One of the topics I cover in my Perfect Prints Guide is Evaluation Prints which is basically a collage of images that when you print it out will let you know firstly if you’re printer is up to the job and secondly, if it is, if it’s actually working ok.
When it comes to printing we hear so much about calibration, paper profiles and so on but not whether your printer is good enough to actually print a beautiful image that has great colour, tone, contrast and sharpness. One thing is for sure, if your printer contains only 4 inks then it’s safe to say that it’s not going to be capable of printing an image that as near as damn it, matches the picture you have on your screen / display … and obviously I’m talking photographic prints here.
Here’s a perfect example of an Evaluation Image which is made up of a collage of different images (colour and monochrome) and includes a number of gradients:
What do I do with the Evaluation Print?
Now assuming that you’ve already set up your printer correctly when you got it out of the box and have done nozzle checks and nozzle alignment checks, the next thing we can do is to do a print of this Evaluation image.
*NOTE: To test my Canon printer I am going to print the Evaluation image onto Canon branded paper
To do this we need we’re going to hand over complete and utter control to the Printer and its Driver, meaning that no Colour Management is being done outside of the Printer Driver; we’re going to let the Printer show us how good it is without us interfering.
Open the Evaluation image in Photoshop. When you do you’ll likely notice that there is an asterisk next to the filename. This means that the colour space that the image was created / saved in, is different to the ‘Working Colour Space’ that we are using in Photoshop.
If we look at the filename of the Evaluation image we can see that the colour space it has been saved in is included and is ProPhoto RGB, so all we need to do (to make sure that we print this out exactly as it was intended) is to temporarily change the Working Colour Space of Photoshop.
To do this we go to Edit > Color Settings
In the Working Spaces section (Figure 21) and from within the RGB menu choose ProPhoto RGB and then click OK.
Now close and then re-start Photoshop and open the Evaluation image. Notice now that the asterisk has gone. Our Working Space in Photoshop is now the same as the Colour Space of the Evaluation image.
Now go to File > Print
In the print dialog and in the Color Management section choose Printer Manages Colors in the Color Handling menu, Normal Printing and a Rendering Intent of Relative Colorimetric
Notice the prompt telling us to ‘Remember to enable the printer’s color management in the print settings dialog box’; we’ll do that very soon.
In the Printer Setup section choose the printer you’re going to use and then click on Print Settings
When you installed your printer, the driver includes paper profiles for that particular brand of paper which in my case will be all of the Canon Papers. When you click on Print Settings this is where you can now tell the printer what quality to print at, the paper you’re using (so that the printer knows how much ink to use e.g. Gloss, Matt, Lustre and how thick the paper is) and we can also control the colour management.
In the Quick Set Up tab:
1. Choose Photo Printing in the Commonly Used Settings section
2. In the Additional Settings section double click on the Color / Intensity Manual Adjustment option
3. This will open up the Manual Color Adjustment properties (Figure 28). Click on the Matching tab and choose
We’re choosing Driver Matching so that the printer chooses the correct ‘built in’ paper profile for the Canon Paper I’m going to be using; we tell it which Canon paper I’m using in the next step.
4. In the Media Type section this is where you tell the printer exactly what paper is being used so that it knows how thick the paper is, if it’s Matt, Gloss, Lustre etc so that it ultimately knows how to handle the paper and how much ink to use for the best possible print.
Now it’s worth noting here that the media type choices you have are going to be what were installed when you initially set up your printer, so in my case all of the choices I have refer to Canon papers. You will NEVER see any of the paper profiles you create here…this is purely the printer brand of paper that was installed within the driver and along with that, their own unique paper profiles.
Choose Print Quality of HIGH and the Paper Size you are using.
Click OK then click Print
Your printer has now printed an Evaluation image and if all is good with your printer it should look absolutely bang on! Don’t forget though that if it looks too dark, this means your display isn’t calibrated correctly.
Take a look at the image in good lighting conditions (daylight or daylight balanced) and look at the colours. How do the skin tones look? Is the greyscale image truly greyscale or does it have a colour cast? Do the strawberries look good enough to eat? Is there a smooth gradation along the black to white gradient with no visible signs of banding?
*Note: Colours will likely not appear as vibrant and saturated as those you can see on your display and that’s because your display is backlit. Paper won’t / can’t produce colours equally as vibrant and saturated as a digital display.
Assuming that everything looks good with the Evaluation print which ultimately means your printer is working well and capable of producing a great image, we can now move on to paper Profiles and eventually printing. Before you do though, if you temporarily changed Photoshop’s Working Colour Space, make sure you go back and change it Adobe RGB or whatever space it is that you work in.
Grab my Perfect Prints Guide: CLICK HERE