Digital Prints Don't Match Screen (Too Dark)

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by SuperSpiker, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. SuperSpiker macrumors member

    Sep 20, 2008
    I've been trying to get my prints to match my screen. The problem is the prints are consistently coming out too dark.

    I shoot RAW and the file for print is converted and exported to an sRGB 8-bit JPG. Yes, I have calibrated my monitor using the Spyder3 Elite, 2.2, D65. I'm also using the correct printer ICC profile (for soft proofing) while making sure not to double profile with photoshop. In other words the printer isn't managing the color, Photoshop is.

    After doing all this my prints are still coming out dark.

    After extensively researching Google, forums and buying a few books on color management I'm still no closer to solving the problem. One proposed solution I came across suggested to brighten the image by a stop or two. Doing this will make the image on the screen look terrible but the print would theoretically now match the screen. I can't imagine this is a method that (pro) photographers use and I'm not too keen on playing these kinds of guessing games.

    Another idea I have floating around in my head is that my monitor is too bright. If this is the case how am I supposed to know where to set the brightness level especially since my monitor doesn't have an OSD which would tell me what brightness setting the monitor is currently using. Calibration is for colors, not for setting the brightness level. Is there a standard brightness level I should be using? If so how do I go about setting it?

    Thanks for any suggestions.
  2. joelypolly macrumors 6502

    Sep 14, 2003
    Melbourne & Shanghai
    Gamma? I know SL uses a different gamma setting compared to leopard.
    You might want to just try printing the colour scales and recalibrating your printer?
  3. Padaung macrumors 6502


    Jan 22, 2007
    I would suggest you need to profile your printer as well. The colour profiling you have done so far is only for your monitor, right?

    Images coming in from a digital camera have a profile attached, you profile the monitor so it knows how to represent that data (all monitors will display the info differently to each other otherwise) and the same needs to be done with printers if you wish for consistent, accurate results. Pro labs do this with all their chemical and inkjet printers and you can do it at home too with more advanced versions of the monitor profiler you have. For example:

    Hope this helps.
  4. covisio macrumors 6502


    Aug 22, 2007
    You say you're using the correct profile for soft proofing, but what profile are you choosing when you actually print?
    In the print dialogue, your document profile should be that which came off the camera (i.e. sRGB or Adobe RGB depending on what profile it uses), the printer profile should be your printer profile (obviously) but make sure you are choosing the correct profile for the paper you're outputting on.
    Screenshot attached.

    Attached Files:

  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Brightness isn't it. If you were to turn up the brightness then you'd just make the black areas grey.

    Maybe you are applying a color profile. In Photoshop, you can specify if the printer profile is to be done in PS or the printer driver. It needs to be done in exactly ONE place. Not zero or two. Having it doone twice is a common error
  6. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
  7. Leafminer macrumors newbie

    Feb 4, 2008
    Apple displays are cranked up way too bright for accurate print matching. Actually I find the luminance should be set around 90-110 to get a better display to print match. Hopefully your Spyder will give you feedback on the luminance setting. This is more than likely your issue.

    It will take awhile to get used to seeing a darker screen since you have been looking at it being so bright - but turn it down, walk away for awhile, and coming back will help.

  8. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Jun 9, 2009
    Yeah I'm with the brightness too. I believe that the highest end displays like Eizo are recommended to be set and calibrated to 80cd/m^2. I used to run at 120 but read some places that said even that was too high. Just recently I dropped down to 90 but the difference between 90 and 120 I have found to be very subtle

    your calibration software should be able to measure/handle brightness? I know when I use my i1 display2 you can tell it the target brightness and one of the calibration steps is it shows a continuous readout of the screen brightness and you adjust your monitor brightness until it is right.

    Finally you also should keep in mind that a printed photo is a reflective medium whereas a screen is an emmisive image. Calibration helps to even things out but you will never truly be able to totally match the appearance of a reflected light medium from an emissive display. Once you have a good workflow and consistent calibration set up you will also get a feel for how an image will print given what it looks like on the screen.

  9. covisio macrumors 6502


    Aug 22, 2007
    I wouldn't just assume the screen calibration is incorrect - it could be, but equally your workflow could be at fault (i.e. the wrong method of output), or your printer and/or printer profile could be either underperforming or simply not very good.

    Changing screen profile does not change how an image is printed. Screen profile has no effect on how something is output. Your screen profile is only there to interpret the image as provided and show as true a reflection of the file as possible. It is there to help you make decisions when retouching and when doing the RAW conversion. It is also there, when used in conjunction the the 'Proof Colors' preview, to give you an approximate idea of what your file will look like when printed on your output device, so that you can adjust the image if you feel it's necessary.

    You said in your original post 'My prints are coming out too dark'. Try to ascertain whether you trust your screen or not: does it display colors and tones in a natural way. Are you happy with the way it represents the images that you remember taking? Is it too bright, oversaturated, or just wrong?

    If not, then you need to forget screen profile and move on to workflow. Look at your printer profile - is it correct for both printer and paper? Are you using the manufacturers specified inks and paper? Are you choosing the correct paper type in the printer driver?
  10. Leafminer macrumors newbie

    Feb 4, 2008
    Not in a direct way, but a screen that is overly bright may prevent lightening images that need it applied. All of your adjustments end up being out of wack. So it is a very real possibility (and also a common occurrence for this particular issue) that the screen is adjusted too bright.
  11. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    Look no further, this person was right.

    The hard thing is, 80cd/m2 is very difficult to get used to when all Apple (and everyone else) keeps shouting is "and our new displays are 20% brighter than before!" - brightness is a selling point. Basically 80cd/m2 is the optimum luminance for photo printing, and sub-optimum for everything else. :)

    I work at 100, simply because I find 80 too dark for all my non-photo work, plus I don't print all that many photos (so I know people will see mine on a big bright non-calibrated display). But when you're used to the new bright displays that are at 150 or even 200, trying to work at the "proper" luminance is not a straightforward adjustment to make.
  12. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

    Mar 10, 2005
    What does your histogram look like? If it's pushed into the left side, that is one reason why your image is dark.

    Also, you mentioned brightening an image so it more accurately reflects your screen. This is a common method, and yes, even pros do it. A "print curve" is what we call them. When an image looks good on screen but is printing a shade dark, add a curve and pull the midtones up ever so slightly. Blend with luminosity.

    And yes, most people here are correct. Your screen is probably too bright. Also keep in mind that your prints will never exactly match your screen because of additive vs subtractive color, but also because the paper you print on can be a multitude of shades and textures. These variables also affect the look of your final printed image.
  13. mlblacy macrumors 6502

    Sep 23, 2006
    the REAL Jersey Shore
    monitor is indeed likely too bright...

    Actually calibration ideally has as much to do with color balance as it does with brightness. For example, on my 24" iMac, the brightness is turned all the way down (you can do this from your keyboard using the F1 & F2 keys, which control brightness, f1 dims BTW). On my previous G4 tower, my apple studio monitor was dimmed down all the way as well. I know my system is calibrated accurately as I work in magazine print production, and the proofs always match what is on my screen.

    Printer calibration is a nightmare mostly. And some printers are easier to produce accurate output than others (brandwise). Also, the paper you print on also can have a huge effect. My advice would be to always limit the variables, and use the same papers, and get a feel for how the ink lays. You can make subtle changes (in inking) to tweak your settings for each paper you use. Also, stay away from third-party inks & remanufactured stuff. Ink is indeed outrageous, but don't create add'l problems for yourself (at least until you can get the output matching issue solved). I mostly use Epson papers on my Epson printer, and Canon papers for my Canon.

    On my higher end Epson tabloid printer I spent ages trying to "calibrate" the output. You know what worked? (after my screen was accurately calibrated at least) Printing from within Photoshop, and NOT just command/P, instead select "print from preview". Also, make sure you go through the sub-menu options, especially the media/paper selection, as the default I think is for "plain paper". My Canon Pixma printer is 99% deadbang on, as compared to my screen (which is funny as the printer was a lot cheaper than my Epson). My Epson is pretty close, although if I am printing on a special paper like high rag content Seagull, I make a few tweaks to the printing selections (also under the "print from preview" menu).

    I would NOT alter your image as a first choice at all! You will be throwing away tonal information, that may not be able to be recovered (unless you are working in Aperture, or something else with a non-destructive workflow). The first rule in imaging, like medicine, is to do "no harm". You need to bring your monitor into a more accurate calibration, which involves reducing down the color gamut into something that can actually be reproduced with the limitations of ink & paper.

    Lastly, sometimes some printers print more accurately with a CMYK file, as opposed to a RGB one. The color gamut of CMYK is reduced as compared to a RGB one. Unless you are working in print production, I would recommend to keep your files in RGB.


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