Aperture: Optimizing for your printer

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Configuring a system for the best color prints requires several simple but crucial steps, and you can do most of them before you even open Aperture. After the correct setup, Aperture can do an outstanding job of translating the colors you see on screen to print. The steps include:

  • Calibrating your display
  • Setting up your printer
  • Choosing the correct ICC profiles for it
  • Paper selection
  • Adjusting presets in Aperture

Calibrating your display

Without calibration, you can't trust the accuracy of color on your display, and thus can't trust your own color adjustments. Though it's possible to calibrate a display using software only, it's much simpler and more accurate to use a hardware device such as the the MonacoOPTIXxr, Pantone ColorVision Spyder, or the Gretag Macbeth Eye-One Display 2.

These mouse-looking devices plug in via USB and hang in front of your display, measuring its output with a sensor. Using the sensor data, software included with the calibration device creates a profile that tells your system how to offset any discrepancies between reference values and your display.

Tip: Recalibrate your display periodically to compensate for changing performance as it ages. Your calibration software will probably let you set a reminder.

Related documents:

Aperture: Color and gamma settings for print and web
Building Your Color Managed Workflow

Setting up the printer

Start by going to your printer manufacturer's website. Look to see if you have the latest driver for your printer, and be sure it's compatible with Mac OS X 10.4.3 or later. If necessary, download a new driver, and follow the manufacturer's installation instructions.

RGB versus CMYK
Aperture supports only RGB printers, not CMYK printers. Now wait a second... Before you run out to buy a new printer, let's consider what that really means. This refers to the mode of the printer, not to the inks in the printer. Many printers that operate in RGB mode have inks that mimic the colors of the CMYK process. Aperture works fine with those printers.

Generally speaking, ink jets and dye-sub printers are RGB; and color laser and imagesetters are CMYK. However, printer manufacturers leave you to assume that your printer is RGB mode rather than stating it in their spec sheets; yet the same spec sheet may list "CMYK" in reference to the ink set, so the result may be confusing. A true CMYK printer will usually have that called out as the mode, in addition to the ink specification (if in doubt, contact your printer manufacturer).

While Aperture can't print your CMYK separations directly, you can still use the CMYK profiles in Aperture's Onscreen Proofing feature to prepare for exporting images that will be printed to CMYK from another application.

Once you have installed the driver, it's time to add the printer.

  1. From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences.

  2. Click the Print & Fax icon. The image above is from a computer that doesn't have a printer set up yet.
  3. To add a printer, click on the "+" button at the left edge of the window. A printer browser will open.

    This window lists all the printers connected to your computer, as well as any shared printers on your network.
  4. Scroll down the list, and select the printer you wish to add. If you do not see your printer listed:
    1. Click the More Printers button.
    2. Set the top pop-up menu to the needed category (Epson USB, HP IP Printing, and so forth).
    3. Select your printer from the list.
  5. Click the Add button in Printer Browser. This will dismiss the Printer Browser.
  6. In the Print & Fax preference pane, set the pop-up menu for "Selected Printer in Print Dialog" to your printer.
  7. Quit System Preferences.

Selecting ICC (ColorSync) profiles for the printer

ICC profiles are reference files used to calibrate your printer to the type of paper that you will be printing on. Printer manufacturers often offer these for downloaded, or you can make your own custom profiles if you have the right tools. Some of the products available for calibrating displays also can create ICC profiles.

When downloading profiles, you will typically see a separate profile for each type of paper that the printer supports, so you should download a profile for each type of paper you plan to use, such as glossy, semi-matte, and so forth. If you make your own profiles, then you will need to create one for each type of paper to be used with your printer. Different weights of the same type paper also require different profiles.

Once you have a set of profiles, they should be placed in one of these locations:

  • /Library/ColorSync/Profiles
  • ~/Library/ColorSync/Profiles

The tilde (~) represents the current user's home folder. If you choose the root-level Library, all the profiles will be available to all users on the computer. If you choose the user-level Library, they will only be available to the user whose folder they reside in.

You may find that there is not yet a ColorSync folder in ~/Library—and in that case you should create one, noting that the name "ColorSync" is case sensitive. Create a Profiles folder inside the ColorSync folder, and place your profiles there.

Paper selection

Obviously you'll want photo-grade paper to get good results when printing images. However, it's also vital to select paper designed to for use with your brand and model of printer. That's because different brands of paper absorb ink differently, and may be different thicknesses. Paper that works beautifully on one printer may become a smeary mess when used with another.

Configuring presets in Aperture

So, you've made it this far. You're finally ready to open Aperture and set it up to print your pictures. Aperture allows you to create individual presets that save all the settings needed for different situations. You can have a preset to handle printing 4x6 prints on a small format photo printer, another to handle 8x10 prints on another printer, and so on. Once you have created your presets, you can quickly print at various stages in your workflow.

Aperture comes with two presets already in the list, but they're only meant as examples. You should not attempt to make prints from them. Here's how to make a preset of your own:

  1. Select an image in the Browser and choose File > Print... (or press Command-P). The Aperture Print dialog will open.

  2. Click the gear icon at the bottom left corner and choose New Single Image preset.

    Note: There are actually two different types of preset, Single Image and Contact Sheet. For the most part they work the same. These example steps will assume Single Image, but in cases where there are differences, they will be explained.

  3. A new preset will appear in the Preset Name list with its name highlighted so that you can type the new name you'd like to use. In the example shown, a preset for printing images on Semi Matte paper to an Epson 7600 is being created. The name of the preset reflects this:

  4. In the Print dialog, configure the paper size. If you're using a roll printer, always enter the width of the paper as the first dimension, and the desired length as the second.

  5. There are three choices available in the Orientation pop-up. The familiar Portrait and Landscape setting are there, as well as Best Fit, which automatically orients your image on the page. Best Fit is usually a good choice for Single Image but may produce unpredictable results for Contact Sheet, so it may be advantageous to specify Portrait or Landscape as needed.

  6. The ColorSync Profile pop-up menu is where you can select the an appropriate ICC profile for your printer and paper. It's very important that you select a profile that is made for your printer and the type of paper you will be using. This controls the way color is handled by the printer, as well as ink dispersion. Any mismatch between the ICC profile selected and the actual printer and paper will almost certainly lead to poor print quality.

  7. Black Point Compensation is an adjustment the compensates for the difference between the way black images saturate on a computer display as opposed to the way black ink saturates on a print. It is almost always a good idea to turn this option on, as it will give better results in shadowed areas on your prints.

  8. The "Gamma" setting can be used to compensate for another area in which computer displays and prints differ. Because computer displays are illuminated, images displayed on computers will tend to look more luminous than when printed. Increasing the Gamma from the default of 1.0 can compensate for this. Usually, a setting 1.1 to 1.2 is adequate.

  9. Under Layout Options, the Scale To pop-up menu offers several choices. Fit Entire Image will scale the image to be as large as possible for the paper size without cropping. Fill Page will fill the entire page, cropping the image if necessary to do so. There are also choices for standard print sizes like 4x6, 5x7, and so on. Finally, you can select Custom and enter the size you'd like in the dimension fields just below. For Contact Sheet presets, the Layout options allow you to select the number of pages the images will be distributed among and the number of rows and columns per page. Aperture will calculate the size of each image using these settings.

  10. You can define a border size with the Width slider under Border Options. At this point, the print dialog may look something like this:

  11. Now you need to set the system-wide print settings appropriately, and Aperture offers a unique shortcut for that.
    1. Click the Printer Settings button in the Print dialog, which instantly exposes system-wide printer settings. Note: What you see here will vary according to the particular printer.

    2. Make sure that the Printer pop-up menu is set to the printer you wish to work with.
    3. From the unlabeled, third pop-up menu, choose Color Management (or the equivalent for your printer).
    4. Select the radio button for No Color Adjustment. This will disable the system level color management, so that Aperture can control it using an ICC Profile for the printer and paper you will be using for this preset. Note: If you do not have an ICC profile for your printer, you can leave it with the default choice or try ColorSync (when present) instead.
    Tip: Best of all, each of your presets saves individual system settings, so that once you have saved a preset, Aperture will take care of the system settings for you. This unique and powerful feature sets aperture apart from other applictions where you might have to change the settings over and over again.

  12. From the unlabeled third pop-up menu, choose Print Settings (again, note that you may see different names for the setting for your printer).

  13. This is where you tell the system what type of paper you will be using, and configure the print quality.
    1. From the Media Type pop-up menu, choose the paper you will be using. The options you see here will depend on what model of printer you are working with.
    2. Select the print quality. The higher the DPI setting, the finer the ink spray the printer will use. Higher values will print more slowly. Generally, 720 DPI gives excellent results and prints reasonably quickly.
    3. Click the Done button to dismiss the system printer settings dialog.

  14. Once you have made all the needed settings, click the Save button at the bottom of the Print Dialog. A preset will remain in the list until you delete it. Create as many presets as you need to cover different print sizes, printers, and paper types.

Tip: When creating presets, remember to use a paper that is expressly compatible with your printer (as supported by either the printer or paper manufacturer, or both). Be sure that your choice in the Media Type pop-up menu matches the actual paper loaded into the printer as closely as possible.

For example, if you choose semi-matte paper in the Media Type menu and try to print to glossy paper, the printer will likely use too much ink, and your prints will look terrible. If you sometimes use one type of paper and sometimes another, create a separate preset for each.
Published Date: Feb 18, 2012