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Like this article? We recommend The Other Secret to Getting Pro-Quality Prints That Match Your Screen

The Other Secret to Getting Pro-Quality Prints That Match Your Screen

When you buy a color inkjet printer and install the printer driver that comes with it, it basically lets Photoshop know what kind of printer is being used, and that’s about it. But to get pro-quality results, you need a profile for your printer based on the exact type of paper you’ll be printing on. Most inkjet paper manufacturers now create custom profiles for their papers, and you can usually download them free from their websites. Does this really make that big a difference? Ask any pro. Here’s how to find and install your custom profiles:

Step One:

Your first step is to go to the website of the company that makes the paper you’re going to be printing on and search for their downloadable color profiles for your printer. I use the term “search” because they’re usually not in a really obvious place. I use two Epson printers—a Stylus Photo R2880 and a Stylus Pro 3800—and I generally print on Epson paper. When I installed the 3800’s printer driver, I was tickled to find that it also installed custom color profiles for all Epson papers (this is rare), but my R2880 (like most printers) doesn’t. So, the first stop would be Epson’s website, where you’d click on the Drivers & Support link (as shown here). Note: Even if you’re not an Epson user, still follow along (you’ll see why).

Step Two:

Once you get to Drivers & Support, find your particular printer in the list. Click on that link, and on the next page, click on Drivers & Downloads (choose Win-dows or Macintosh). On that page is a note linking you to the printer’s Premium ICC Profiles page. Here’s what Epson says right there about these free profiles: “In most cases, these custom ICC profiles will provide more accurate color and black and white reproduction than with the standard profiles already shipping with every printer.” So, click on that Premium ICC Profiles link.

Step Three:

When you click that link, a page appears with a list of Mac and Windows ICC profiles for Epson’s papers and printers. I primarily print on two papers: (1) Epson’s Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster, and (2) Epson’s Velvet Fine Art paper. So, I’d download the ICC profiles for the Glossy Papers (as shown here) and the Fine Art Papers (at the bottom of the window). They download onto your computer, and you just double-click the installer for each one, and they’re added to your list of profiles in Photoshop (I’ll show how to choose them in the Print dialog a little later). That’s it—you down-load them, double-click to install, and they’ll be waiting for you in Photo-shop’s print dialog. Easy enough. But what if you’re not using Epson paper? Or if you have a different printer, like a Canon or an HP?

Step Four:

We’ll tackle the different paper issue first (because they’re tied together). I mentioned earlier that I usually print on Epson papers. I say usually because sometimes I want a final print that fits in a 16x20” standard pre-made frame, without having to cut or trim the photo. In those cases, I use Red River Paper’s 16x20” Ultra Satin Pro instead (which is very much like Epson’s Ultra Premium Luster, but it’s already pre-cut to 16x20”). So, even though you’re printing on an Epson printer, now you’d go to Red River Paper’s site (http://www.redriverpaper.com) to find their color profiles for my other printer—the Epson 3800. (Remember, profiles come from the company that makes the paper.) On the Red River Paper homepage is a link for Premium Photographic Inkjet Papers, so click on that.

Step Five:

Once you click that link, things get easier, because on the left side of the next page (under Helpful Info) is a clear, direct link right to their free downloadable color profiles (as seen here). Making profiles easy to find like this is extremely rare (it’s almost too easy—it must be a trap, right?). So, click on that Color Profiles link and it takes you right to the profiles for Epson printers, as seen in Step Six (how sweet is that?).

Step Six:

Under the section named Epson Wide Format, there’s a direct link to the Epson Pro 3800 (as shown here), but did you also notice that there are ICC Color profiles for the Canon printers, as well? See, the process is the same for other printers, but be aware: although HP and Canon both make pro-quality photo printers, Epson had the pro market to itself for quite a while, so while Epson profiles are created by most major paper manufacturers, you may not always find paper profiles for HP and Canon printers. As you can see at Red River, they widely support Epson, and some Canon profiles are there, too—but there’s only one for HP. That doesn’t mean this won’t change, but as of the writing of this book, that’s the reality. Speaking of change—the look and navigation of websites change pretty regularly, so if these sites look different when you visit them, don’t freak out. Okay, you can freak out, but just a little.

Step Seven:

Although profiles from Epson’s website come with an installer, in Red River’s case (and in the case of many other paper manufacturers), you just get the profile (shown here) and instructions, so you install it yourself (don’t worry—it’s easy). On a PC, just Right-click on the profile and choose Install Profile. Easy enough. (Note: If you’re using Windows XP and this doesn’t work, you’ll have to drag the profile into the Profiles folder itself. It’s at C:\Windows\system32\spool\drivers\color.) On a Mac, go to your hard disk, open your Library folder, and open your Color-Sync folder, where you’ll see a Profiles folder. Just drag the file in there and you’re set (in Photoshop CS4 you don’t even have to restart Photoshop—it automatically updates).

Step Eight:

Now, you’ll access your profile by choosing Print from Photoshop’s File menu. In the Print dialog, change the Color Handling pop-up menu to Photoshop Manages Color. Then, click on the Printer Profile pop-up menu, and your new color profile(s) will appear (as shown here). In our example, I’m printing to an Epson 3800 using Red River’s Ultra Pro Satin paper, so that’s what I’m choosing here as my printer profile (it’s named RR UPSatin 2.0 Ep3800.icc). More on using these color profiles later in this chapter.

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