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Softproof in Lightroom


by Aimee Baldridge – May 8th, 2013

Calibrating your monitor is an essential first step toward controlling color, but to complete the process when you’re printing, you need to see an accurate preview of what your image will look like when reproduced by the specific paper and ink combination you’re using. Photographers who use Lightroom to process their images can softproof right in the program to see a simulation of the print on-screen and make final adjustments.

Here’s how to softproof in Lightroom:

1. Open your image and go to the Develop module. The image Lightroom displays there will be using the profile you created when you profiled your monitor.


Image open in the Develop module.


2. Check the Soft Proofing checkbox below your image. Now you’re in softproofing mode and can select options that will show you what your image looks like when reproduced by other color profiles, such as the one used by the printer/paper combination you’ve chosen for the image.

The Soft Proofing box checked (circled in red). The Soft Proofing settings appear in the upper right corner.

3. Select the printer/paper combination you’re going to use in the Profile menu below the Soft Proofing histogram. If you don’t see it as an option in the dropdown menu, click Other to open up a full list of profile options. If you have installed your printer driver and the ICC profiles that come along with it, the option you want should be on the list. If it isn’t, make sure your printer is installed. If it is and you still don’t see the printer/paper combination you want, you may need to obtain an ICC profile from the paper manufacturer to install. If you want to softproof to see how the image will look on a display with a different profile, check the Include Display Profiles box to view the options.


A printer/paper combination selected in the Profile menu.


The full list of profile options that opens when you click Other in the Profile menu.

4. Check the Simulate Paper & Ink box below the Soft Proofing histogram. Inkjet papers are generally not pure white, and black inks are not pure black. Applying this setting to your softproof will allow Lightroom to show you the effect of your paper and black ink colors on the final print.


The Simulate Paper & Ink check box adjusts the softproof for paper bases and black inks that aren’t pure white and black.

5. Turn on the Monitor Gamut Warning by clicking the icon in the upper left corner of the Soft Proofing histogram display, and turn on the Destination Gamut Warning by clicking the icon in the upper right corner. The Monitor Gamut Warning will highlight the colors that fall outside of your monitor’s color gamut in bright blue. The Destination Gamut Warning will apply bright vermilion highlights to the colors that fall outside of the color gamut of your printer, paper, and ink set combination. Colors that fall outside of both the monitor and printer/paper gamuts will be highlighted in bright pink. The colors that are highlighted cannot be identically reproduced by the monitor or printer/paper combination, so your color management system will attempt to come close.


Turning the Show Monitor Gamut Warning setting on by clicking the monitor icon highlights colors that fall outside of your monitor profile’s gamut in bright blue. Notice the bright blue areas near the bottom of the image above.


Turning the Show Destination Gamut Warning setting on by clicking the page icon highlights colors that fall outside of your printer/paper profile’s gamut in bright vermilion. Notice the bright vermilion areas near the bottom of the image above.


6. Select a rendering intent. The rendering intent you choose determines which method will be used to translate the color information in your image file into color information that your printer can use, given the limitations of its color gamut. Lightroom gives you two choices of rendering intent: Perceptual and Relative. Perceptual is often the best choice, because it preserves the way colors look in relation to each other in order to create a print that retains the overall look of the image file you see on your monitor. Relative rendering intent generally reproduces in-gamut colors faithfully while coming as close as possible to reproducing out-of-gamut colors. This approach replicates more of the original colors precisely but can change the way colors look in relation to each other, altering the overall look of the image. Softproof with both Perceptual and Relative to see which result looks best for your image.


You can select a perceptual or relative rendering intent.


On the left, the Perceptual rendering intent setting is applied, and on the left the Relative setting is applied. There is a visible but subtle difference in the way the colors are rendered.


7. Create a Virtual Copy of your softproofed image. Lightroom may ask you if you want to do this when you begin making adjustments to the image. If it does, say yes. If you’d like to save a virtual copy without being prompted, click the Create Proof Copy button below the Soft Proofing histogram or right-click on the image and select Create Virtual Copy. This option allows you to save all of the adjustments you’ll make to a softproof for a particular printer/paper combination instead of to the original image. That way, you can fine-tune softproofs of a single image for multiple output profiles. If you do want to save your adjustments to the original image, Lightroom gives you the option of selecting Make This a Proof.

When you click the button circled in red, Lightroom asks you if you want to create a virtual copy of your softproof.


8. Make adjustments. Use the tools available in the Develop module to fine-tune the look of your image in the softproof so that your print will look just as you want it to. For reference, you can click the Before/After view icon below the image to compare the image displayed with your monitor profile to the softproof of your image with your printer/paper profile applied. You can also change the image background color by right-clicking on the background and selecting an option from the menu that appears. This can be especially helpful if you will be matting and framing your print and want to simulate the color of the mat.


Clicking the Before/After view icon (circled in red) allows you to compare your softproof to the original image.


Right-click on the background to select a different background tone.


9. Print your image. Hurray!


Categories: How-To | Tags: , , , ,

11 responses to “Softproof in Lightroom”

  1. Joan says:

    I print my photos through Costco. I have downloaded their ICC profiles for the two stores I use for printing. Do I need to look at my photos in Softproof mode to get an accurate rendition, and is the paper and printer they use included in the profile?

    I get a litle confused, especially since I’m not printing at home and have no control over the printer or paper that is used.

    • Brenda K. Hipsher says:

      Yep that’s right. Use the ICC profiles that you obtained from your lab to soft proof your images and “tweak” them for the maximum match to their print output. This all assumes, of course, that your monitor is calibrated and profiled. Unless you’re going that, nothing else matters.
      Thanks for your question.
      Brenda K. Hipsher

  2. This was a fantastic blog on info I did not know.

  3. Joe Wise says:

    Monitor and Destination Gamut. It is unclear to me the best way to use this information and which sliders in LR to use. Since we are dealing with colors here, should we go to the HSL/Color/B&W panel? And wouldn’t the Perceptual/Relative intent solve the issue anyway?

    • Brenda K. Hipsher says:

      The monitor gamut is just that the monitor gamut. The destination gamut is the paper profile for the paper, ink, and paper combination you will use to print your image. The rendering intent simply determines how out of gamut colors are moved into a particular color space. While you might see that a bit more accurately in the soft proof, other changes you are able to make to “tweak” the image go beyond the difference the rendering intent will make. All of your controls in LR are at your disposal to use in modifying the image you are soft proofing preparing it for print.
      Thanks so much for your question.
      Brenda K. Hipsher

  4. TMC says:

    I just want to be totally sure, but after making any adjustments to the proof copy, I would then make the print from it rather than the original. Correct? Sorry but I am totally new at this.

    • Brenda K. Hipsher says:

      Yes that is correct. You want your print to reflect the changes you made based on the soft proof.
      Thanks for your question!
      Brenda K. Hipsher

  5. EJ says:

    Thank you for this! I am trying to follow along. I have LR 4.4. I do not see a Soft Proof button at the bottom of the image in the Develop module (only from the drop down menu I can select it), and I do not have a before/after button as you show in your example to compare the image with its soft proof. What am I doing wrong? Thanks so much for your help!


    • Brenda K. Hipsher says:

      Go to the lower right corner of the image and click the down arrow. If Soft Proofing isn’t checked in the list that pops up, the checkbox won’t show up below the image. Same with the Before/After. The View Modes item needs to be checked in that list.
      Let us know if this works for you.
      Brenda K. Hipsher

  6. Felix says:

    These tips are really helpful. I just started doing some client proofing using Lightroom through http://www.Format.com, which I’m so happy they added, and this will help immensely. It seems like there’s so many opportunities with this and I’m excited to use all the features.

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