An ICC profile describes how colors will reproduce in a specific output scenario, such as when they are displayed on a computer monitor or printed on a certain type of paper. By properly utilizing ICC profiles in your workflow, you can greatly improve the color accuracy and the repeatability of colors in your printed output.
Third-party media providers often offer ICC profiles for their paper types. This article will walk you through the process of installing ICC profiles for your operating system, using the profiles in your imaging applications, and outputting color-accurate prints with them.
Many media manufacturers offer ICC profiles for download on their website, along with instructions on the best paper settings to use for your paper. If your manufacturer does not offer an ICC profile for your printer and media combination, you can also purchase custom ICC profiles from a number of reputable service providers.
Once you’ve received your profile, you will need to install it in the correct location in order for your applications to access the profile information.
On Windows, the installation couldn’t be easier. Just right-click on the ICC profile and choose “Install Profile”. If you have administrative rights on your computer and you want to navigate to the folder yourself, browse to your root drive (this is usually the C:\ drive) > Windows > System32 > Spool > Drivers > Color.
If you are using a Mac OS, you will need administrative rights to access your system. In the Finder, select the Go menu and then select Go To Folder while holding the Option key. The dialog box will appear with “~/Library/“ populated. Click Go. Once the Library folder opens, navigate to ColorSync > Profiles.
Press the Control button as you click on the Profiles folder and select Get Info. In the Profiles Info window, click on the lock icon on the lower right-hand corner of the window, then enter your password when prompted. Close the Profiles Info window and drag your ICC profile to the Profiles folder in your Finder. Your profile is now ready to use.
If your profile does not immediately appear for use in your imaging application, try closing and re-launching the application to refresh the profile list.
Soft proofing is a setting that will accurately predict the color reproduction that you can expect from your printer and ink combination. For more information on optimizing your system for soft proofing, see the accompanying article entitled Getting the Best Soft Proofing Results.
Rendering intents describe how your imaging software will move colors that are outside of the range that your printer can reproduce. The two most common rendering intents for photographic output are Relative Colorimetric and Perceptual.
Relative Colorimetric rendering intent will match colors that are in gamut and shift colors that are out of gamut to the closest possible colorimetric match. This is usually a good setting to use with papers that can print a large gamut of vibrant colors, such as glossy photographic papers. If your imaging software includes an option for Black Point Compensation, this will help you to maintain shadow detail in your image.
Perceptual rendering intent will adjust all of the colors of your image to maintain the tonal range between colors. As a result, some colors in your image may shift to become less saturated, even if they are within the reproducible range for your output. This setting is most valuable when you are working with a paper that prints a limited gamut, such as a matte or specialty paper.
Regardless of the output application, be sure to configure the settings in your printer driver to the correct media type, output quality, and media calibration to ensure accurate, repeatable results. (To find out more about media calibration, see the accompanying article on Using the Color Calibration Tool.)
Photoshop supports use of ICC profiles for soft proofing and printing.
To enable soft proofing, select Proof Setup under the View menu, choose the Custom option, and pick the ICC profile that matches your paper type under Device to Simulate. If desired, experiment with the rendering intents and black point compensation to determine which settings will give you the best possible print. You may also select the Gamut Warning under the View menu to determine if any areas of your original image are out of gamut for your output profile.
When you are ready to print, select your printer in Photoshop Print Settings. Under the Color Management section, choose Photoshop Manages Colors, then pick your desired printer profile in the drop down menu. Set Normal Printing and the rendering intent and black point options that you selected during soft proofing. If desired, you can check Match Print Colors and Show Paper White to soft proof your image once more.
Lightroom offers powerful soft proofing tools in the Develop module. To enable soft proofing, check the Soft Proofing box below the image area. Then, expand the Soft Proofing menu to the right and select your ICC profile under Proof Settings. If your profile does not appear in the drop down menu, choose “Other”, then scroll through the list of profiles to load your desired file. Check the box to the left of the profile and click the Ok button to load the profile into Lightroom. Choose between Perceptual and Relative rendering intent. Check the box to Simulate Paper & Ink. If you would like to compare the soft proof to your original image, use the Before and After function to toggle between comparisons.
Under the Print module in Lightroom, find the Color Management options under the Print Job menu to select your ICC profile and rendering intent. If you haven’t already loaded your ICC profile, you may need to select Other and load it into Lightroom. Once you have configured your settings, you can optimize repeatability by clicking the Create Saved Print button and creating or adding to your print collection.
Print Studio Pro
Launch Print Studio Pro under the File > Automate menu in Photoshop or the File > Plug-in Extras menu in Lightroom. Under the Color Management menu, select Use ICC Profile for the Color Mode. Scroll under the Printer Profile menu to find your ICC Profile. Select your Rendering Intent. Check the Enable Soft Proofing option if desired. Once you have configured your settings, use the Register feature to save them for future use.
Using third-party ICC profiles can greatly enhance the color reproduction and the repeatability of your printed output. Investing a few moments to configure your color management workflow will yield significant returns in saved time and materials.