Talk to me about getting sensible colours from a printer

sirch

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#1
I've not really bothered too much with printing digital photos until fairly recently but now I want to print more and find getting anything close to a decent print is a very hit-and-miss process. I've got a Canon pixma 5450 and my general approach is to edit in Lightroom, and then use a soft proof to wack up the settings until it looks like something created by a 5 year old on acid and then print about 50 prints with increasingly vivid colours until the the thing on the paper starts to have a smidgen of colour/saturation/contrast to it.

I assume that, besides this complete waste of paper approach, there is a more scientific way of getting something out of the printer that doesn't look like it's been through the washing machine?
 
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#2
I have a Canon pixma MG6150 and am very happy with my prints. I print out of PS and despite all the recommendations, let the printer control the colour. Mostly the prints are spot-on - only time I had a problem was when I had my camera set to Adobe colour space and then the prints were way out in colour. And up until very recently, I did not have my monitor calibrated. I have used all manner of paper and substitute inks with hardly any problems.
 
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sirch

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#4
Thanks for the replies, the monitor is calibrated.
 

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#5
Chris, I get pretty reasonable results for colour on a Canon MG5250, printing from Aperture. I do select the closest Canon profile from the available choices, eg Canon 5200 Series GL3/SG3 for a decent satin paper. I flip between Relative Colorimetric and Perceptual rendering intent, to see which looks better in the mini "soft proof". No idea how it works in LR though. Never had washed out colours; my main problem is colour casts on black and white.
 
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#7
All my terrible prints have been on terrible paper. As soon as I put decent paper in the printer, I started to get decent results.

So. Step 1. If your paper is "cheap" the print will look bad. I've tested a lot of papers (I have a spreadsheet sadly) and can state with confidence that bad paper = bad print. If you PM me your address, I shall post you out some decent paper to try. Got loads left over from test packs. If it's a saturation thing, crappy paper not taking the ink properly is something that I've had issues with in the past.

Step 2. All papers take ink differently. So when your printer sprays "red" onto the paper, the paper absorbs and presents it in a different way. Paper manufacturers will release an ICC profile, which tells the printer that "for this paper, if you want red, you need to spray this much magenta and this much yellow onto the paper." So make sure you're using the correct ICC profile. Generic profiles don't always work. Also, be aware that some manufacturers profiles don't work either. Fotospeed I struggle with quite a bit.

Step 3. If you're using the right ICC profile in Lightroom's print module (Under Print Job>Colour Management>Profile) make sure that the print driver isn't trying to use any of its corrections (turn colour management off in the print driver settings). What can often happen is Lightroom tries to control the print, but then the print driver tries to exert additional control. Colours end up messed up.

Step 4. Once you've made a print that works, save the profile as a template for that paper. That will save all your print driver settings and icc profiles and makes printing a breeze once you've gone through the initial setup. The worst you'll have to do in future is change paper size and orientation.

I don't ever use Soft Proofing. It's another step and another virtual copy to think about. I just think it's generally bad.
 
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sirch

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#8
Thanks Chris and Gez, I've not had colour cast problems.
The problems is that the printed colours and contrast are nothing like those on screen unless I really push the contrast and saturation. So as I said above I edit, soft proof and then push the soft proof up in terms of contrast and vibrance/saturation but this is where the guess work begins, I know the print will be very muted but not by how much and pushing the soft proof has side effects which then need to be balanced out but I have no idea what will work until it is printed.
 
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sirch

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#9
Thanks Ian, @Harlequin565, that's very kind, I'll send you a PM shortly. I am using "reasonable" quality photo papers from Kodak and the like but it will be good to try others.
 
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#10
At the moment I wouldn’t worry to much about soft proofing. Once you have finished editing you will need a certain amount of sharpening to compensate for softening caused by printing. In the print dalogue box set photoshop manages colour and use the correct paper profile, in the printer box disable colour magagement. Have a look through the Cambridge in colour link and it goes through pretty much everything. If you haven’t properly calibrated monitor and printer then you could up brightness and contrast as a quick get over. Say plus 30 brightness and plus 15 contrast as a starting point. Just make notes as you go along and you will eventually get there.
Good luck
 
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sirch

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#11
At the moment I wouldn’t worry to much about soft proofing. Once you have finished editing you will need a certain amount of sharpening to compensate for softening caused by printing. In the print dalogue box set photoshop manages colour and use the correct paper profile, in the printer box disable colour magagement. Have a look through the Cambridge in colour link and it goes through pretty much everything. If you haven’t properly calibrated monitor and printer then you could up brightness and contrast as a quick get over. Say plus 30 brightness and plus 15 contrast as a starting point. Just make notes as you go along and you will eventually get there.
Good luck
Thanks but ... I don't have a profile for the paper I am using and if I do not soft proof then I the print is nothing like the edit
 
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#12
Use a paper with a profile, it tells your printer how much ink to lay down, most half decent papers have them. You could always do a profile search for the paper you are using.
 
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sirch

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#14
Thanks again Gez but it's kinda hard if a profile does not exist for the paper/printer/ink I am using. I know, I know, buy the right paper, printer, ink. I get it ...

Here is what I am seeing though, three images side-by-side left is the LR soft proof, centre is the printer driver preview, right is what came out of the printer.

20181227_212614
by TheWub, on Flickr
 
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#15
I was having a lot of bother trying to get a decent print on my Canon pro-100. I couldn't work out why. I was following all the usual advice - calibrated screen, paper profiles etc, but the prints kept coming out way off what I was seeing on my screen.

I sorted it eventually after buying decent paper from fotospeed and using their profiles.
 
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#16
Very difficult to tell, but all three of those look massively over saturated compared to the one you've shared via Flickr.

Just to rule it out - have you done a nozzle check to make sure the printer is laying down ink properly? Blocked jets can cause all sorts of weird results. That final print looks appalling compared to the soft proof...
 
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#19
I've used a similar Pixma printer in the past and got decent prints from it. I used canon inks and paper. What I did find was that I sometimes got better results using the software which came with the printer (Easy-PhotoPrint EX) than printing direct from Lightroom. I didn't soft proof, just exported a jpeg and printed from that.
 
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#20
I don't have a profile for the paper I am using and if I do not soft proof then I the print is nothing like the edit
How can you soft proof without an ink/paper/printer profile.... the answer is you cannot.

Dump the paper you have (put it down to learning),
Initially get some Canon Paper, let the printer manage colour and select all the correct settings in the driver... You should get a 'decent' print.... do not soft proof.
Then learn how to soft proof with the correct profile and how to make the correct settings in your driver for application manages colour.
 
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#22
Are you sure your camera is not set to Adobe colour space and you are trying to print in sRGB? That can give all sorts of problems with colours.
 
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sirch

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#23
Very difficult to tell, but all three of those look massively over saturated compared to the one you've shared via Flickr.

Just to rule it out - have you done a nozzle check to make sure the printer is laying down ink properly? Blocked jets can cause all sorts of weird results. That final print looks appalling compared to the soft proof...
I think the over saturation is down to that being an unadjusted mobile phone shot, haven't checked the nozzles in the last week or so but I'll do that just in case.

I've used a similar Pixma printer in the past and got decent prints from it. I used canon inks and paper. What I did find was that I sometimes got better results using the software which came with the printer (Easy-PhotoPrint EX) than printing direct from Lightroom. I didn't soft proof, just exported a jpeg and printed from that.
I'll give that a go.

I think you have bigger problems than just paper profiles. That print is horrendous and I doubt a change of paper or print profiles is going to fix that.
That was what I was thinking. The Pixma 5750 isn't a bad printer and I can't see Canon or anyone else producing a printer that needs expensive papers, profiles and all that faff to get something like a reasonable print, it would get rubbished in the reviews.

The other thing that concerns me is that I have used a variety of papers, admittedly "consumer" grade, but NOT Asda own brand, things like Kodak, etc and again I would expect something reasonable and resembling what is on screen. Having to do 5 to 10 prints to get close just can't be right.


Are you sure your camera is not set to Adobe colour space and you are trying to print in sRGB? That can give all sorts of problems with colours.
The shots are in RAW so I'm not sure the camera colour space matters but I have checked and the camera and LR are in sRGB
 
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#24
I think you have bigger problems than just paper profiles. That print is horrendous and I doubt a change of paper or print profiles is going to fix that.
Crap paper and the wrong profile will create a horrendous print . My prints were horrendous, as bad as the OP's, until I switched to a better paper with good profiles. All the issues I had been having were instantly fixed with that simple change.
 
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#26
As I see it there are two things to bother about - one is lightness / darkness and the other is colour (balance, gamut and saturation, if you like).

For the first, balance the display with a print produced from it.

The second might be harder. One approach could be to at least have print-ready images in sRGB, which the printer should be primed to understand.
 
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#27
You need to forget about soft proofing until you understand the process... in this case you are soft proofing with an incorrect profile anyway. In fact forget about profiles until you understand them... The profile you used for your soft proof is for matt paper !!!!

Get yourself some Canon paper, let the printer handle the colour and make sure all your settings are correct in the driver. Only when you understand profiles and how to use the soft proofing process should you consider their use.
 
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#28
I won’t bother going into why when you have edited in photoshop you should do such a silly thing as let printer manage colour instead of going down the accepted route of letting photoshop manage colour and disabling colour management in the printer dialogue.
 
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#29
As Phil says, stop messing around with cheap/unknown paper for the moment and get yourself some paper made by the printer manufacturer (Canon in your case?), Then select that paper from the drop down list offered when you go to print. That way, behind the scenes, the printer will know what ICC profile to apply and if, as you say, the monitor is correctly calibrated, the print will closely resemble what you see on screen. This should prove to you that all is well.

When you have a better understanding of the process you can start trying 3rd party papers and using appropriate ICC profiles.
 
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#30
That was what I was thinking. The Pixma 5750 isn't a bad printer and I can't see Canon or anyone else producing a printer that needs expensive papers, profiles and all that faff to get something like a reasonable print, it would get rubbished in the reviews.
Having to do 5 to 10 prints to get close just can't be right.
It isn’t a faff when you get the hang of it and canon do make a good printer, one of the good things is the fact that you can get really good results from using the right inks and papers and profiles. It does take work to get it right but once it’s right it is really quite easy.
 
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#31
I won’t bother going into why when you have edited in photoshop you should do such a silly thing as let printer manage colour instead of going down the accepted route of letting photoshop manage colour and disabling colour management in the printer dialogue.
There are lots of reasons to let the printer manage colour, particularly if as in the case of the OP there appears to be some lack of knowledge of the workings of profiles and soft proofing... it is certainly not a silly thing to do whilst using OEM papers as the printer and the driver will apply a correct profile. If things still look wrong then you know that the fault lies elsewhere... In all seriousness if the OP is soft proofing with a profile for a matt paper how is he going to get a good result when printing onto an even slightly different media.

You need to understand the process first !!!
 
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#32
I agree he certainly doesn’t need to softproof but I’m afraid we will have to disagree on colour management. I just think get into the correct process first time, you have to go in to the print dialogue and the printer dialogue anyway so it’s only a matter of checking boxes. Just chose the correct profile in ps and disable colour management and pick paper type in printer dialogue. It isn’t difficult,
 
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#33
I agree it isn't difficult, however if by using OEM paper, selecting printer manages colour in the LR print dialogue and selecting the correct media in the print dialogue and a 'good' print is produced, that gives you a 'control'.... then when that is mastered start using the canned profiles that I believe should be installed with the driver, the process needs to be mastered and a little understanding is needed of what these particular output profiles are doing for you. Then look at custom profiles...

We aren't disagreeing as such, I produce all my own custom profiles, I just think the OP needs to go back to square one and take time to understand the process a bit better, had he understood things better he would have known that if there isn't a profile available you simply cannot soft proof.
 
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#34
The advantage of ps managing is you can use any paper that has a profile. Everything else I agree with including making my own profiles.
 
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sirch

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#35
Well, I apologise for my stupidity and I had thought that asking for help/advice would yield something a bit more informative than "buy better paper" but hey-ho ...

happy new year :D
 
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#37
I thought you had been given quite good advice on the whole. Unfortunately good prints do require the right equipment and quite a bit of initial effort, it does get easier and the cost isn’t that bad but I appreciate if you only want the occasional print it might not be worth the time or the expense, the results can be incredibly good though.
 
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#38
It doesn't help that the manufacturers seem to be getting lazy with new products. I have recently bought a Canon TS8520 6 ink printer and have found that because I use a Mac the only driver available to me is the Mac AirPrint driver. This is a very basic driver that does not allow custom paper profiles or a lot of other things. Its canon paper profiles and printer manages colour and that's it. (unless anyone else knows better)
Would appear these consumer models and now aimed at people just printing from mobile phones or memory cards.
I couldn't justify the expense of a pro model so will have to settle with what I've got.
 
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#39
This is a very basic driver that does not allow custom paper profiles or a lot of other things. Its canon paper profiles and printer manages colour and that's it.
That's where Lightroom can be useful. Go into the print driver settings and turn colour management off, then in Lightroom, (Print Module, Print Job, Colour Management, Profile) you choose the ICC profile that you've downloaded from the manufacturers website. Lightroom then takes control of the print and the drivers are removed from the equation (in terms of colour correction).

It doesn't help that the manufacturers seem to be getting lazy
I'm with you on this one. Finding profiles for printers seems to be a bit of a dark art. Ilford & Canson are pretty good, but Marrutt require you to email them, and Permajet require you to register before supplying what they call "generic" profiles (which is even more confusing).Using their profiling service is fine once you've decided on a paper, but it's a bit of a rigmarole if you're trying half a dozen.
 
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#40
I'm with you on this one. Finding profiles for printers seems to be a bit of a dark art. Ilford & Canson are pretty good, but Marrutt require you to email them, and Permajet require you to register before supplying what they call "generic" profiles (which is even more confusing).Using their profiling service is fine once you've decided on a paper, but it's a bit of a rigmarole if you're trying half a dozen.
Marrutt have generic profiles for all of their paper on their website. You only have to email for custom profiles.
 
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