Get print and monitor colors in synch

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Your photo colors look perfect on your computer monitor. But when you print the picture, the image is too red, or too green, or has some other nasty color tint. This problem, which is probably the most prevalent printing issue, can occur because of any or all of the following factors:

1 Your monitor needs to be calibrated. When print colors don't match what you see on your computer monitor, the most likely culprit is actually the monitor, not the printer. If the monitor isn't accurately calibrated, the colors it displays aren't a true reflection of your image colors.

To ensure that your monitor is displaying photos on a neutral canvas, start by running a software-based calibration tool. One better-known tool is Adobe Gamma, shown in Figure 9-4, which ships with the Windows version of Photoshop Elements. If you use a Mac, the operating assistant offers a built-in calibrator called the Display Calibrator Assistant. You also can find free calibration software online; just search for the term free monitor calibration software.

Software-based tools, though, depend on your eyes to make decisions during the calibration process. For a more reliable calibration, you may want to invest in a hardware solution, such as the Pantone Huey ($90, or the ColorVision Spyder2express ($70, These products use a device known as a colorimeter to accurately measure your display colors.

This control panel will allow i to calibrate your monitor and create an ICC profile foiLit.

V/hich version would you like to use?

This control panel will allow i to calibrate your monitor and create an ICC profile foiLit.

V/hich version would you like to use?

¡Stop By Stop Control Panel te^I <T)

This ICC profile will be compatible with ColorSync1® on Macintosh® and I CM 2.0 on Windows.

Next > Cancel

Figure 9-4: Calibration software such as Adobe Gamma helps ensure accurate monitor colors.

Whichever route you go, the calibration process produces a monitor profile, which is simply a data file that tells your computer how to adjust the display to compensate for any monitor color casts. Your Windows or Mac operating system loads this file automatically when you start your computer. Your only responsibility is to perform the calibration every month or so, as monitor colors drift over time.

^ One of your printer cartridges is empty or clogged. If your prints look great one day but are way off the next, the number-one suspect is an empty ink cartridge or a clogged print nozzle or head. Check your manual to find out how to perform the necessary maintenance to keep the nozzles or print heads in good shape.

If black-and-white prints have a color tint, you might assume that your black ink cartridge is to blame, if your printer has one. But the problem is usually a color cartridge instead. Most printers use both color and black inks even for black-and-white prints, and if one color is missing, a tint results.

When you buy replacement ink, by the way, keep in mind that third-party brands, while they may save you money, may not deliver the performance you get from the cartridges made by your printer manufacturer. A lot of science goes into getting ink formulas to mesh with the printer's ink-delivery system, and the printer manufacturer obviously knows most about that delivery system.

^ You chose the wrong paper setting in your printer software. When you set up your print job, be sure to select the right setting from the paper-type option — glossy, matte, and so on. This setting affects how the printer lays down ink on the paper.

^ Your photo paper is low quality. Sad but true: The cheap, store-brand photo papers usually don't render colors as well as the higher-priced, name-brand papers. For best results, try papers from your printer manufacturer; again, those papers are engineered to provide top performance with the printer's specific inks and ink-delivery system.

^ Your printer and photo software are fighting over color management duties. Some photo programs offer color management tools, which are features that enable the user to control how colors are handled as an image passes from camera to monitor to printer. Most printer software also offers color management features. The problem is, if you enable color management controls both in your photo software and your printer software, you can create conflicts that lead to wacky colors. So check your photo software and printer manuals to find out what color management options are available to you and how to turn them on and off.

Even if all the aforementioned issues are resolved, however, don't expect perfect color matching between printer and monitor. Printers simply can't reproduce the entire spectrum of colors that a monitor can display. In addition, monitor colors always appear brighter because they are, after all, generated with light.

Finally, be sure to evaluate your print colors and monitor colors in the same ambient light — daylight, office light, whatever — because that light source has its own influence on the colors you see.

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