Soft-Proofing in Photoshop

Even if you have all of pieces of the colour management puzzle in place, you may still find that your monitor does not match your proof or press sheet. The solution to your problem is hidden in Photoshop’s menu options. This option is called Proof Setup. The advantage of using Proof Setup is that you can simulate Paper White and Ink Black. These two options often make a significant difference when comparing press sheets to the screen.

Proof Setup helps because press sheet tend to have a warmer and darker white point (brightness) when compared to your monitor. Also, your monitor can achieve a much darker black density than a press sheet. When you turn on these two options you are in effect dumbing down your monitor to better represent the printing conditions.

One snafu – the quality of your soft proof – is depended on the quality of the profile you select when creating the custom soft proof.   If you are not seeing a match, consider re-profiling your monitor or acquiring a higher quality ICC profile of your target.

One of the greatest uses of this option is to simulate newsprint. Newsprint is a significant departure from your standard viewing conditions and it would be very difficult to physically adjust your monitor to match an image printed on newsprint. But if you use the supplied profile U.S. Web Uncoated v2 and select Simulate paper white, you’ll see that your monitor is now previewing how your image will look when printed under these conditions. This allows you to make accurate adjustments to the image to enhance the tonal range and colour.

There are a few more gems hiding in the Proof Setup Menu, such as Macintosh RGB, Windows RGB and Monitor RGB. When you select one of these options you are telling Photoshop to discard your monitor profile and sending the raw data to the screen using the gamma of the selected platform. Why would you use this? Let say you are designing a web page and you want to know how the rest of the un-calibrated world will view your images. Just select Windows RGB. Or you get a call from a client and they’re indicating that your images are washed out. After asking a few question, you find out that they are on Mac but have never calibrate their screen. Just select Macintosh RGB to see the image as they are seeing them. (While you’re at it, tactfully explain to them they are living in the dark ages and it is time to invest $300 in monitor calibration equipment.)

Proof setup, when used correctly, is a great tool for adjusting your monitor so that it accurately represent your final destination. In a properly colour managed workflow, it is possible to have a variety of proof setups available. I have more than ten proof setups on my system and couldn’t imagine working without them.