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Converting Colors When You Print

In the Print dialog, Photoshop can convert colors as it sends an image to a printer. We prefer this to letting the printer driver do the conversion. It's convenient because you don't have to convert a duplicate document first. You can either convert from the document space to a selected printer profile using a selected rendering intent or from the document space to a selected Proof Setup space using the rendering intent specified in Proof Setup, and then to the printer profile. The second method lets you print an RGB file to a composite printer and make the printer simulate the CMYK output you've been soft-proofing—that is, it gives you a hard copy of your soft-proofed image without your having to first convert the image to final output CMYK.

The Print Dialog in Photoshop

We cover most of the Print dialog in Chapter 12, "Image Storage and Output"; however, we'll cover the color management aspects of the dialog here.

To use the color management features in the Print dialog (File > Print), choose Color Management from the unnamed pop-up menu that appears at the top of the options group on the right (see Figure 4-16). The Color Management options let you control the data that's sent to the printer and choose whether to let Photoshop do the conversion to the printer space.

Figure 4-16

Figure 4-16 The Print dialog supports print preview and soft-proofing.

Color-Space Buttons. The first two buttons let you choose the Document space (to reproduce the image as well as your printer can) or the Proof space (to produce a hard copy of your soft-proof simulation). If the image window from which you're printing has a custom proof setup, it will appear as the Proof option; otherwise the choice reads Profile N/A. This is slightly misleading, because if you click the Proof radio button, it actually enables the Proof Setup Preset menu in Options, described later in this section.

Color Handling. The Color Handling pop-up menu (see Figure 4-17) determines what options are available in the rest of the Options section.

Figure 4-17

Figure 4-17 The Color Handling pop-up menu

  • Printer Manages Colors sends unconverted source data, letting the printer driver convert colors to the printer space. Color-managing CMYK images on PostScript printers requires PostScript 3—on a PostScript Level 2 printer, choose Lab Color instead. PostScript color management varies enormously. We don't recommend this method, because Photoshop converts colors better than most printer drivers.
  • Photoshop Manages Colors enables the Printer Profile menu. Photoshop converts the data sent to the printer to the profile space described by the profile chosen from the Printer Profile menu, using the rendering intent specified in the Rendering Intent pop-up menu.
  • Separations is available only for CMYK documents. It sends the individual plates to the printer, unmodified, as four separate pages. If you choose Separations, you may want to choose Output from the pop-up menu at the top right of the Print dialog, so you can specify options such as crop and registration marks.
  • No Color Management is almost the same as Printer Manages Colors—it sends the numbers in the document to the printer, but it doesn't include the profile that describes them. We use this option for printing profiling targets.

Printer Profile. The Printer Profile menu is enabled only when you choose Photoshop Manages Colors from the Color Handling pop-up menu. Choose the profile that describes the printer to which you're printing and the paper and ink the printer is using.

Rendering Intent. The Rendering Intent menu is enabled when you choose either Printer Manages Colors or Photoshop Manages Colors from the Color Handling menu, but in our experience, it behaves reliably only in the former case. Choose the rendering intent that works best for the image by previewing the print using Proof Setup. (The Black Point Compensation check box is enabled only when Photoshop Manages Colors is selected in the Color Handling menu. As previously noted, we leave it turned on.)

Proof Setup. The Proof Setup menu is available with all Color Handling pop-up menu choices except Separations and is enabled when you click the Proof radio button. Photoshop executes the conversion specified in the selected Proof Setup preset before sending the data to the printer using the options controlled by the Color Handling menu.

It also disables the Rendering Intent menu. The rendering of the simulated proof space to the printer space is controlled instead by the Simulate Paper Color and Simulate Black Ink check boxes. When both are unselected, Photoshop converts the simulated proof data to the printer space using relative colorimetric rendering with black-point compensation. Checking Simulate Black Ink turns off the black-point compensation, while checking Simulate Paper Color makes Photoshop use absolute colorimetric rendering instead, forcing the printer to reproduce the actual "paper white" and actual "ink black" of the simulated proof.

In our experience, this feature works well when Photoshop Manages Colors is selected in the Color Handling menu, but it can produce random results when any of the other alternatives are selected. By all means, experiment, but don't say we didn't warn you!

The Printer Driver's Print Dialog

Photoshop applies all of the Print dialog Color Management options to the data it sends to the printer driver. You won't see any trace of the Photoshop options in the printer driver's Print dialog, which appears after you click the Print button in the Photoshop Print dialog. If you use the Photoshop Print dialog to convert image colors, make sure you don't have another conversion specified in the printer driver's Print dialog, or you'll get a double correction and a nasty print. In the printer driver, look for a color management option such as Off, None, or No Color Adjustment, and choose it to make sure that the driver doesn't sabotage you with an unwanted extra conversion.

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