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Color Management Questions | Why are my Prints too Dark?


by Brenda K. Hipsher – May 28th, 2011

A blog reader named Andre asked a question this week. If I color manage my monitor and my printer why are my prints still too dark? Of course each situation is specific and it’s difficult to diagnose each particular working environment.  But there are three major points that can produce this phenomenon.  And it’s not uncommon for all of them to occur in the same situation.

In general if your prints are too dark then your monitor is too bright.  As I said this is a generalized and broad statement so your results may vary.  But here’s the very over simplified concept… if my monitor is too bright then I’ll be darkening my file so that it looks good on the screen. If the luminance is set to too high a level, even using a color management solution, then we are over darkening our file to make it look good on the screen therefore it’s dark when it comes out of the printer!   The simple solution is – reduce the luminance setting in the software you are using and use the software to adjust the brightness on your monitor.  For instance if you’ve been using 120 try reducing to 100.  If you’re still a little dark you might adjust further to 90 or even 80.   Setting the luminance target below 80 is generally not recommended.  Now keep in mind that your monitor will not be a bright “sexy” looking at a dimmer setting.  The point is to view the file in the more accurate way possible.  Remember that setting the luminance in the software is part 1 and adjusting your display brightness to match what the software is asking you is part 2.

Read another blog on this topic – CLICK HERE.

The second possibility that comes to mind is having your software preferences set to produce v4 profiles for printing.  This newer profile protocol can sometimes be in conflict with one or more software programs, your hardware itself, or even the operating system you’re using. For greater compatibility change your preference settings in your color management software to v2 profiles for printing.  If there is a conflict you’ll see a big difference when you reprofile your printer using v2 instead of v4. There are several articles in the support section at www.xritephoto.com when you search “dark prints.”  Click on the link here to see the search results for “dark prints.” CLICK HERE

Lastly be sure you’re viewing the print in well illuminated environment using a light source with a high CRI (color rendering index)  to evaluate the result. There’s no substitute for a good viewing light. Note that we generally make printer profiles to a specification of D50 or 5000K.  The ideal viewing conditions to evaluate a print made with that setting would be a 5000k with a high CRI.  While a viewing booth may be out of reach for some of us, many professionals use these great tools to evaluate their printed work everyday.  Here are links to a couple of articles on the topic to get you started:

“Why are Viewing Conditions Important?” by Brian Ashe

“Evaluate Prints Under the Right Lights” by Timothy Edberg

As I said at the beginning it’s impossible to diagnose a particular issue here on the blog. Consider these possibilities and as always make certain you have color management turned off in your print driver.  Sometimes the easiest answer is the right answer.  Start with the basics and work with each possibility one at a time to isolate the problem. Remember that transmissive light from the monitor and reflected light from the print will always be slightly different do each individual eye but generally you should be getting a good screen to print match when properly using color management solutions by X-Rite. For specific assistance contact cmsupport@xrite.com.

We’ve got lots more webinars, news, Coloratti news, and MORE coming up in June so be sure to keep reading the blog here.  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss a thing!


Categories: Profiles, Viewing, Vision | Tags: , ,

5 responses to “Color Management Questions | Why are my Prints too Dark?”

  1. Our fellow Coloratti Andrew Rodney has written a great article about this matter.


    So anyone having problems with their prints can have a good read of this article and get most questions answered.

    Best regards,
    Ratko Asanoovic

  2. Aloof says:

    Cheers guys for providing some more info on the topic!

  3. Andre says:

    Cheers guys, any info on the topic is helpful, since there are many people with that problem starting with Color Managment!

  4. You are most welcome Brenda!

    Besides soon when I get appropriate hardware I will start making and producing some in depth video series about Color Management. So I will start explaining from basic understanding, up to real world appliance and advanced things regarding Color Management. I will also cover use of some X-Rite gems like ColorMunki Photo, i1 Xtreme… And what is great about it is that video series will be free for anyone.

    Best regards,
    Ratko Asanovic

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