Printer Calibration

Camille writes, "You just had your review on Print Image Matching, but what do you do when you have a Canon camera and printer? Since I've started using a Canon DSLR, everything I print comes out with a blue tint on it even though it looks good on the monitor. Any suggestions?"

Matching the colors you see onscreen to colors on a printed page can be tricky. Several factors determine WYSIWYG printing. First, you need to verify your monitor is properly calibrated. If the monitor color settings are wrong, your final output will be skewed. There are a number of ways to calibrate the monitor, although Datacolor Spyder products have become the most popular method.

In addition to calibrating based on matching your screen to a print profile, you also need to consider printer calibration, which varies based on the type of paper you use, as well as whether your inks are from the manufacturer or from a third party.

Calibrating the monitor is not as simple as trying to auto-adjust to 6500K, which is the standard light temperature setting recommended for monitor configuration. Depending on the age of your monitor, whether it's an LCD or CRT and external factors like room lighting your monitor colors may look slightly different than the print results. This is something very difficult to tweak manually and isn't necessarily reliable when using the auto-configure option in your monitor. If Prove it! isn't in your budget, you can use the Adobe Gamma app included with Photoshop to handle calibration or the slightly less expensive Spyder4Express.

Adobe's Gamma app isn't perfect, but it does a reasonable job of getting accurate results. You can access it from the Windows Control Panel. Be careful not to configure both the monitor and video card calibration settings or you'll end up with strange results.

Configuring your printer is the second part of this process. In general, the factory defaults are rarely perfect. If the printer includes a configuration utility, you can get decent results through trial-and-error, tweaking the settings until you get a profile you like. Depending on your budget, an app like SpyderPrint results in a more accurate print profile because you can calibrate your monitor with a profile designed to more closely match print output, though in most cases, using Spyder4Express will get you close.

Software also plays a key role in getting great prints. Using Adobe Photoshop RGB settings produces more consistent results than trying to print directly from Windows XP, for instance. Assuming you use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, you can turn on Adobe Full Color Management in the Color Settings to help identify the correct color match between screen and ink. Color Management also works to effectively maintain the color settings from images taken by other people.