Managing Color for Prints


Today’s Question: I have a question about printing from Lightroom Classic. I get more consistent good results using color management “Managed by Printer” versus using ICC profiles for specific paper/printer combinations. Should I just stick with this since it’s “working”, or could I get even better results figuring out why the ICC profiles don’t work as well?

Tim’s Quick Answer: Ultimately you can use either approach to color management that provides great prints. The use of ICC profiles should enable the most accurate results, but if you’re not finding that to be the case then using the printer controls is a reasonable workaround.

More Detail: Generally speaking, you’ll produce the most accurate prints by obtaining (or creating) a custom ICC profile for the specific printer, ink, and paper combination you’ll be using to print a photo. There are tools available for building your own profiles, but you can also generally get good ICC profiles through the website of the manufacturer of the paper you’re using. When using an ICC profile, you need to disable color management with the printer driver to avoid a situation where color compensations are being applied twice, resulting in inaccurate color.

If you use a custom ICC profile and don’t get accurate results, it is worth confirming that all your workflow settings are correct. For example, be sure that your monitor display is properly calibrated, that the ink nozzles on your printer aren’t clogged, that you’re using the correct profile and settings within Lightroom Classic, and that you’ve disabled color management in the printer driver.

If you’re not able to get good results using an ICC profile, you can instead set Lightroom Classic to “Managed by Printer”. You will then need to configure the optimal settings in the printer driver to ensure an accurate print. In most cases you’ll also find that the printer driver includes custom adjustment controls so you can compensate for a print that isn’t completely accurate. Generally speaking, those same settings will then work well for any photo printed with the same printer, ink, and paper combination, so once you’ve found good settings your workflow will still be relatively streamlined.

Ultimately, if you’re able to achieve good prints without difficulty, then I’d say the workflow you’re using is working. I prefer that a color-managed workflow for printing involve a custom ICC profile, but what matters most is a print you’re happy with.

You can learn more about color management in my video course called “Color Management for Photographers”, which you can get for half of by using this link to get started: