Folks, Andrew Rodney (who is, like, one of the the Gods of color management) has entirely convinced me that printer-managed color is not superior to a really good custom profile if you're working in ProPhoto RGB color space. And, really, you should be, because most if not all digital cameras can produce colors that fall outside of Adobe RGB. In fact, converting your RAW files into ProPhoto RGB color space rather than Adobe RGB, when you open them up in Photoshop or Lightroom, reduces clipping substantially. The usable exposure and color range of your camera is increased. If you want to throw that away later, that's your choice, but clipping in the conversion process? Never a prudent course.
I have some quibbles with some of Andrew's conceptual problems, but the bottom line is that custom profiles will still win under the most demanding circumstances.
So, without further ado, here he is, speaking in his own words. Heed them well. — Ctein
by Andrew Rodney
Ctein, there are at least three conceptual problems I see using Printer Manages Color and one actual problem:
1. You're clipping all your image data into Adobe RGB (1998) . As I'm sure you're aware, both our printers (P600, 3880) exceed Adobe RGB (1998) by quite a bit (I can provide gamut maps or gamut volume values if you wish). And yes, it's clipping, there's no option for gamut compression as there's no perceptual conversion to Adobe RGB (1998), one less option. All my original data is raw, processed in the ACR color engine which does it's processing in ProPhoto RGB gamut. If you're interested, you or others can test how such a workflow, albeit with very saturated imagery found form raw, in my Gamut Test File, how and why anything but ProPhoto RGB is suboptimal for output to the devices we're talking about:
The benefits of wide gamut working spaces on printed output:
This three part, 32 minute video covers why a wide gamut RGB working space like ProPhoto RGB can produce superior quality output to print.
Part 1 discusses how the supplied Gamut Test File was created and shows two prints output to an Epson 3880 using ProPhoto RGB and sRGB, how the deficiencies of sRGB gamut affects final output quality. Part 1 discusses what to look for on your own prints in terms of better color output. It also covers Photoshop’s Assign Profile command and how wide gamut spaces mishandled produce dull or over saturated colors due to user error.
Part 2 goes into detail about how to print two versions of the properly converted Gamut Test File file in Photoshop using Photoshop’s Print command to correctly setup the test files for output. It covers the Convert to Profile command for preparing test files for output to a lab.
Part 3 goes into color theory and illustrates why a wide gamut space produces not only move vibrant and saturated color but detail and color separation compared to a small gamut working space like sRGB.
High Resolution Video: http://digitaldog.net/files/WideGamutPrintVideo.mov Low Resolution (YouTube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLlr7wpAZKs&feature=youtu.be
2. You can't soft proof. The profile used to produce the output values equally has to be used for soft proofing. So Printer Color Management restricts soft proofing. Maybe you and your readers don't soft proof? I find it critcally important, especially to produce output specific edits.
3. The Epson driver doesn't know anything about 3rd party papers, how can it? Same with Canon and other drivers. When you select Epson Luster, the driver 'assumes' you're using Epson Luster paper. So while Printer Manages Color might work kind of OK with an Epson paper, how can it know or be optimal for other papers? Do you believe that all papers considered "Luster" or "Matt" behave the same way? I can't see how using Printer Manages Color with a host of papers from 3rd party companies could work equally well or the same, can you?
Lastly, the actual problem I've seen today. The output using Printer Color Management doesn't get close to producing output that's as good as my custom profile. Hence the photo's of the prints which don't really show all the warts of this process.
Your readers should do their own testing. They should use good color reference images to do so, images that are designed to show issues with color output. You have two, one being the Granger Rainbow and I use that as well. But when testing using my wide gamut file, Bill (Atkinson's) 14 balls are excellent for uncovering color issues. The saturated images (the blanket image for example) is very useful. Of course this is outlined in the above video. It describes what to look for after one tests the document on their own printer.
I'm happy to see that at the end of the title of this article is question mark. Based on the above, I don't think that's necessary as profile are not obsolete. I suppose for those photographers who need a KISS approach and don't mind suboptimal output, using Printer Manages Color is more akin to shooting a JPEG in sRGB than shooting raw. I'm OK with that approach as long as the photographer understand the practical limitations of those choices.
Andrew Rodney (a.k.a Digital Dog)
Original contents copyright 2015 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Dave Polaschek: First, as to Photoshop vs. Lightroom, if you have set your working space to ProPhoto RGB in Photoshop, and are actually converting documents to that space, Photoshop and LR should produce nearly identical results on the Mac (LR does everything in ProPhoto RGB. Photoshop does not unless you configure it to do so). LR defaults to 16-bit printing on the Mac, whereas Photoshop does not. Otherwise, the code is nearly identical.
On Windows, LR prints using GDI+, while Photoshop prints using GDI. The output between PS and LR will NOT be identical. Both PS & LR use some features of XPS printing to communicate the color management policies to the printer driver, and should behave identically in that regard.
Finally, Photoshop saves print settings with the document, whereas LR saves them in the application preferences.
When I've spoken with Ctein about "Printer Manages Color", I haven't specifically recommended using Epson's color management or ColorSync. I'm pretty sure it just didn't come up. I strongly recommend trying both and using what works better for you.
[Ctein interjects: Colorsync works far worse. It introduces weird artifacts. Epson color is the way to go if you're doing printer-managed color.]
Note that if you are using non-Epson paper in an Epson printer, you can't use "Printer Manages Color" and expect optimal results. But compared to the voodoo most users go through, I still recommend most people use "Printer Manages Color" and pick the closest paper available. It won't be optimal, but it will be good results with a minimum of hassle and no danger of double-color-management or generating a bad profile because the color target was printed incorrectly in the first place, or any of a couple dozen errors people make when attempting to build their own color profiles. This stuff is hard to get right.
Picking "Printer Manages Colors" on Windows guarantees that your color data will be converted to sRGB. We could adopt XPS printing to get around that, but there are many new and exciting bugs waiting to be found by the first application to head down that path.
On Mac, Picking "Vendor Color Management" and "Adobe RGB" does not mean the color data will automatically be converted to Adobe RGB. It means that untagged color data will be treated as Adobe RGB. When I last discussed this with the Apple printing engineers, I got a long explanation of when color conversions will happen, and the printer driver gets a chance to say to the OS "Yes, I can use color data in that color space" or "No, please convert that color data to XXXXX profile for me" (where XXXXX is the default profile for the printer, which you can set in ColorSync Utility.app).
When using "Printer Manages Colors" on Mac OS X, with a printer driver that says "Yes, send the color data as-is" when asked about what the application is offering to print, that data will be passed to the driver without conversion. I've done this with CIELAB data. I don't believe Epson's drivers will accept CIELAB, but when last I investigated (when the x900 printers shipped), they would accept ProPhoto RGB when using "Printer Manages Colors." There was only one conversion of the color data to the printer's final profile, and that was done by the driver.
All else being equal, fewer conversions between color spaces is preferable.
I still think using "Photoshop Manages Colors" is preferable if you take the time to construct an optimal profile, have a challenging document to print, and can manage to do everything correctly. But the results from using "Printer Manages Colors," especially if you are using papers supported by your printer vendor, are extremely close to optimal, and most users should at least give that a try and look at the results before investing in the hardware needed, plus the time needed to build a good color profile.