Brightening for Print


Today’s Question: I have a question for you about brightening pictures for print. I’ve heard some people like to brighten prints 1/2 a stop or so to try to match brightness on the screen. Is it safe to assume that since my monitor has been calibrated per your recommendations that it isn’t necessary to push brightness further? This would be to avoid a guessing game with brightness. Do you ever brighten images before they go to the printer?

Tim’s Quick Answer: In some cases it can be necessary to brighten an image before printing, even when you’ve made adjustments to the image based on a calibrated and profiled monitor display. This is often due to an issue of shadow detail being lost based on limitations of a specific printer, ink, and paper combination.

More Detail: Even with a proper color-managed workflow, you may find that a print appears a bit too dark. Very often I find that the issue isn’t actually that the print is too dark, but rather that the shadows are blocked up, causing the print to appear too dark.

By brightening the image up just a little bit, you can compensate for the limitation of the specific printer, ink, and paper combination being used to print the image. Before applying that brightening, however, I strongly recommend testing your output conditions so you can apply exactly the amount of compensation necessary.

I created a printer tonal range target image for exactly this purpose, so you can test your printer configuration and determine the appropriate amount of brightening that is necessary to compensate for lost shadow detail. You can read about the process involved, and download the printer tonal range target image I created, on the GreyLearning blog here: