Soft Proofing in Photoshop

Soft proofing aims to give you an accurate preview of how you image will appear when printed on your computer monitor. In order to use this feature, you must be using a properly calibrated monitor.

Device Profiles

You need to have installed the appropriate device profile for the device that you want to proof. Any good professional print service should be able to supply you with a device profile for their print service. If they can't you should probably go elsewhere for your prints.

For example, Costco make device profiles available for all the photo labs in their branches. You can download their profiles here.

Once you have unzipped the file you will find a large number of files withe the .ICC extension. These are profile files, select the profile for the lab you intend to use, right click on it and select Install Profile from the context menu. The profile will now be available to you in PhotoShop.

Costco also provide brief instructions on how to use their profile to prepare your image for printing using their service. However, the instructions assume that you already understand the colour management process, so make sure that you are familair with all the material here before you start.

Costco update their device profiles every six months to ensure that they are accurate. You should make sure you are using the latest version if you want to have an accurate colour managed workflow.

Soft Proofing

Soft proofing is a process that allows you to simulate, on your monitor, how an image would look if produced on another device such as a printer. As already stated, your monitor must be properly calibrated for this to be done accurately.

Photoshop contains some built-in tools that can take advantage of device profiles to simulate those devices for you. This is very useful as it allows you to get a reasonably accurate idea of how your image will look when printed on a particular printer/paper.

In particular, when editing images on a computer monitor it is very easy to create an over saturated image. This will look great on your monitor, but it will probably not print correctly as inks cannot reproduce the full range of strong colours available on a good monitor.

The two images below show an image edited for maximum colour impact (the saturated image on the left) and the same image (more-or-less) as it would appear printed by Costco (the proofed image on the right). Depending on the quality and calibration of your monitor, you may not see much (or any) difference. However, if you move the mouse over the saturated image, you will see a gamut warning image. This shows clearly in bright green highlight, where the colours in the original are too saturated to be reproduced by the print.

Saturated Image Proofed Image
Saturated Image Proofed Image

Although the simulation is not absolutely perfect, if you are preparing images for print, this is a great tool as it allows you to make your own corrections to the image before you send it for printing. Typically this will involve using a selective application of some HSV adjustment layers to bring all of the colours in the image into the gamut of the intended print device.


You can find additional information about soft proofing in Photoshop at the following pages:

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