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How can I sync my monitor with what I see on paper?

C K , Apr 19, 2010; 11:45 p.m.

I have a tough time getting pictures to print close to what I see on screen. The pictures look awesome on the computer monitor and on the camera LCD but on paper they tend to look flat. In add, I have to many variations, like some pics look somewhat ok on the paper, and some look dark and slightly off tone, yet all of the pictures look fine on the computer and camera LCD. How can I improve this?

Responses


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James (Jim) Johnson , Apr 20, 2010; 12:38 a.m.

I'm no expert but I read talk of having your monitor calibrated.
I do some graphic's work on my computer's and have always been fortunate enough to have a good monitor.
I also have had Window's Media Center as part of my operating system on my last two computers which probably helps.

Rene GM , Apr 20, 2010; 04:52 a.m.

My first try would be another printer or a print service (make sure it does not "optimize" the pictures, and that your images have a color space, which the service understands, usually sRGB). You might get the very same results however. If not, your printing program needs a profile of your printer (try another printing program, or play with the print settings). If the result is the same, you need to calibrate your monitor. You can try by hand in the monitor settings using your prints as a guide line (difficult and vague). Windows 7 can also generate a monitor profile (search for calibration in the system settings). Or you can use the program that controls your graphics card. But you will most likely come to the conclusion that you need one of those hardware calibration tools (about 80$). The more expensive ones can also calibrate your printer by generating a printer profile.

Kris Bochenek , Apr 20, 2010; 07:26 a.m.

if you are using online photo service I sugest that you download their printers profiles for each paper you are using. This will assure that your colors are right. I've had the same problem untill I did that. Also monitor needs to be calibrated.

Bob Boudreau , Apr 20, 2010; 08:06 a.m.

Are you printing your own prints? What kind of paper are you using, proper quality glossy coated paper intended for photos? It really does make a difference.

I use a 5 year old HP printer and I've never done any adjusting to my LCD monitor or anything, and I can produce good prints with good HP or Kodak paper. I tried some of Staples' house brand paper once because it was on sale, and it was not suitable at all, images were flat and lifeless so I returned the package and got some more expensive HP paper and it worked fine.

Scott Murphy , Apr 20, 2010; 11:20 a.m.

The first thing you must do is calibrate your monitor. There are several set-ups to do this. I use the Color Plus calibration kit.
Once you have calibrated your monitor, then you need to calibrate your printer to what you see on the monitor. You can do this several ways. The first, as already mentioned, is to download the color profiles for your printer and the kind of paper you are using and install them. You will still probably have to tweak the profiles to match them perfectly. An easier way, and the way I do it, is to calibrate the printer. I photographed a gray card in bright sunlight, making sure the color temperature on my D700 was calibrated to the light source, not just using the standard sunlight WB. I then also went into Photoshop and using the gray dropper, made sure the color was perfectly neutral. Next, printed out the photo of the gray card, and using the CMYK sliders on my printer's software (I have a Canon Pixma Pro9000 MkII), I adjusted the printer output to match my screen and, more importantly, the gray card I photographed.

Danny Low , Apr 20, 2010; 05:43 p.m.

Basically you need to calibrate both your monitor and your printer so both are in the same color space. The only way to do this accurately is through the use of a colorimeter.

Colorimeters for monitors are relatively cheap. You can get a basic one for under $100. Colorimeters for printers tend to be expensive. What the colorimeter software does is produce a custom color profile for the monitor and the printer. The profile is loaded into the monitor and makes the monitor adjusts its output to match the profile. The printer profile is normally used by either the printer driver or your photo editing program to adjust the color output to match the profile.

The profile for the monitor needs to be updated periodically as the colors produced by the monitor will change as the monitor ages. The profile for the printer is specific to the ink and paper used and you will need a profile for every combination of ink and paper you use.

The two most common colorimeters are the Spyder and Colormunki brands. Both are very good and come in various models that do monitors only to both monitor and printers. Epson, Canon and other printer makers usually have free color profiles for their printers for the various combinations of ink and papers they make. Companies such as

http://www.cathysprofiles.com/

will produce customer printer profiles for a reasonable fee.

So you have quite of a bit of choice as do how much you want to do it yourself, use standard profiles or get custom profiles. But you will need to get profiles for your monitor and printer to get the print colors to match what you see on the monitor.

Danny

Kari Vierimaa , Apr 21, 2010; 12:32 p.m.

The pictures look awesome on the computer monitor and on the camera LCD but on paper they tend to look flat.

Before calibration and profiles some basic things.
1. If your screen is on factory defaults it's quite likely that it's set way too bright to make it seem more snappy in store. You need to bring it down to better match the paper. (If you buy a calibrator this will be taken care of in the process.)
2. TN-panel displays are most common (everything under $300 is almost definitely a TN) and they're also the worst for viewing angles, accurate color and real black. This goes for most laptop screen too.
3. These together easily make your images look brighter than they are and perhaps (some) colors strong (but off). You also may see too much into the shadows while losing actual detail there.
4. Camera LCD is the least accurate device and what you see is strongly dependent on lighting conditions. It's not really meant for checking exposure or color. Refer to your histogram for exposure and color you can tweak afterwards as much as you like.
5. How do you view the prints and do you edit in good light? Normal room light can be very yellow and faint. If you do a lot of editing in the evening / night in subdued light it's quite likely that you're not seeing what you should be. (We have about 7 months of what many people would call "winter" so I finally opted for strong daylight spectrum lighting. Good stuff, makes reading and other hobbies a lot easier too.)

In add, I have to many variations, like some pics look somewhat ok on the paper, and some look dark and slightly off tone, yet all of the pictures look fine on the computer and camera LCD.s

Your display may show inconsistent colors. My friend's cheap 24" is good for gaming but totally horrible for photo editing at default settings and even after tweaking it's no very good, reds are just killing me.
Are these dark prints supposed to be a bit low key? Paper does not have a backlight like lcd screens, it may be that you either need good lighting for viewing and/or you need to make them lighter in order to print them properly. What is a bit dark on screen may turn rather muddy on paper.
If the prints are from a lab then some variation just happens. I often order a cheap batch of 4x6s and out of 100 there's almost always 2-5 a bit off. No biggie really, I'd spend a lot more money printing at home.
Don't use anything other than basic srgb color space when sending out (and for web), adobe rgb etc. get returned as a mess.

If you don't want to invest in a calibrator then something like Windows 7 adjustments software and careful eye go pretty far. It takes a while to learn how to look at things, to realize what you're really looking at and what affects it, but it'll come.

Kari Vierimaa , Apr 21, 2010; 12:34 p.m.

You could upload a problematic image or two. Many of us have an accurate screen and could take a look if there's something obviously off.

Sean K , Apr 21, 2010; 03:42 p.m.

Well, actually I have same issue as the original poster. I read many posts and people suggest calibrating the monitor and printer. But I using a laptop and wondering if there is a way to calibrate laptop monitor. Only hardware control is brightness.


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