Ever Wonder Why Your Prints Don’t Match What You See On Screen?

computer and printer

This is the age-old question for all photographers, graphic designers, or anyone who hasn’t taken the time to do a little research on color management.

“But I set up my computer and printer and they worked fine. I didn’t have this problem until just now.” I hear this all the time. When a photographer tells me that he/she hasn’t had a problem with color, and I know they are not color managing their computer system, my response is usually, “just wait”.

Here are three easy things that you can do that will help prevent this problem… 

1) Calibrate and profile your display on a regular basis. The importance of this cannot be understated and is critical for anyone who cares about color matching. If your prints are not matching what you see on your computer display, this is probably why. The best way to do this is with a hardware device that you hang in front of your display. I use X-Rite products for my displays and printers and they do an incredible job. It’s a little bit of an investment, but you will make it back by no longer wasting ink and paper on bad prints.

2) If you are using an inkjet printer, make sure that the heads are clean and functioning properly. So often a quick head cleaning can make a big difference. Check your printers manual and learn how to run this process.

3) Evaluate your viewing conditions for both your display and your prints. Don’t put your display where it is affected by ambient light like direct sunlight or a lamp. Make the room you are working in slightly dark. When you are sizing up a print, your perception of its color will be confused by the color of the light under which you are looking at it. Don’t hold your print under a tungsten lamp or fluorescent light to evaluate it. Instead walk over to a window and look at your print under standard daylight. This will show the color in your print much more accurately.

For more details on color management for photographers, check out my book,

Book cover: The Photographers Guide to Color Management

The Photographer’s Guide to Color Management.


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One Comment

  1. Posted August 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm by Brian Krecik | Permalink

    A wonderful read Phil.We just covered color management last semester and it was a welcome revisit. I used to help manage a department of print, web, and television at Indiana University and have learned a whole slew of important concepts and ideas that simply are important when looking to replicate in print what our eyes see both through the camera and on our monitors. Thanks for sharing, I am looking forward to future articles.

    Brian Krecik

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