Custom printer profiling - fix your colour management issues with a profile from Pure Profiles

How can a custom printer profile help my printing?

A custom printer profile is created specifically for the printer, the paper and the ink that you want to use. By printing out a small set of profiling charts, we can generate a custom printer profile for you that will give you the best prints possible. A custom printer profile will help you...

  • Print a photo where the colours will match that of your original captured photo.
  • Match your prints to a calibrated monitor.
  • Match your prints across different types of paper.
  • Maximise the colours that your printer can print.
  • Print neutral black and white images.
  • Use any paper that you want.
  • Use any ink that you want.
  • Use soft proofing accurately.

To explain how it does this, we first need to define what a custom printer profile actually does.

What is a custom printer profile?

A printer profile (often referred to as an ICC printer profile based on the standard set by the International Color Consortium) is a file that determines how colours are to be printed for a specific printer and paper. Combined with printer profile aware image editing or printing software, it will transform the image from the colour space of the editing software to the colour space for the printer and paper.

The colour space - often referred to as the colour gamut - is basically the range of colours that can be used by the printer with the particular paper (this is explained in more detail in The advantages of a custom printer profile). The result of the transformation means that the colours are changed so that a certain colour in the image will be printed so that the once dry, it be the same colour on the paper, taking into account various attributes such as the whiteness of the paper (which does have a big impact on the colours that are to be printed), and how the ink reacts to the paper.

Do I really need to use a printer profile?

Your printer does not actually need a printer profile to print, and your prints might initially look like a reasonable match when you use the standard settings. But look at the prints compared to your monitor. The chances are that they're subtlety (or not so subtlety) different - lighter or darker, and with various tints to some of the colours. Next, try printing a black and white print. You will be very lucky if you get an exact match to what you see on screen! Still looks okay? Then try some different papers - there's a huge range of third party papers that can enhance your printing, so it's a shame to limit your photos to just the printer manufacturer's paper. Now you will start to see a difference in colours both between your screen and between the different papers.

If you like to match what you see on screen to what you print, or you want to print the same image on different papers, then you have three options.

  • Edit the image. In your imaging software you could edit the image to take into account any tints in printed colours. You will have to create a copy of the image and edit it for each different paper that you use. There's a lot of trial and error, with time, ink and paper wastage until you get a close match. Unless you're very adept at your image editing, you will still not get an exact match, and you will not be able to get a match to your monitor.
  • Change the colour settings in the printer driver. This is a better option - you will not edit the image. You just have to play around with the driver colour settings. Yet more time, ink and paper wastage though, and you will still not get an exact match. You might get close to a match, and that might be good enough for you. But there's still not enough control in there so that you can alter individual colours. Try a black and white print and it become even more so noticeable - some shades of grey might have a magenta tint, whilst others have a green tint. It is impossible to correct this using the printer driver settings alone.
  • Use a paper specific custom printer profile With a custom printer profile, you will now get a constant match with what you see on a calibrated screen, and between papers. Your printer will be printing to the full extent of it's colour gamut, and you'll be able to print the same image on different papers, and they will still look the same (please note : the base colour of the paper and the maximum colour gamut may vary between papers, so there will always be some subtle differences - but the overall look of the image will be very close match).

For ease of use, and for an accurate print, a custom printer profile is without doubt the best way to go.