Colour Management

Learn how to set up your system so that you get the most out of printing with CPL and better results from your home printer.

Cameras, scanners and printers all capture a different range of colours. They assign a number to all the colours in their visible range, and an issue arises when a colour is a different number from one device to the next.

So when we take a photo on our digital camera (1), display it on our computer monitor (2), and then print onto a printer using a specific paper (3) - then you can see that there are 3 different conversions of colour numbers.

If possible, colour management converts a device colour number to match the corresponding number on the new device. If the colour does not exist on the new device, then it finds the nearest similar colour. This is all done to an international standard that anyone can achieve.

What do you need to do?

  • Calibrate your monitor.
  • Secondly set up photoshops colour settings
  • And last of all, you can use soft-proof profiles, and then prepare files with the correct printing profiles.

Read the information in the tabs to fully understand the details.

colour-management Monitor Calibration

The first stage in any calibration process is to get your monitor to output an international standard of colour, without this you have no chance of seeing what your images REALLY look like, just your computers interpretation, and it's normal for monitors to be vivid and very bright, straight from the box.

Before you start, you need to know that not all monitors are good enough for photography, so don't assume your monitor is going to be able to reproduce colour exactly as required.

The most important part of a computer that is used for photography is not the processing power, or the graphics card, or even the memory - these things will not make your photography better, just faster.

So take a close look at your monitor. Can you see a brightness/contrast difference from the edge of the screen compared to the middle? When you tilt the screen a small amount, can you see a difference then? Is your screen Glossy? If so, then your monitor is possibly not suited for colour managing to a high standard.

If you are willing to spend money on getting this right, then you need two things. A good quality monitor, and a spectrophotometer (monitor calibration device).

monitors Monitors

Eizo screens are probably the most respected in the industry. They have a very long life span, and edge to edge quality.

At the time of writing (July 2013), you could pick up a new Eizo ColorEdge CS230, 23inch screen for around $770.00 online, and according to the Gov website, monitors are import duty free, so it may be cheap to buy online from other countries.
Look for dedicated graphics or photography monitors, with a wide colour range and colour uniformity across the screen.

spectrometer Spectrophotometers (monitor calibrators)

With a device resting on your screen, the dedicated software sends colour samples to your screen while the device reads the output. From this it can calculate tiny corrections and override your graphics card to output a new version of colour.

Some devices will also measure the room light conditions, and even alter the screen output depending on the light quality.
I would recommend 2 options here. (as of July 3013).

X-rite Colormunki Smile - if you're on a budget.
X-rite Colormunki Display - for those who want a high end display only calibrator.

Don't spend money on calibration systems that include profile making software, as this is not for your monitor, but for home printing.

room conditions Room conditions

The most common mistake made by photographers is that of room conditions.

The light inside the room has a big impact on the way we see the screen. Our eyes adjust for huge differences in light colour, and although it looks fine to us, the reality is that the screen will reflect back the colour of the light in the room, and as a result our eyes adjust the colour of the screen.

For example, a normal energy saving bulb has a colour temperature of 3500 Kelvin (K), and is very orange in colour. Daylight is approximately 6000K - 6500K, depending on the weather, and much more blue. If you colour correct in daylight, and then view the image later under bulb lighting, you will probably think the image looks too warm - so colour correcting it would be a mistake.

The same applies to colour intensity. Sitting in a dark room is not good, but neither is working in normal lighting conditions. Finding the perfect viewing level comes from trial and error, but made easier if you use a colour calibrator with a built-in ambient light reader (X-rite Colormunki Display). This will normally tell you the colour and intensity of the light hitting your screen, and can be set to compensate for the light.

To access the colour setting in Photoshop go to:   Edit Menu > Color Settings, (Shift+Ctrl+K).
This will open the dialogue box shown


Step 1.
Change your Working Space to Adobe RGB (1998). This will mean image opened in Photoshop will retain all the important colour information.

Step 2.
Change Color Management Policies, (RGB) - to Covert to Working RGB. This will convert any old files with any incorrect profiles.

Step 3.
With Profile Mismatches, and Missing Profiles, you can choose your own preferences, but we recommend the settings shown.

Soft proofing is a function within Photoshop that allows the image displayed on your monitor to match the prints produced by our printers, displaying the image as close as possible to what a final print would look like on a specific paper surface.

The Soft proof profiles we provide are only intended to be used in conjunction with Photoshop and the soft proofing function, do NOT convert your images to these profiles. Converting an image to one of these profiles and submitting the image for production will result in the image being incorrectly printed. All files should be submitted in Adobe RGB (1998).

Installing a Printer Profile

Firstly, download the CPL printer profiles from the Downloads tab. Unzip the files to your computer.

The CPL profiles need to be copied to your PC or Mac so that Photoshop will have access to them. Download and unzip to your computer, then:

Using Windows: - right click the profile and click install.
Using a Mac: - place the profiles in "Library\colorSync\Profiles".

Once installed, you can then follow the next procedure to start soft proofing in Photoshop.

Open Photoshop and click on :   View menu > Proof Setup > Custom.


Click on the 'Device to Stimulate' and choose one of our Paper Profiles, eg. 'c_lab_lustre_jan_2013'

• Do not use the 'Preserve Colour Numbers' option.

• 'Rendering Intent' is more complicated. Here are the two options in simple terms. Why not try both with 'Preview' turned on.
Perceptual: better for social and wedding photographers, as it helps retain shadows and darker details. Please inform us if you choose this option, as we use Relative Colorimetric on our Chromira printers unless you state otherwise.
Relative Colorimetric: For the best colour matching, but will darken shadow detail. Ideal if you think a specific colour is important in an image.

• Place a tick in the 'Black Point Compensation' tick box.
This option will more accurately scale the black level in your image to the output device black.

• Do not change 'Simulate Paper Colour' or 'Simulate Black Ink'

• Once the above changes have been made, click on the save button and give this setup a unique name.

You are now ready to use Photoshop soft proofing option with your images.
You can toggle between on and off, by using Ctrl+Y.

You will know it is on when the window title shows the profile name eg:


Soft Proofing Paper Profiles
Use Photoshop to preview the effect of different paper surfaces on your images. Read the soft proofing tab to understand more.