Photography tips – a word on printing colors

I love color – beautiful vibrant COLOR – but color for showing on the web and color that can be printed are two different animals.  There is a limit to what can be printed in ink.  I have an older photography tip from the spring about bringing out the color of your photo in Photoshop.

Using these types of processing can push your color above the spectrum that can be printed.  If you are only posting to the web and not printing, this isn’t a problem for you.  If you do plan to print, there are some things to keep in mind.

Out of gamut and color clipping – This basically means that the color is too saturated to be printed.  Most commerical printers print in the sRGB color space, which is less broad than what you will see on your monitor.  If the color goes supersonic, then the printers will not be able to replicate it and it will appear dulled out in the print.  I know this from experience.

To check if the color is out of gamut, you can do this in Photoshop CS – select->color range->out of gamut.  This will highlight where the colors are too much for printing on the photo.  I have tried to figure out where this would be in Photoshop Elements and have failed.  If anyone knows, please send me an e-mail and/or leave a comment as to where you can find it.

Basically, if your color goes super-sonic it won’t print.  An example is my mom’s red sweater.  There are places were the color is “clipped”, and hopefully just looking at her sweater you can see the areas that are way too bright/colorful/clipped:

clipped reds

Red is hard for Nikons since they tend to be saturated normally. To fix these problem areas, you can just erase out that area if you are working in layers, use the sponge tool and desaturate the area, or make a Hue/Saturation layer and desaturate the color on the overall photo (it would be red in this example).

Here is another article on this issue if I have thoroughly confused you: Gamut explanation

I had a hard time finding some basic explanations on the Internet related to the out of gamut color.  There are some good explanations on the free ILP forums, which I can’t stress enough is a great place to learn photography basics.  Just lurking on the JSO (just starting out) forum can give you lots of useful information.

In these dark and dreary winter months…let’s bring on some COLOR!

10 Replies to “Photography tips – a word on printing colors”

  1. Yes, I’ve had this happen with some photos I’ve printed. It was a real surprise when I had them developed. Thanks for the tip on how to check beforehand in photoshop–I didn’t know about that!

  2. Another great tip — I always wondered why I didn’t have prints that looked as good, and now I know why!

    I have Photoshop, but I don’t really know how to make it do all of it’s tricks yet…but I am starting to learn!

  3. yesterday i took a photo of a child sniffing a poinsettia…yikes! the reds were horrific; you are so right about the nikon/red issue. anyway, i ended up converting it to B&W to save it. looking forward to COLOR this week :).

  4. My goodness, I actually understood this!!! The trouble with colour for me at the moment is the intense sunlight washing everything out. Will put my mind to it though.

  5. I’ve actually never given this much thought – thanks for bringing it to mind. I don’t see that option in PS-Elements, but it does offer the option if changing your color setting to be optimized for print or web graphics. I’ll have to read more of the subject.
    And I have heard so much good about ILP and really want to learn…but I totally don’t have the time to have one more thing sucking up my time online. How the heck do you do it all, Stacy?!?!?
    Fun theme this week. 🙂

  6. Color. Great one!

    I don’t know if this goes along the same lines, but when I got serious about getting the same results from print and my monitor, I bought a program to calibrate my monitor. I havn’t had any surprises in my prints since 🙂

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