in, tech support calls like that, it’s always the displays too bright. When I tell them…especially if they’re on an iMac or something, I tell them that their brightness probably needs to be set around like 30-50% of it’s capabilities, they freak out, like “that’s impossible,” well, believe it or not it’s the truth.
Renee: Right, I mean it makes people’s hair stand on end, it’s just like “how can this be, I’m spending so much money, surely Apple wouldn’t do that to me.” It’s just like this 5K display – as I said, you want to genuflect walking into the room, it is beautiful, no question for watching videos and browsing the web and doing your day-to-day stuff, I mean it’s awesome for that. But again, they’re highly reflective. I’ve gone over those issues. I find it very hard, I feel like I have to pull my weight to get to the image, but they’re just set that way because that’s what most people are doing – they’re not making high end inkjet prints, or whatnot.
There is just this thing that has to do with what you’re paying for something versus what it should be, like set to some standard. And again, when I just touched on with Albert, with the DataColor Spyder, and I’ve even watched YouTubes on… video…I just like researching this stuff even before the podcast, when I’d get any information. These calibration methods, again, there’s an easy sort of automated calibration method, and an advanced method. And sometimes they don’t even have you input your luminance, I mean that’s just like incredible.
So yes it will profile the monitor, so it’s going to, you know, display different color catches and take measurements of those and then make a profile based on the color, but when you go to the lookup table these are the actual numerical values or the tristimulus values, here’s the difference and you make an adjustment for the color, but if you’re not starting with the proper luminance value, then you’re probably going to get dark prints.
All out of the box, most all monitors except for the high end Eizo and NEC, are going to come set that way. So I don’t know what he’s using, it’s really important.
The next number one issues for dark prints, is the print viewing conditions. And people just totally seem to gloss over that point or don’t understand that. They could be working kind of in a dim room, and what they’ll do is take the print when it comes out of the inkjet printer, and hold it right up against the monitor, and say “Gosh that’s too dark!”
Well think about it, it’s like viewing your print under candle light. Would you do that? Is that gonna work? Nine times out of ten I guarantee when you really look at it under a proper light source, people would agree the print really isn’t too dark, they just think it is under initial examination. So take that print out of the room you’re working in, place it under other illuminance. Go outdoors, look at it under daylight. Go into your kitchen, look somewhere else.
But of course, the optimal solution would be to invest in an industry standard viewing booth like a GTI that’s set up adjacent to your display that is set to a target wavepoint that’s appropriate for the display conditions. Now I know those are expensive, but there’s a lot of more economical solutions like SoLux lamps and Phelix lamps and other products, and in fact I’m working on an article on dark prints – I’ll be included those solutions for viewing, but basically readjust your eyes. Just go into your living room or somewhere and look at that print, or, you know – the cheapest solution you can do is get some of these other lamps.
You can have them set to – you know, purchase them, that are set to different wavepoints. So basically, you may find they’re really not too dark. I mean if they’re way off that’s one thing, but it’s usually the print viewing conditions.
People sometimes think, “I really should be able to completely match the print to the screen.” You’ll never be able to do it. Your monitor is transmitting light, the print is reflecting light. And even though he acknowledges there is that difference, I don’t know what he’s doing – he didn’t give me enough detail to say is he just holding up against the monitor, does he have a viewing booth or a SoLux or some other solutions for looking at it. So nine times out of ten, they’re gonna find out it’s the way people are viewing it – it really isn’t too dark.
So then the other thing to keep in mind when you’re, you know, preparing an image for printing, printed images have a much lower contrast ratio than when viewed on your display. Displays have very large contrast ratios. Now especially those printed on matte papers or so-called watercolor cotton papers versus photo papers that take photo black ink like a glossy luster, a pearl paper, a baryta. There’s a huge reduction in that contrast ratio going from monitor to a paper print.
So in particular, the matte papers have a lower d-max, which is the deepest black that it can print compared to the photo papers. So when you’re editing for print, you almost always have to bump up the contrast. You do that when soft proofing against a profile that you’re gonna use. But, increasing the clarity, and I mentioned this before in another podcast, I can’t remember which one right one, but increasing the clarity is very helpful, as that slider affects the midtone areas which suffer the most from tonal compression when printed. So that’s a good thing to bump up, very easy to do in Camera RAW or Lightroom.
And there’s always going to be some loss of shadow detail when printing, so you should be sure to open those up, again, check the histogram, you don’t’ want to move it over too far, but you may have to compensate in the soft proof for that. And then when you do all those, see if it really is printing too dark..
The other issue is that the printer media settings are sometimes incorrectly set, and I went over this, again, we recorded a podcast, someone was having problems with Pura Smooth which is 100% cotton non-OBA paper made by Breathing Color. Smooth paper, a hot press paper. And was having this issue of the colors being off and other things, but I did mention these same sort of bullet points. I’ve seen this happen, when you’re using, and again he didn’t tell me – it’s really useful, please give as much detail as possible – is it dark prints on all papers? Photo papers and matte papers? Or are they OEM papers? Canon or Epson? Or your Breathing Color papers? What paper gives you the most problem?
You could be using completely the incorrect black ink for the type of paper. One thing that has driven me crazy about Epson’s drivers is even if you are, let’s just say I have it set so that matte black is the predominant black ink. When I go by default to the printer driver, it defaults to a media type of luster paper. Why? Why would it do such a thing?
And you really need to check that. If you don’t check it, if you switch it to a matte paper or a photo paper it’ll then change that. You have to make sure, especially with third party papers, you’re selecting the correct media or paper type. In other words if you have an Epson or Canon printer, it’s not going to give you Breathing Color papers as a selection in the media type. So again, we talked about this on the last podcast and I wrote an article on printing with third party papers. You really have to go in and manually change some things. So the manufacturer will tell you.
For instance with Pura Smooth or any cotton paper for Breathing Color, what you want to do for an Epson is select “watercolor paper radiant white” for the media type. With Canon, it’s “extra heavy weight art paper.” There is no, like I said, OEM paper selection for third party. If you don’t pick that you’re going to get a poor print, and this really can affect the shadows, so you can end up with a dark print if that’s incorrect.
I don’t know if you’ve encountered that a lot with technical support, but I see that all the time with students, they’ll just say, “Oh! I picked a profile from Breathing Color for my printer and their paper.” And I say, “Oh, what media type did you select?” and it’s like, “What do you mean?” Well you have to pick an OEM media type. “Oh!”
And it’s just not selected, but you’ve done the profile based on that. So that profile will not work unless you pick the appropriate OEM media type that the paper manufacturer suggests. You know, with [unintelligible] it’s going to be one thing, [unintelligible] – something else. Museo, something different. They will tell you – this is what we base our profiles on.
And then again, to summarize, you know, as you know, making your own custom profiles or having them made for you is always the optimal solution for printing. Period. Whether it’s inkjet or minilab prints, it bests reflects your work environment, your hardware and software. Even with the same make and model of printer you’re going to have differences.
They’re not exactly, 100% identical. So if you don’t want to invest in a device and don’t have time to make them, hire one of the – there’s a lot of great industry consultants that’ll make them for 100 to 150 bucks a piece. Just hone down on one matte paper you really like, one photo paper you really like, pay for it. It’ll be optimized, and it’ll work, you won’t have this problem.
Justin: Yep, just one piece of the puzzle.
Renee: Exactly. So, again, Chuck is welcome to write back and give me more details and, actually, to send an image that he says prints dark and I’ll make some prints here on different papers, and provide more information in the comments section.
Justin: Yeah, what a fantastic offer.
Renee; Yeah, I mean it’s fun to do that. I like solving problems. And I don’t want people going away saying, “Well I heard to calibrate and I calibrated” because then you get into “what did you calibrate at?”
Justin: Hey, be careful what you wish for, you might get like 40 or 50 emails from listeners with a bunch of images like, “hey check this out!”
Renee: [laughs] Yeah but a lot of times I just open it up in lightroom or Photoshop and look at that histogram, and “whoops” because the monitor is set to such a high luminance value and people don’t check the histogram, they don’t realize. And I’m gonna include some screen shots in my article where I’ve done exactly that – taken an underexposed image and cranked up the luminance on my monitor, and you can just see “Oh, it looks like it’s not so underexposed. Magical, mystical.”
Justin: That’s awesome, it’s a good illustration I think. Such a common problem.
Renee: Right, it is. So anything else I missed with this question or Albert’s question?
Justin: I don’t think so, you know, unless they have a piece of the puzzle that they left out of the question that might give us some more insight, like you said already, go ahead and post that in the comments.
If you guys, Chuck or Albert, have that, we would be happy to get back to you and respond. Other than that, I think we covered it pretty well, so we’ll include all those details in the show notes that we’ve talked about.
That’s the last question we have for today’s show actually, so I appreciate you coming on the show again, Renee, it’s awesome having you, and I’m sure we’ll revisit this “Prints are too dark” topic before too long.
Renee: Yeah I’m sure, thank you so much for having me, it’s my pleasure. As always.
Justin: Yep, definitely. Well I appreciate it, I hope you have a great weekend.
Renee: You too, thank you so much.
Justin: Well guys, that’s it for today’s episode. Thank you so much for listening and for being a part of the show. For the shownotes for this episode, you can visit ask-bc.com/episode31. Thanks again for all the questions, and for being a part of the show.
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