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Colours on calibrated professional monitor vs colours on printed photograph

mvheystmvheyst Member
edited April 2012 in general photography
I don’t understand how the colours of a printed photograph should match with those on a calibrated monitor. So, what I am trying to understand is how to interpret the quality (or correctness) of a printed picture vs what you see on a calibrated monitor.

Say you make a print of a file with coloured square blocks? (e.g. like the blocks on a Macbeth colour checker)
How should the colours of the print compare with the colours of the picture on the monitor? Should the colours match exactly when you place the print on the monitor?

You need to assume the monitor is calibrated and the correct colour profiles are used by the Professional Lab. (Using the EIZO monitor of the Pro-lab).

1. A monitor is backlid.
2. The colour of a photograph varies according to the light you use to view the picture.

My findings:

i) When I view the printed photograph directly against the picture on the monitor (by placing the print on the monitor), I noted there are differences in colour (sometimes significantly different). I noted some colours match better than others.

ii) When I view the print approx 1meter away from a monitor (using only available shaded sunlight), the colors seems to match well enough (without Nitpicking) - e.g. meaning the light blue on the print looks approx like the light blue on the screen.

A) Should the colours of the print match 100% with the colours on a monitor when the picture is placed against the monitor?

B) The fact that the screen is backlit, and a photograph isn’t makes a huge difference to colours. The brightness of the light on a photograph also changes it's colours. How do you visually interpret the results from a printed picture when there is a difference in colour between the screen and the print?


  • mvheystmvheyst Member
    edited April 2012
    I found the following info:

    Soft-Proofing Theory:

    Monitor Calibration: Theory and Practice for the Fine Arts
  • Unless you also create a custom profile for your printer and chosen paper type, you will never achieve a 100% match. Even then, the resulting prints may not look as "close" to your monitor because you are comparing two quite different mediums. There are a myriad of factors involved here, including the light source you view the print in. You can create a print that in your work station lighting looks like quite a good match, Go outside, to a different room or even the living room of one of your clients, and the print may appear "off" from a color match standpoint because the color temperature of the source lighting will indeed impact the viewers perception of the print's colors. Ideally, you are seeking a match that is "perceptually" accurate and pleasing to the eye. Which can be a never ending adventure depending upon your personal requirements and desires.
  • i like this question im, this also it seems like a great idea to calibrate ur monitor without buying a $250.00 callibrator.

    i recently tried something similar, im using a laptop, i sent about ten photos to mpix with the color correction box unchecked, when i got the prints back it wasnt totally off but the blacks were much deeper on the prints then they looked onscreen to the point of no detail in dark suits were on my laptop u can clearly c detail, i used the built in color calibration software and lowered the Gamma now it looks closer to the prints, i also lowered the greens and blues a bit b/the prints looked a bit greenish.

    i would like to try ur idea with printing out a color calibration chart though im avidly waiting for more info
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited June 2012
    This is precisely why you need to calibrate a monitor with settings realistic enough to match photographic paper, but you *do* need the device [unless buying a new NEC/Eizo with the inbuilt auto calibration even turned off with no input from you] to calibrate.

    Plucking some numbers via the screen itself just won't cut it.

    A lot of monitors have a Brightness level of 300 cd/m2 + and Contrast Ratios of up to 1000:1, ludicrously high, so to get somewhere near "paper white" you need to have the Brightness around the 90 cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of around 200-240:1 to achieve something akin to photographic paper.

    How to achieve that good contrast you cannot set per se, you need to set the Brightness Levels, the White Point and most important a mathematical equation of the Black Point which in turn all combine and then sets the Contrast.

    Here is a thread I participated heavily in, using ColorNavigator on an Eizo screen [with heaps images] showing my settings. This will help in setting your monitor no matter the hardware calibrator device used, or screen as long as it's a pretty decent one; if you can achieve something similar you will have a really great platform to work from.


    The beauty of calibration is that you can do a few profiles for various things, one being to display the 'pretty pictures' for clients in a slideshow with a vibrant backlit background [brightness level] and a contrast ratio up in the 800's to 'punch' those images, but in the real world you have a profile designated for editing the images for print.


  • mvheystmvheyst Member
    edited July 2012
    Webinar: Color Management for Soft-Proofing in Photoshop and Lightroom 4

    Datacolor Color Management Experts, David Tobie and David Saffir discuss the range of issues photographers encounter when adding calibration and profiling of displays and printers, and soft-proofing to their workflow. Useful tips for getting started will be covered, as well as helpful tools, including proofing lights, and tuning display and output profiles.
  • mvheystmvheyst Member
    edited July 2012
    Monitor calibration and Gamma assessment

    You can adjust the gamma:
    a) In the driver of the monitor / display card; or
    b) In the image file, using a program e.g. photoshop / lightroom.

    A sRGB /PC gamma value of 2.2 is "the industry standard" for printing.

    Information from photoscientia.co.uk:

    Gamma: ---------------------1.8---------------1.0

    " On the left is the image as it might appear on an un-corrected monitor.

    The centre image should look right on a monitor with a gamma of around 1.8, and lastly;

    the right-hand image is how a system with a linear response [gamma of 1.0] might display the image.

    Notice how the colour saturation and hue change with the gamma?

    What this means is that if your monitor gamma isn't set correctly, then you haven't a hope of seeing colours and tones the way that they'll appear on other people's monitors; and they won't see your images the way that you intended either. You might also have difficulty matching the output of a printer to your monitor if your system gamma is set too dark, because -
    You can't edit what you can't see! "



    " So; what gamma value should you aim for?

    My personal preference is to set a system gamma of 1.8, even though I use a PC.
    I'll explain why I made this decision, and you can choose to agree or ignore me, as you wish.

    Reason 1, and most fundamental, is that a gamma of 2.2 is just too damned dark!

    Reason 2. A gamma of 1.8 agrees fairly well with the output of most printers.

    Reason 3. The majority of graphics professionals and pre-press proofing rooms use a gamma of 1.8, and who am I to argue?

    Reason 4. Most monitors, graphics cards and associated gamma correction software can easily cope with a gamma of 1.8.
    (Try forcing a gamma of 1.0 on an old or cheap monitor, and you'll see why it's wise to stay well within the limitations of your hardware!)

    Reason 5. If you go much lighter than 1.8, then you run the risk of highlight detail becoming difficult to distinguish, and of colour matching problems.

    Reason 6. It gives Mac users one less excuse to sneer, and they do enough unwarranted sneering as it is.

    It's pretty obvious that my recommendation is to aim for a gamma value of 1.8, but you may equally want to stick to the sRGB / PC standard of 2.2, or compromise between the Mac and PC with a value of 2.0, or something else entirely.

    A compromise value of 2.0, midway between the Mac and the PC, is probably a good choice if you're preparing images solely for web publishing.

    Anyway, it's your choice, and if you find it's not working out, you can always recalibrate, or revert to your previous gamma setting. "
  • image

    Here's an example: the first image is an image that has not been gamma corrected, while the second image shows the application of proper gamma correction.
  • mvheystmvheyst Member
    edited July 2012
    Here is another interesting Highlight / Shaddow + Gamma test image for screens on a PC (Works when enlarged):


    " And how about this image – you need to move back around 3-4 feet for a CRT screen and 2-3 meters for a LCD screen (and even then you may have difficulty getting the right viewing angle!).

    If you see a band down the middle of the columns, then your gamma is not at 2.2 (best for the web and most cameras) - if you are using a LCD screen, then notice how it changes as you move your head around.

    Now looking carefully, close up, you should be able to read the numbers 248 and 252 in the top right corner of the white bar and the numbers 8 and 12 (even 4 if you have an excellent screen) near the red/green bars in the lower black horizontal bar. The background and the grey patch should be neutral grey.

    If you cannot see these numbers, then your screen is not showing shadow and highlights properly.

    Does it really matter that we are not both seeing exactly the same tones and colours? Well yes and no!
    If you are only ever going to look at your pictures on your screen, and do not mind that your the prints are slightly different - then leave things as they are. If you have a laptop, compare it with another screen (both showing the same picture). If the colour difference is small, then live with it.

    However if your prints don’t look like your screen, then the best thing to do is to adjust it. Think of the problem as the screen's White Balance. You know if the camera's White Balance is wrong then your picture comes out with a tint in it - well the same is true for screens.

    I could never get photos of people to print correctly, the faces were always too red - it was very frustrating and so I rarely printed anything and if I did, then it took me ages trying to correct them. In the Computer Related pages I show you how to adjust the screen's Gamma - and then your screen will be properly balanced. By the way if you run a Mac, then this need not apply to you, as the Mac gamma is initially set at 1.8! "

  • mvheystmvheyst Member
    edited July 2012
    Note the following practical comments regarding printed colours vs colours on the monitor:

    - Keep making prints until you get a good **subjective match** between your monitor and your test prints.

    - You can **never get a perfect match** because ***screen phosphors don't perfectly match printer pigments***.

    Pay attention to skin tones, saturation and contrast. And pay special attention to grey tones they should appear neutral grey on the print as well as the monitor.

  • mvheystmvheyst Member
    edited July 2012
    From the datacolor website, regarding the features of the Spyder4™ PRO

    " Average accuracy increased by 26% and consistency between Spyder units has improved 19%. "

    - From the above I make the assumption there isn't always consistency between different spyder units. Therefore, 2 calibratated monitors may display images different, when different spyder units were used to calibrate the monitors.

    - I assume other monitor calibration manufacturers will have the same problems regarding consistency between calibration units.

    - The question: How does the colours on calibrated monitors differ -
    a) When calibration hardware of different manufacturers are used; or
    b) When the same monitor is calibrated, using different models (e.g. Spyder 3 Elite & Spyder 4 Pro) of the same manufacturer ?
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    I would question the Gamma of 1.8 for Mac, that's a long established fallacy and the normal settings, Mac/PC is 2.2 the industry standard.

    You could search all over the net and see various opinions, and fair enough, I am one of them, but having been involved in calibration for many years, and coming from a printing/color management background, and also verifying through other color experts, you can and should be able to get your screen extremely close, if not spot on, to how your prints come back.

    Remember, it's all about the printer also, be it a Pro Lab or your own printer, they all have to have a certain profile. The Pro Labs have an industry standard they should abide to, and 99% of Pro Labs do, but your personal printer varies so vastly you need to get a specific profile built for it to accommodate of what you are seeing on a calibrated monitor.

    Try setting a Gamma of 1.8, then adjusting your prints to get a nice contrast, I will guarantee you will see a dark mess coming back from a Pro Lab, since they would run on 2.2 and you have edited to what your eyes see on a flawed calibration, in my opinion.

    I do however respect other opinions like your source, but where is he printing to, an industry standard lab or his own printer which happens to match what he wants on his screen.

    There are too many variables in printing to anything else less than a calibrated monitor and a Pro Lab not even taking into account personal printers.

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