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Using Printer Profiles with Digital Labs

This document assumes a familiarity with how to set up and use Photoshop's color management. If you are in doubt, please read either the brief tutorial on our site or one of the more extensive articles referenced in our list of resources. This also assumes you are using Photoshop version 6 or above. If not, get a new version. The price of a Photoshop upgrade is definitely worth the money for the time savings alone. If you use an image editing program other than Photoshop, make sure it supports converting image files to a printer profile. The basic flow is, however, approximately the same.

If you are looking for custom ICC profiles for your printer and instructions on how to use them, please refer to our custom profiling section.

This document is also available for download in PDF format. (latest revision: 22-Feb-2008). Get Acrobat

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Important note #1: All profiles assume an accurately calibrated and profiled monitor. The goal of printer profiles is to match your prints to your monitor. If the condition of your monitor is not known accurately, there is nothing to match the prints to. The viewing condition for the prints is also critical. Unless otherwise noted, our profiles are built for print viewing under industry standard D50 (~5000°K) illumination.
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Important note #2: Our digital lab profiles are created specifically for each individual printer. These are not generic profiles, nor should they be treated as such. Each printer and paper combination behaves differently. Using highly optimized profiles on a printer other than the one they were made for can result in worse performance than using no profile at all.

After downloading the profile, you need to save it in a location that depends on what operating system you are using. The profile files work equally well on Windows or Mac computers. Save the profile to a handy location. You need to install profiles before using them. Note that the profiles are binary files – they do not contain readily readable information and can not be opened directly by most applications. Image editing applications such as Photoshop and color printer drivers are equipped to use them.

These locations are:

 


Other applications supporting conversion to printer profiles:

 

Notable applications that do not support converting images to RGB printer ICC profiles:

 


Example color managed editing and printing workflow

The following work flow is a guide to using our profiles and getting the best quality prints. It contains additional information specifically for Fuji Frontier, Noritsu, and Agfa digital printers, as these are the ones most commonly found in labs. A more comprehensive version that applies to any printer and covers Photoshop Color Management is in our tutorial series.

  1. Edit the image until you are happy and save the file. Do all your editing in a standard color space such as Adobe RGB or sRGB, not a printer profile. Editing color spaces are designed for editing. Printer color spaces are not. At this point you have an image that can be printed on any printer.
  2. Make a duplicate of the image. This allows you to keep the original as a printer-independent version, which can then be formatted for any other output medium.
  3. Select the duplicate, and open the Proof Setup dialog (View→Proof Setup→Custom). The screen shots below show the Proof Setup dialog boxes for multiple versions of Adobe Photoshop.
Photoshop CS2 Proof Setup Proof Setup Options
  1. Select the profile to use from the drop-down list in the Proof Setup dialog box.
  2. Check the Preview box and turn on Black Point Compensation to accurately scale the black level in your image to the printer's black.
  3. Do not select Preserve Color Numbers. This shows how your image would look if you did not do a color space conversion — just the opposite of what you want.
  4. Experiment with rendering intent. You can quickly switch between rendering intents in the Soft Proof dialog - just have the Preview option checked. Relative Colorimetric often gives the best results. Perceptual or Saturation can be better if your image contains many out-of-gamut colors. Absolute Colorimetric rendering is often used for mid-stage print proofing; if you are familiar with this, you don't need this document.
  5. Simulation options:
  6. If you do not see significant changes when soft proofing, this is OK. This means your image contains colors that mainly lie within the printer's gamut. If the images do not match well enough, the following steps can help.
  7. Set the highlight and shadow points in the Levels dialog box. In Photoshop, hold down Alt/Option while adjusting the level sliders. This will show any shadow or highlight clipping that occurs. The ideal setting is usually the point right before clipping occurs.
  8. If the duplicate image that you are Soft Proofing looks greatly different from the original, minor curves or color balance adjustments are often all that are needed to bring things into line.
  9. An optional step is to check the image for out-of-gamut colors. Using a selected color range, you can (in order of preference) reduce the lightness, tweak the hue, or very slightly reduce the saturation to bring the problem colors within gamut. Note that all your edits are being performed in the file's editing color space rather than in the printer color space. This makes edits more predictable and controllable.
  10. You're almost done. If you are using a Fuji Frontier, make sure your image is at one of the supported image sizes, and at 300 ppi. For example, a 4x6 image should be 1200x1800 pixels.
  11. Noritsu printers should be fed 400 ppi files for 2xxx MLVA series machines and either 300 or 320 ppi files for the 3xxx Laser series (see below). Noritsu files must have very close to the correct aspect ratio, e.g. 2:3 for a 4x6 print. Do not print files on a Noritsu with resolution higher than these values, or significant cropping may occur.
  12. Cropping: This is a problematic step for many photographers. The default printing mode crops a random (~0.1"/2mm) amount off one or more edges of your prints. If you do not have critical details near the edges of your shots, you can safely ignore the cropping. Other options include:
  13. Finally, convert the image to the appropriate profile, using your chosen rendering intent. In Photoshop CS2 and above the command is Edit→Convert to Profile. Earlier Photoshop versions use Image→Mode→Convert to Profile. Frontier and Noritsu printers do not read embedded profiles, so the image data must be converted. This changes the data in the file to compensate for how your lab's machine actually prints colors.
  14. Save the file as an RGB jpeg or tiff.

    Save As  JPEG Options

  15. Instruct the print operators not to apply any of the automated image enhancement or adjustments to your files. Something along the lines of "send the files straight to the printer" usually works. If the lab operator is more technically savvy, request one of the following:

Print Cropping/Suggested Fuji Frontier and Noritsu QSS print sizes

Notes:

Usage:

Fuji Frontier print cropping setup
Use "Fill In" print mode

Noritsu print cropping setup
Use "CUT" print mode

Paper Size (in)

Paper Size (mm)

Frontier Canvas Size (px)

Noritsu Print Size (in)

Noritsu 2xxx Canvas Size (px)

Noritsu 37xx, 34xx, and 3xxx Canvas Size (px) (300 ppi)

Older Noritsu 3xxx Canvas Size (px) (320 ppi)

4 102 1228 4x6 1630x2446 1228x1842 1310x1964
5 127 1524 5x7 2026x2836 1535x2149 1626x2276
6 152 1818 6x9 2430x3646 1818x2727 1940x2910
7 178 2138 8x10 3220x4026 2416x3020 2580x3226
8 203 2434 8x12 3220x4830 2416x3624 2580x3870
10 254 3036 11x14 4436x5646 3322x4228 3556x4526
12 305 3638 12x18 4836x7254 3624x5436 3876x5814
15 381 4536 12x24 n/a 3624x7248 n/a
18 457 5440 12x36 n/a 3624x10872 n/a
Printer Type Max. Paper Size (in)
Fuji Frontier Models
Frontier 330, 340, 390, 500 8x12
Frontier 355, 370, 375 10x15
Frontier 550, 570, 590 12x18
Frontier 710 8x24 or 8x36
 
Noritsu QSS Models
2901, 30xx, 3101, 3111 12x18
3411, 34-Pro, 37xx 12x36
 
Agfa Digital Models
d-Lab.1, 2, 3 12x18
Netlab.1 8x12
Netlab.2 12x18

 

 

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