Photo Tip #52 - Problems w/ Digital Printing

Photo Tips on how to calibrate your monitor graphic

Although digital printing has gotten cheaper and easier to access, it's still as hard as ever to get good results. Among the common complaints is that the colors and contrast that you see on your home monitor

does not look like the prints you receive. This post will help you understand the problems associated with digital printing and the potential solutions.

The first and most serious problem with digital printing is that the vast majority of monitors are not calibrated. How do you know if your monitor is calibrated? If you don't know right off the bat, then you don't have one. Most calibration systems are external devices that you need to attach to the monitor (like the ones below). As a result, what one monitor shows may vary dramatically from another. For instance, compare the same image on your home monitor and the one on your camera. It is highly likely that the two do not look alike. As your camera is not and cannot be calibrated, you never really know what you are getting. If you don't have a calibrated system and the printer (that is the service provider you have sent your files to) does, you will also not know what they are looking at and vice versa.

In order to get more accurate printing results, you need to closed the loop. You'll have to calibrate your monitor and get a profile from the service provider. In this way you can more accurately see what they are seeing. Otherwise any adjustments you make are basically useless.

If you are printing at home, it is possible to get a profile for your home printer. However you'll still need a calibrated monitor. If you do not have a calibration system, you can make a test print and adjust your monitor to look like the print. Note that as the ink runs low or if you change the ink cartridge, you will need to make new adjustments.