Beginner's Luck: Paper Matters

by Colleen Wheeler


I was helping my son make a Father's Day present this past weekend, printing out images of him and his dad playing baseball. My first instinct was to send them to Costco for printing, but it was 105 degrees outside, so I decided to see what kind of results I could get in the comfort of my air-conditioned home from my simple desktop inkjet photo printer (Canon Pixma iP4300, retail value $99) and Lightroom's Print module.

To avoid having to venture out in blazing heat, I decided to use some nice matte finish stock I'd purchased from my friendly neighborhood camera store's Epson-laden shelves. Why wouldn't that work as well as anything? I mean Epson is a reputable company that makes good paper, right? How different can paper be? And the only Canon paper my neighborhood vendor had was a high gloss number that was just too, well, shiny.

Rookie mistake. The experienced photographers out there are shaking their heads at the obvious flaw in my plan. The rub is that the only ICC profiles that Lightroom's Color Management pane has for my Canon printer were for specific (Canon) papers. Some part of my brain was convinced I'd be able to guess at the equivalent paper, but with all the variables, how much paper, ink, time and CMH (Color Management Headache) are you going to risk? Answer from my photographer friend was, "Just. Um. No."

So I braved the heat, walked back over to my friendly neighborhood Epson paper-loving store, bought the one Canon paper they had, set the right profile in Lightroom, and ended up with truly frameable (albeit glossy) prints that had my son beaming on Sunday morning when he presented his dad with the final product.


2007-06-20 10:58:23
Hi Colleen. Thanks for this article. Have you been able to figure out the msytery of the various profiles for the iP4300? I have the 5300 and am puzzled by the various profiles. PR1, MP2, SP2, etc....I think the PR stands for Pro Paper, MP for Matte Patter and SP for Special ? Paper but there seems to be no reference anywhere as to what this all means. And then in the driver, one can select the paper choice anyhow. Very odd and at times confusing. Since you have an "average" (but decent photo printer) unlike some other pros out there with the Epson's, etc...I wonder if you may be able to dig a little deeper on this puzzle we call Color Management.

Thanks again!


Colleen Wheeler
2007-06-21 12:48:33

Hey, Joseph. With a little sleuthing, I did find some Canon documentation for what those codes mean:

  • PR: Photo Paper Pro

  • SP: Photo Paper Plus Glossy

  • MP: Matte Photo Paper

  • SG: Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss

Unfortunately, the documentation indicates it's going to reveal what those numbers afterward mean, but it mysteriously doesn't. (Start here, then fill out the appropriate drop-down menus, then put "Color Management" in the question field. The first question/answer I got was, "How do I print using custom profiles?" There were a few more hoops after that about platform, etc.)

I agree that CM is a puzzle (hey, finding that documentation was a puzzle), and there are some heavy-duty experts out there who don't always agree in their expert opinions. So I go with Derrick Story's "Keep It Simple Color Management" philosophy:

  1. Calibrate your monitor.

  2. Use the paper for which you have ICC profiles (and, of course, use the profiles themselves.)

  3. Let the application manage the colors.

Eddie Tapp's Practical Color Management provides some nice CM advice for "everyday" (as well as professional) users in a language we are all meant to understand.


2007-07-03 22:19:52
Thanks Colleen! Very helpful. I appreciate your sleuthing!



Zbigniew Jerzak
2007-08-28 12:57:34
Hey Joseph, Colleen,

the numbers stand for the print quality (Print Quality -> Custom -> Values on the slider) you choose. PR1 stands for Photo Paper Pro with print quality set to 1, PR2 stands for Photo Paper Pro with print quality set to 2, etc...


Colleen Wheeler
2007-08-29 10:16:48
A dark mystery solved. Thanks, Z!