Soft Proofing for Better Screen to Print Match

One of the most talked about issues in color management once folks are calibrating and profiling their monitors and properly using paper profiles for output is the issue of “soft proofing.”  This term really is what it sounds like… proofing what the hard copy will look like without actually making a print.  How in the world do you do that you ask? Well that’s the proverbial $64,000 question.

The basic work flow is very simple.

1. You MUST start with a have a calibrated and profiled monitor.

This is really non-negotiable. If you don’t have a calibrated and profiled monitor you’re just guessing if what you’re seeing bears any resemblance to the colors that are actually captured in the file.

2. Know the printer profile you plan to use.

You’ll be looking at a representation of what your file will look like printed using the printer, ink, and paper you’ll actually be using to print the hard copy photo.  So you will need to determine what printer profile you will be using to print the image.

3. Apply the profile and evaluate.

The differences you will see are a result of colors that are “out of gamut” for the printer, paper, and ink combination you are using. If you have few colors that cannot be printed then you will likely see no change at all when you apply the soft proof profile. If you have lots of colors that cannot be reproduced the soft proof image might look quite different to the image you were just previously viewing.

Soft ProofingThe steps to  view the soft proofed image in Photoshop are quite easy.  First choose “View” from the top menu and select “Custom.”

Soft Proofing

Locate the drop down menu for “Device to simulate” and choose the printer profile you plan to use. Be sure “Preview” is checked to the soft proofed image will be displayed. Later you’ll be able to toggle the soft proof view on and off to evaluate what kind of difference there might be.

Soft ProofHere I’m selecting the profile for ILFORD GALERIE Gold Fibre Silk for my Epson 4800 printer.

Soft proofing and what to do when you do find a substantial difference is the source of lots of good articles and blogs. I’ve collected some here for you to do some further reading.

An article called “Understanding Soft Proofing” on Luminous Landscape gives a good overview of the process. This article gives you a nice workflow for easily and quickly editing an image for better output.

“Soft Proofing Photos and Prints” on gives some interesting graphs to help understand what is happening in the process.

Our good friend John Paul Caponigro helps demystify the process in his article “Softproofing” on his blog. If you’re not signed up for his newsletters you’ll want to do that. He has a wealth of information and education on his website that he just gives away if you just register.

One major edition to Adobe’s Lightroom 4 is the ability to softproof.  Here’s a video by Adobe Evangelist Julieanne Kost.

Try it out for yourself. Soft proofing can help you decide what paper, ink, and printer to use for the best results on a given image and/or give you an opportunity to further refine the image edits so you can get a closer screen to print match the first time saving you time and money.

Learn more about ILFORD GALERIE Prestige inkjet photo papers for digital photographers. Download profiles from the website or create your own custom paper profiles. Calibrate and profile your monitor. And use a professional workflow so you control the outcome and get the quality results you deserve for your images.

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