Great Prints from your Mac

by Derrick Story

Epson R2400 Printer

Producing good prints that even come close to what you see on your computer monitor is still the most frustrating aspect of digital photography. It doesn't have to be, however. Just remember these three steps: calibrate your screen, image edit your photo, and configure your printer.

If you don't have a colorimeter to calibrate your monitor, such as the Pantone Spyder, go to the Displays preference pane, click the Color tab, then click on the Calibrate button. Mac OS X will walk you through a pretty good calibration process. My tips are, use 2.2 for the Gamma setting and D65 for the White Point. Some folks have asked me about the new huey screen calibrator that costs less than $80 and includes nifty software for the Mac. It's fun to use, but I get better results from the Spyder, or even using the Displays preference pane calibrator.

Now that your screen is displaying photos properly, open the image you want to print and make your basic exposure and white balance adjustments. Don't go crazy here, just tweak enough so the image looks natural and balanced.

The final tip is to let your Mac control the color management, not the printer. Choose Colorsync in your printer dialog box (from the Color Management dropdown menu) and choose the correct type of paper from the Print Settings dropdown. If you have custom ICC Printer Profiles for your printer, load them and use 'em. This is one of the reasons that I like Epson printers so much. You can download ICC profiles from the Epson site.

Choose Colorsync

Now print. You'll be surprised how much better your output looks by just following these three basic steps. And in case you're curious, my current favorite "serious" printer is the Epson R2400. This is a great fine art unit that produces archival content that lasts for over 100 years. On the simple side of things, I really like the portable Dye Sub units made by Canon. I've been using a CP-300 for some time now for 4"x6" snapshots, and it works great.


2006-04-04 12:13:54
This is a great summary for using a local printer. Thanks.
How about similar tips for getting good digital prints from a "traditional" service (e.g. .mac; kodak; local 1-hr photo...)
In these cases, the print device is "unknown". For instance, is there an "optimum" image resolution or color balance point?
2006-04-04 15:45:10
Great overview Derrick, it hit all the highlights for which I was looking.

If I have custom ICC profiles for my printer, where will they show in the Mac OS X print dialog? By selecting ColorSync for color management and my paper type, are they automatically selected?

I'm using a Canon i9900 printer and I believe that some profiles were installed on my computer, but I'm not sure that I'm using them.

2006-04-04 16:24:24
Hmmm. So you now reckon that Huey's not really worth the investment?

Here in the UK, the price seems to be about double your US price - I think it normally goes for about £70 or so. I was slowly working up to buying one, but it sounds like I should save my money - at least until Huey 2 (or would that be Louie, to be followed by Dewey?) comes along? I'm not quite prepared to spring for the Spyder yet.

2006-04-04 22:23:46
OK, here's a bit more info for the questions from PAS, Jordan, and Gary. If you're sending prints to a service, such as Kodak or Shutterfly, your screen calibration is very important. Your gamma should be 2.2 and white point set at D65. These services use sRGB as the color space. So you're good to go.

As for the ICC profiles for local printers... I access mine in the Print with Preview dialog box in Photoshop and the Printing dialog box in Aperture. What application are you use to send your print jobs?

And finally, it's true, I'm not that high on the huey screen calibrator at the moment. But I feel like it's only a software revision away from being a useful tool. Stay tuned. I'll post as soon as I'm comfortable with its results.

2006-04-05 01:02:03
I think it's important to point out that if you go through Photoshop's Print with Preview command and you have "Show More Options" checked and you have set the Print Space to your printers profile then you should turn OFF ColorSync and Color Controls in the printer dialog box. Otherwise your colours get 'Managed' twice.
On my Epson SP1290 my blacks come out rusty red if I get this wrong.
The other option is to do as described in the article but in the Print With Preview dialogue set the Print Space to "Printer Color Management".

This is from Photoshop's help:

"If Photoshop is handling the color adjustment or color management options during printing, turn off all printer driver color adjustment options. If not, specify the color management settings to let your printer driver handle the color management during printing. It's important not to color manage in both Photoshop and the printer driver simultaneously during printing. This results in unpredictable color."

2006-04-05 12:31:42
I've been experimenting with using Adobe Lightroom, but other than that I use iPhoto right now. By reading on the 'net a bit, I think I've found that I can use Apple's ColorSync utility to assign an ICC profile to my printer and that will be used by any app. Not positive, though. Nor have I experimented with it yet.
2006-04-05 13:56:49
Responding to Nick B and Jordan...

First Jordan, Yes you can use the ColorSync utility to assign default ICC Printer Profiles to a printer. This is very handy when printing from iPhoto, for example, that doesn't enable you to call out specific ICC profiles. After using the utility, just make sure you click on the Advanced but in the print dialog box and choose ColorSync for your color management. You should get good results.

NickB makes a good point when printing from Photoshop. I've read conflicting posts online about people getting better results letting the printer control the color vs letting ColorSync or the application control the color. I stand by using the application or ColorSync for the best results. I have to say, however, that I think the Photoshop print dialog box is a nightmare of complexity. That's why I'm currently printing out of Aperture using custom ICC printer profiles for my Epson R2400. The color results are very accurate.

2006-04-05 18:34:11
Great short summary! As a new R800 owner, I'm surprised there isn't a resource that consolidates the Mac-Epson tips and techniques. As a tech sophisticated guy, even I'm stymied by the monitor, printer, paper, ICC, software variables. Who wants to start a wiki?
New Mac user
2006-04-06 13:28:44
When I use iPhoto to print to the Selphy 400 (driver version 3.0) the prints come out too dark. Printing the same picture directly (by connecting the camera) generates good results, and using Elements even better results. No modifications made to the pictures.
But I like the iPhoto templates, and like to order an Apple photo album. How can I resolve this matter without manually adjusting each photo in iPhoto to accomodate?

How do I create an ICC profile for the Selphy 400?

2006-04-06 14:21:24
This is for New Mac User: I don't have the Selphy, but I do have the Canon CP330. Let me do a little testing and see what I can come up with via printing with iPhoto. I agree, you shouldn't have to pay a printing penalty for using iPhoto. BTW: what version of iPhoto do you have?

2006-04-06 14:57:47
Dear Derrick
Thank you for your help. The model I've got is Selphy CP400. I believe all these little printers are similar, except your model includes a battery. I use iPhoto 6 with the latest updates.

BTW, which driver version do you use?

2006-05-02 17:22:12
I have a Mac G4 with a 17 inch flat studio dispay. I use Photoshop 7.0 for editing and correcting and have two epson 2200 printers and a new Epson R340 for printing. I am going nuts trying to get results that match my screen. I read I should turn off color managment in photoshop and on in my printer. Visa versa and visa versa! Isn't there at least one good combination that will give me consistency with out trying a million combinations. Please enlighten me if you do!
Tom J
2007-09-01 14:52:55
I am a long time PC user who just got an iMac. I purchased an HP Photosmart C3180 as part of the promotional package with the iMac. I am using Aperture 1.5.4 and the color on my prints is very dull. I used your above advice for calibrating the display. When I print in Aperture my only choice is print image and on that screen I clicked Printer Settings and selected ColorSync from the third drop down list. Can you give me any guidance about calibrating the printer, setup issues I have not addressed or even buying another printer? Thanks.
Benjamin ong
2008-06-09 01:08:26
Hi, i have read ur article on great prints from your mac, and i must sae, its really educational. but want to enquire something about ur cp-300. as far i know, canon's dye sub printers have no colour profiles and their default is seriously off.. so how did u go about getting color-accurate prints from it? thanks for ur time!