Preparing to Print Professionally

When you are sending your files for full-service printing, you should take a few minutes to prepare your image and make sure you’ll get the results you want. Proof the image (See our proofing article here), make any changes, and then duplicate and flatten the image so that others can’t accidentally tweak layers and settings.

Follow these steps for the best results:

1. Find out what device your image will be printed to, and obtain the appropriate device profile.

2. Soft proof the image.

3. Make any changes to ensure you’ll get the results you want. Use non-destructive techniques, such as adjustment layers, so you can modify the image differently for another purpose later.

4. Save a copy of the file to a folder that names the print service – or includes the print service name in the filename so you’ll remember later.

5. Choose Image > Duplicate.

6. Select Duplicate Merged Layers Only, and click OK.

NOTE: If the bottom layer was called Background, Photoshop automatically flattens the file. If the bottom layer wasn’t Background, choose Flatten Image from the Layers panel menu to flatten the layer.

7. Choose Edit > Convert to Profile

8. In the Convert to Profile dialog box, choose the destination profile for the device you’ll be printing to. Then click OK.

9. Choose File > Save. Save the image in the format the service provider recommended, such as PDF or TIFF. Select Embed Color Profile, and select the maximum quality possible.


Proofing Your Image for Print

When you’re printing an image, surprises are unwelcome and can be quite expensive. To anticipate any changes that might occur when you print, identify and correct out-of-gamut colors, and then preview the final results onscreen (called soft proofing)

Setting up color management

Your monitor displays colors in RGB, but professional printing usually uses CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) inks, also called process inks. However, the RGB and CMYK color models both reproduce different gamuts, or ranges of colors. For example, you can produce neon colors in RBG, but not in CMYK; you can reproduce some pastels in CMYK, but not in RGB. Of course, pure black is also easier to represent with CMYK than with RGB, because CMYK includes a black ink.

The difference between RGB and CMYK gamuts is tricky enough. But the story gets more complicated because each monitor and printer model supports a slightly different gamut. So, to get the color you expect, it’s important to use a color profile for your particular device that accurately defines the gamut it can reproduce.

Color management in Photoshop uses color profiles to convert colors from one color space to another. You select the color profiles for your devices to accurately proof and print your images. Photoshop can embed those profiles into your image files, so that Photoshop and other applications can accurately manage color as you work with the image.

Remember, though, that the color profile is only as good as the data it contains. Monitor displays can vary subtly, even within models, and they can change over time. To obtain accurate results from color management, calibrate your monitor and create a profile that captures the gamut of your monitor at that moment in time. For help calibrating your monitor check out our post here.

By default, Photoshop is set up for RGB as part of a digital workflow. If you’re preparing artwork for print, however, change the settings to be more appropriate for printing.

To set up color management:

1. Choose Edit > Color Settings

2. In the Color Settings dialog box, choose a preset from the Settings menu to select the appropriate working spaces and color-management policy options. North American PrePress 2, for example, uses settings for a typical prepress workflow. If you have custom profiles, select them in the Working Spaces area.

Color Settings Menu
Color Settings Menu

TIP If you don’t understand an option in the Color Setting dialog box, move the cursor over it and read the description at the bottom of the dialog box.

Soft proofing

To soft-proof an image, you need to set up a proof profile. The proof profile (also called a proof setup) defines how the document will be printed and adjusts its appearance onscreen to match.

To create a proof profile:

1. Choose View > Proof Setup > Custom

Customize Proof Condition Menu
Customize Proof Condition Menu

2. In the Customize Proof Condition dialog box, select preview.

3. From the Device to Simulate menu, choose a profile for your final output device. If you’re sending the image out to be printed, obtain a profile from your print service provider.

4. Deselect Preserve Numbers, if it’s selected. The Preserve Numbers option displays colors without converting them to the output device color space.

5. From the Rendering Intent menu, choose Relative Colorimetric.

A rending intend determines how the color management system makes the conversion from one color space to another. The standard rendering intent for printing in North America and Europe is Relative Colorimetric, which preserves the color relationships with sacrificing color accuracy.

6. If it’s available for your chosen profile, select Simulate Paper Color, which automatically selects Simulate Black Ink as well.

When you simulate paper color, Photoshop simulates the dingy white or real paper, according to the proof profile. When you simulate black ink, Photoshop simulates the dark gray that actually prints to most printers, instead of solid black.

7. Click OK.

When you set up a custom proof profile with Preview selected, it automatically displays the image with the proof profile. To toggle the proof profile, choose View > Proof Colors, or press Ctrl+V (Windows) or Command+Y (Mac OS).

Identifying out-of gamut colors

RGB images often contain some colors that are outside the CMYK gamut, so it’s a good idea to identify those colors before printing. That way, you can make changes to the image that are acceptable to you, instead of trusting the conversion to make the appropriate changes.

To view out-of-gamut colors, choose View > Gamut Warning. Photoshop displays a neutral gray in the image window where the colors are out of gamut.

TIP: To make the out-of-gamut display more visible, you can change its color by choosing Edit > Preferences > Transparency and Gamut or Photoshop > Preferences > Transparency and Gamut, and then selecting a color in the Gamut Warning area.

To correct out-of gamut areas, make temporary changes while Proof Colors is selected. Make the changes non-destructively, so that you aren’t affecting the underlying image. Often, using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer is a good choice, because you can target a specific color range. To edit a specific portion of the tonal range using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, select a color group from the pop-up menu (for example, Reds), and then drag the sliders at the bottom of the panel to include a very small portion of the spectrum. You can also drag the targeted adjustment tool to modify specific areas.

TIP: Name the adjustment layer for the device you’re printing to, so you’ll remember to use it again if you print to the same device later – or to hide it if you target a different device.

Printing a hard proof

If you want to hold the proof in your hand, rather than trust your monitor, you can print a hard proof. Your print service provider may print one, calling it a proof print or a match print. A hard proof is printed to a device that’s less expensive than a printing press, but for an accurate hard proof, make sure you’re printing to a device that can support high-resolution printing.

To print a hard proof:

1. Choose View > Proof Setup > Custom

2. From the Device to Simulate menu, select the final output printer (not the device to which you’re printing the hard proof). Click OK

TIP: If you want to use your custom proof setup again later, click Save to save it. It will appear in the View > Proof submenu after you save it.

3. Choose File > Print.

4. Choose Color Management from the pop-up menu on the right side of the dialog box.

5. Select Proof. The profile that appears next to it matches the one you selected in the proof setup.

6. From the Color Handing menu, choose Photoshop Manages Colors.

7. From the Printer Profile menu, select the profile for the device you’re actually printing to.

8. Click the Print Settings button.

9. In the Print dialog box that appears, access the printer driver options, and turn off color management for the printer so that the printer profile settings don’t override your profile settings.

NOTE: Printer drivers have different color management options. You may need to consult your printer documentation to determine how to turn off color management.

10. Click Print.