Have you ever made something look amazing on your computer screen, and then you print it and it’s just meh?
Why, yes! Yes, that happens to me all the time!
There are a number of reasons your home prints might not look the best. It could be bad ink, bad paper, or a bad printer, for example, but before you chuck that printer out the window, let’s see if it might actually just be color management.
First, let me just say I am not an expert in color management. I am just a person who sees a problem and gets obsessed with it until she solves it. One such problem from my recent past was bad prints from my printer, and I solved it, and I hope that my endeavors might also help others, so I’m sharing them. But if anyone out there is a Ph.D. in Color or something and can tell me more, feel free to chime in.
You can look on wikipedia or something and read exactly what color management is if you want to really dive in, but simply put, it’s the thing that decides how to display or print the colors in your files. Super basic: you can send your picture or project to the printer and let the printer decide how to print the colors, OR you can use other software to make those decisions and then order your printer around. Typically, by default, the former happens.
This sounds fancy. Do I really need to care about this?
Here are some examples of the same exact file being printed on the same exact printer on the same exact kind of paper. The only difference is color management. Even on my horrible old mobile phone pictures, you can tell the difference.
Show me how to color manage from Lightroom, please!
Lightroom makes it really easy. When you’re in the Print module (up at the top, click “Print” instead of “Library”, “Develop”, etc. and you’ll be in the Print module) look over in the right hand column and scroll until you see the part called Color Management. Select something other than “Managed by Printer.” That’s it.
Feel free to click “Other…” and pick some other things. You won’t break anything. It just adds options to the menu. The worst that happens is you add something to the menu that you won’t use again (and you can always remove it). I played around and printed the same image using several different options until I got one I was happy with. I ended up with “Wide Gamut RGB.” I can’t promise that this is the one you will be happy with too. Your printer, your screen, your files could be very different from mine. Just play around using the cheapest paper you have.
But I don’t have Lightroom! (Or, what if I don’t want to import something into Lightroom just to print it?)
Different software deals with this differently. In Photoshop, you have to tell it what to do in the main Print… dialog box by selecting “Photoshop Manages Colors” next to “Color Handling”
AND as that big yellow exclamation point tells us, we ALSO have to go into the print settings (the “Print Settings…” button in the “Printer Setup” section up top; note that your printer name is probably different from mine. It doesn’t matter.) Print Settings brings up something like this:
(Don’t get fussed if the details are different. Your paper size doesn’t matter right now, ok? If it looks super different, make sure you select the “Paper/Quality” tab.) Now you click “Advanced…”
ICM Method should be Disabled. Now you’re ready to print.
But, wait. It says “Color Management” right there under “Printer Features.”
Yup, and it does let me choose between two different options for my printer. Unfortunately I didn’t like either of them. Maybe your printer has better options than mine. Feel free to test that out. (You would just pick here in this box, and then go back and tell Photoshop that “Printer Manages Colors” in that original Print… dialog box.) Me, I’m sticking with Wide Gamut RGB, which I can only get if I let Photoshop manage the colors, or by going through Lightroom.
Great! Now I have awesome prints from Lightroom and Photoshop! What about Silhouette Studio? I love to get my Print and Cut on!
If you love hybrid crafting, there’s a decent chance you have a Silhouette Cameo or Silhouette Portrait. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, feel free to stop now. But if you love printing your creations from Silhouette Studio and then having them cut by your Silhouette, or at least you would if they didn’t print so mehtastic all the time, read on.
Silhouette Studio doesn’t have these fancy color management options. If you are lucky and you are happy with one of the options in that “Printer Features” area of the “Advanced” box, then you can get to that in Silhouette Studio pretty much the same way you did in Photoshop. But if you are like me, that isn’t good enough, and you can’t print what you want from Silhouette Studio.
WHAT? I CAN’T AT ALL? SO MY HYBRID LIFE IS OVER???
You can’t at all. BUT your hybrid life is not over! You can print from Photoshop and still cut with your Silhouette. Yes, seriously. Even with registration marks. I will show you how.
All you do is make your own registration marks. Silhouette Studio is kind enough to tell you exactly how long and thick they are right in the software, and exactly how far from the edge of the paper it puts them. Or, you can just take these. I did it for you. Included are files for using the following paper sizes: A4 (210 x 297 mm), US Letter (8.5 x 11 inches), US Legal (8.5 x 14 inches), and 12 x 12 inches square.
These are the settings I am mimicking with these files. Note I have made the “right” and “bottom” margins as small as possible, but everything else is the default. (My Silhouette seems to have trouble detecting the marks if I move the “top” or “left” margins too much, so I just leave that alone.)
So what do I do with this file??
I’ll show an example. Here, I’m making Kelleigh Ratzlaff’s Gable Box using one of her papers and a Wild Blueberry Ink label from the Pixels & Co collab Love, Actually part 1. All I did was open the PSD template and drag the paper and label on like I normally would. I threw on a journal card from Celeste Knight’s portion of the collab, and sized it down so I can use it as a to/from tag. Nothing special here, yet. This is what I would be doing no matter how I’m printing it, right?
Since I print A4, I resize my canvas to that size. If you’re doing US Letter, it’ll already be that way, and hopefully by this point you have already downloaded the handy registration marks PNG file above. Just drag that right on your canvas (or use Place…). Do any resizing or shifting you may have to do to get your project out of the way of those marks.
Print it! Remember to choose your favorite color management options so that Photoshop makes it super pretty for you. If you aren’t printing borderless, you’ll get a warning that the image will be clipped because it’s too big. That’s fine. It is only going to clip blank space. Your reg marks will still be intact. After you have it printed (or you can do it before, too – doesn’t really matter), delete or hide that white bg layer and save the whole thing as a big PNG.
For whatever reason, Silhouette Studio likes to resize JPGs, DXFs, SVGs, pretty much anything you drag into it, except PNGs. It always keeps PNGs true to size. So save that as a PNG and then open it in Silhouette Studio. Make sure you turn registration marks on and put the right settings in, with the smaller right and bottom margins, to match the reg mark PNG you have.
You’re not done yet. Zoom way in and make sure those reg marks line up! You may have to nudge your PNG a bit to get it right. Here’s what mine looked like before I did any moving at all.
A few taps of my left and up arrow keys, and TADA!
Now you can drag on your cut files, trace any extras (like the to/from tag I made) and send to Silhouette like you always did before. Just make sure to skip the printing, of course. You already did that!
My finished Gable Box!
I hope that helps someone out there get their prints just as pretty as they want them. Let me know if you have any questions!