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OSX Print dialogue's Color Matching > "Automatic" option - what's it actually doing?

3165 Views 23 Replies Latest reply: Dec 3, 2012 1:25 PM by Richard Liu RSS
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Cojcolds Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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May 9, 2012 3:47 AM

I'm trying to understand OSX's colour management options clearer. It seems that the Print dialogue's default option for Color Matching is set to "Automatic". Is this as good as no colour management, because a specific profile isn't selected or is it actually using a default profile?


To stop the OSX driver from colour correcting my file and leave it to the printer manufacturer's driver you should set it to the other option (eg. eg. “Vendor Matching” (10.5) and “In Printer” (10.6) - or depends on what printer you have chosen) and then save a preset. Not everyone thinks to do this so that's why I'm interested in knowing exactly what the "Automatic" option is doing.


Your help is most appreciated!





MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.6.8)
  • Kurt Lang Level 7 Level 7 (31,535 points)

    Is this as good as no colour management, because a specific profile isn't selected or is it actually using a default profile?

    No, it is not the same. No color management means just that. No profiles are being applied to the output anywhere along the chain.


    Using an RGB image as an example, whatever you're printing is being sent to the printer as straight RGB data. Any color space embedded in the image is being ignored, as is your monitor profile. And the printer is also applying no paper profile. It is just printing the incoming data the way it assigns the RGB data to that printer's CMYK equivalent. So it doesn't matter what type of paper you actually have in the printer, the ink or toner will always be applied in the exact same amount. It will only look different on different papers because the type of paper itself will change how the color appears, not because the printer is doing something different.


    Automatic means the defaults are being used. So it goes like this. The basic premiss is to make the output look like the monitor as closely as the printer can duplicate it. So the profile of the image is converted to the monitor profile's color space on the fly. It is then converted to the printer profile being used, also on the fly. How accurate your profiles are depends on how close the output from the printer will match your monitor. Since these profiles are chosen by the system rather than you (the printer profile being the main issue), which profile it uses for the printer depends on the paper type you chose. It then uses what it thinks is the appropriate printer (paper) profile.


    It goes further than that, though. Most printers also have automatic color settings, which quite honestly, usually stink. They'll try to apply unwanted contrast, brightness and color settings according to whatever the printer's manufacturer wrote into its firmware. Better printers (read, more expensive) will often do a better job. Cheap printers, not so good.


    Also, a real monitor profile makes a huge difference. Any canned profile is worthless. The ones supplied with a monitor are close to worthless, but better than nothing. The ones you create by eye with OS X's built in calibration feature are somewhat better than worthless. The only good ones, which actually tell the system what your monitor can produce are hardware/software solutions, such as X-Rite's i1 Display Pro. If color is important to you, a good monitor profiling package is the best, and least expensive third party profiling investment you can make.

  • Kurt Lang Level 7 Level 7 (31,535 points)

    I understood your note to say that when "Color Matching" is set to ColorSync: Automatic the images in the file will first be converted through the monitor profile (in my case I'm currently using the "canned" LCD Display profile), then through the printer's profile (I have a desktop Fuji Xerox DocuPrint C1110B), correct?

    Correct. Let's say you're using the working RGB color space of Adobe RGB in Photoshop. At all times, that color is being translated to the monitor color space by ColorSync for the rendition that is actually displayed. The file itself remains Adobe RGB, but that's not your monitor's profile, so it needs to be continuously converted for display.


    When you print the image, the first thing ColorSync does is convert the color space from Adobe RGB to your monitor profile (all with temporary data, not to the original). Now the image is in the color space you were viewing, which is where is needs to be since the idea is for the print to match the monitor color you are looking at. But the printer is not a monitor, so the monitor profile color space the data is currently in is not correct for printing. So it goes through a second conversion from the monitor color space to the printer profile's color space. That is what finally gets sent to the printer.


    This is where any automatic color correction must be off. You've already told ColorSync to use the proper profiles to achieve a print that will match the monitor as closely as possible. This assumes of course you have accurate profiles for both your monitor, and the printer with the paper being used.

    As a further test, I then ColorSync to the AdobeRGB(1998) profile and made a new ps file. The RGB values in the distilled PDF were still the same as the Word doc.

    That's what throws people off. An RGB value isn't a specific color. It's a representation of where that RGB value falls in relation to *L*A*B. So a fully saturated red of 255,0,0 will look different in a short color space as opposed to a larger space. Here's an example (see image below). I have two different profiles overlapping each other. The red point circled in green is the most saturated red that can be attained in relation to *L*A*B in that smaller color space. The point circled in yellow is that larger space's most saturated red. In both cases (the confusing aspect), both will assign 255,0,0 to that point, but one would obviously be a richer red than the other. Think of it this way. 255,0,0 is the maximum color space that particular color space (profile) can handle within *L*A*B. It's not necessarily the maximum red we can see in the visible color spectrum.


    Screen shot 2012-07-20 at 9.49.34 AM.png


    So, your converted files look the same because ColorSync is generating the color based on your monitor profile for display. Since that's always the same, the color will look the same, regardless of the input RGB profile. At least as long as you don't use a really small RGB space as an assigned color space and squeeze it down to some noticeably dull color.

    I'm a trainer for Fuji Xerox and am writing a course for our Mac users on Colour Management (in particular for our high-end production RIPs (Fiery/Creo/FreeFlow) with serious colour management being applied).

    Fun! I've been doing prepress work as as in-home business for quite a few years now, but worked in a couple of different high end print shops for many years. Last thing I used on that end was a Scitex Brisque RIP. As I'm sure you know, Creo bought out Scitex. I'm sure RIPs have changed a lot since I last looked at one.

    I only discovered the other day that the Mac OS has the "Color Matching" option and wondered if the OS was in any way bending the colour values before our RIPs have a chance to properly manage the colours. So far it looks like the setting is not having any impact.

    It all depends on where your settings are on both the Mac and at the RIP. Too long of an explanation to go into here I think.

    As a further note, I even tried setting ColorSync to the "Generic CMYK" profile and the distilled PDF still showed the correct RGB values. So, maybe the print to PDF option is ignoring the Color Matching settings or something else is at play but this setting is still a mystery to me...

    ColorSync will only apply matching profiles on the fly. So something would already have to by CMYK before it would apply the Generic CMYK profile. Which no one in their right mind would ever use. It's the flattest, ugliest CMYK profile you will ever see.

  • Richard Liu Level 1 Level 1 (45 points)



    Thank-you for the very complete explanation of what is going on where.  I'm hoping you can help with a related question.


    I have an HP Officejet 6500 E709n, a MacBook Pro 17" running OS X 10.7.5, and an Apple LED Cinema Display 24".  Both screens have been calibrated with Integrated Color's Color Eyes Display Pro and a Spyder 3 (White Point Target D65, 110 cd/m2; Gamma Target L*; Black Point Target Min. Luminance).  I am using iPhoto '11 (9.4.2) to view and print photos made with a Nikon D7000.  The photos a JPEG's.


    As the familiy name of the printer implies, it isn't intended to be used for quality photography.  Nevertheless, I found a company that supplies printer profiles for it, .  The supply the print targets as TIFF's, and these can be printed with Adobe's ACPU (Adobe Color Print Utility), which turns off all color matching during printing.  I printed them with the ink and photo paper that I use and sent them by snail mail to be scanned.  As per instructions I copied the profiles that I received to the ~/Library/ColorSync/Profiles.


    The problem is, when I print with them by setting Color Matching to ColorSync and selecting the profile that I want, the printouts are a bit too dark.  In comparison to printouts made with Color Matching set to Vendor Matching, the colors are more accurate, but everything is just that bit darker, that photos that live by details in the shadows look worse than with Vendor Matching.


    After reading this thread I decided to trying setting ColorSync to Automatic.  That produces a slight improvement over Vendor Matching, but now I cannot find a way to specify a printer profile.  The only other place to specify color in the Print dialog is in Paper Type/Quality; there's a Color Options item that can be expanded.  When Vendor Matching is in effect is offers choices of ColorSmart/sRGB, Grayscale or Adobe RGB; when ColorSync is selected, it just explains thet everything will be done by the OS or the application.


    Have I hit a dead-end, or am I missing something, or is there some way of combining the two profiles into a single one (does that even make sense?).




  • Kurt Lang Level 7 Level 7 (31,535 points)

    Hello Richard,


    Your original question on this topic was here:



    In all technical aspects, the profiles you had created should be correct. The targets were printed with no color control. At least as far as we know. The OS/ColorSync wasn't sending any modified data to the printer, but there's no way of knowing if the printer still wasn't applying automated color adjustments of its own, which would invalidate the profile. That alone could be the cause of the mismatch you're seeing.

    That produces a slight improvement over Vendor Matching, but now I cannot find a way to specify a printer profile.

    You should be able to select the created profile. As I recall (when I had the print driver for your printer installed), you could choose ColorSync for color matching. Next to that then was a drop down to choose Adobe RGB, sRGB and a third option for Other Profile. Choose the last one and navigate to the Profiles folder, then select the created profile for the paper you're using.

  • Richard Liu Level 1 Level 1 (45 points)



    I discovered how to define a default profile for a printer: Default_ColorSync_profile.html


    I can see a difference between a photo printed with Color Matching set to ColorSync with a particular profile, and a photo produced with Color Matching set to ColorSync Automatic after the same profile has been set as the printer's default profile.  The difference isn't huge, and both are still darker than the prints produced without profiles and also darker than what iPhoto displays when I view it from most angles.  I would be satisfied with prints that look like those produced with ColorSync Automatic, which are still dark, except with the colors produced by the profiles.




  • Kurt Lang Level 7 Level 7 (31,535 points)

    I looked back at our previous discussion on this printer, and didn't notice any reference to what you're using for a monitor profile. If it's a canned profile that came with the Mac, or you've chosen some other supplied profile, that is also a problem.


    None of these profiles in any way is a representation of your monitor's actual output. You need to create a real profile. See my post towards the top of this thread which links to X-Rite's i1 Display Pro. Also read the surrounding text to understand why you need to do this to get color matching that will work.

  • Richard Liu Level 1 Level 1 (45 points)



    I've profiled both the MacBook Pro's monitor and the 24" Apple LED Cinema Display using Integrated Color's Color Eyes Display Pro and a Spyder 3 as follows:

    - White Point Target:     D65, 110 cd/m2

    - Gamma Target:          L*

    - Black Point Target     min. Luminance


    It's exactly because I did profile both that I keep on comparing the prints to what I see on the scree.


    Prior to CEDP I used X-Rite's Color Munki Photo and the software that accompanied it.  The display profiles that it produced were good, but it couldn't cope with the LED displays when Apple started using them in the laptops.  Also, the software couldn't disable color matching.  However, the fact that the software started a process that, among other things, seemed to write to the console every other second, making the log useless, finally convinced me to look for another profiling software.




  • Kurt Lang Level 7 Level 7 (31,535 points)

    I've profiled both the MacBook Pro's monitor and the 24" Apple LED Cinema Display using Integrated Color's Color Eyes Display Pro and a Spyder 3

    That's decent stuff. I have the Color Eyes software, but stopped using it at least a couple of years ago. It makes nice looking profiles, but exactly like what you're seeing, shadow detail from any printer always filled in (too dark).


    I've gone through an array of monitor profiling hardware and software. Basically, anything from a Spyder 3 (I had one of those), X-Rite DTP-94, i1 Display 2 or earlier can't handle the color output of today's monitors. I also had a ColorMunki. The hardware was rated very well, but the accompanying software was equally weak. It did a lousy job of both monitor and printer profiles, which was kind of surprising given that the ColorMunki is a spectrophotometer, and not a simpler colorimeter like the rest of those mentioned above. About the only thing it turned out to be good for was spot color readings.


    I sold every one of they various devices I had and bought the i1 Basic Pro 2. This is X-Rite's top of the line hand held spectrophotometer, which makes great monitor profiles with the i1 Profiler software. The device comes with a pared down version of the full software, but all of the main functions are there. Problem is, it's pretty darned expensive. Not bad though considering you can make your own monitor, projector and printer profiles with it.


    For less cost, there's currently really only two options. The Spyder 4 and the i1 Display Pro, which were both redesigned to handle the latest monitors. Don't know if the software for the Spyder 4 has improved with it. The bundled software for the i1 Display Pro is essentially just the monitor profiling portion of i1 Profiler. Ignore any sites mentioning an i1 Display Pro 3. There is no such product by that name. It's just i1 Display Pro. Avoid X-Rite's ColorMunki Smile. It's just a repackaged i1 Display 2.


    Having the i1 Pro 2 spectrophotometer, I've never needed to look at anything else, so can't give you any idea how well the Spyder 4 or i1 Display Pro work. If I had to choose though, I'd go with the X-Rite unit.

  • Richard Liu Level 1 Level 1 (45 points)


    Basically, anything from a Spyder 3 (I had one of those), X-Rite DTP-94, i1 Display 2 or earlier can't handle the color output of today's monitors.

    Well, the results certainly look reasonable.  The fact that the profiles produced by CEDP reveal more detail in the shadows seems to be due to selecting L* instead of 2.2 or 1.8, I think.  I was hoping that whatever istitute is behind L* would also have specified something similar for printing.


    If I decide to replace the Spyder 3, I would certainly want to continue using CEDP.  I understand that it supports both the Spyder 4 and the i1 Display Pro.




  • Kurt Lang Level 7 Level 7 (31,535 points)

    If I decide to replace the Spyder 3, I would certainly want to continue using CEDP.  I understand that it supports both the Spyder 4 and the i1 Display Pro.

    Good idea. Either item is much cheaper than a spectrophotometer. You could also then try the new colorimeter with both the software it comes with and CEDP, and see which gives you better results for monitor to print matching.

    White Point Target:  D65, 110 cd/m2

    Just a suggestion here since this is really a personal choice. Daylight white is really anything between 3000K (sunset/sunrise) and 9300K (blue star ballistic white). It's all a matter of what temperature white point is the most pleasing and natural looking to you.


    Somehow, somewhere, it was decided that a 6500K white point and a 2.2 gamma was considered "normal" human viewing conditions. I'm sure pretty much everyone has noticed that 6500K is a very bluish white. Very few places on the globe do you see color like this (like if you live in the Andes). X-Rite has stated that the average, and also most commonly measured white point worldwide is 5300K. So how did this stupid 6500K become the default? Who knows. One statement in a broadcast I saw was that it makes monitors stand out in the store. Essentially the same thing flat screen TV makers do. The defaults are ridiculously garish colors with overly bright screens. They do this to make the competitor's TVs look inferior and draw you to their stuff. Best Buy even has a service to come out to your house and set up your new TV for correct color viewing. What do they do? They back off the brightness, tone down the color, balance the gray to neutral (away from 6500K), and reduce the contrast so you can actually see shadow detail instead of it being filled in to black.


    There is a point to that previous paragraph. The default in the printing industry is a 5000K white point and a 1.8 gamma. These values weren't randomly picked out of the air. 5000K far more closely represents the measured white point of typical publication paper. A 1.8 gamma keeps the inks in a range which can be printed without difficulty. If you really push it, you can get a density of 2.0 to print on some papers, but 2.2 cannot be done without putting down so much ink that it won't dry. Or, will eventually dry, but gets the paper so wet it ripples. Newer papers do have a higher measured white point, but nothing looks even close to an illuminated 6500K screen, and it can still only hold so much ink. Just for good measure, let's also throw in that any paper and ink combination cannot perfectly reproduce what you see on screen. Some colors, saturation and luminosity simply cannot be done.


    I use 5000K and a 1.8 gamma because 99.999% of the work I do is for the printing industry in CMYK color mode. For photographers, the suggested setting is 5500K (almost the same as the 5300K worldwide average) and a 2.2 gamma. The gamma being close to what we can see, not what you can really print. Expect printed output to be less dense than the screen looks no matter what type of printer you're using.

  • Richard Liu Level 1 Level 1 (45 points)



    "Expect printed output to be less dense than the screen looks no matter what type of printer you're using." What do you mean by dense?  Lighter, darker?


    What about L* for displays and printers?  I will try other temperatures the next time I calibrate the monitors.  I'm just wondering how L* affects the details I see in shadows on the monitor, and whether it's realistic to expect to print L*.


    I really appreciate your detailed explanations.  They're very helpful for understanding all the problems associated with profiling devices.




  • Kurt Lang Level 7 Level 7 (31,535 points)

    "Expect printed output to be less dense than the screen looks no matter what type of printer you're using." What do you mean by dense?  Lighter, darker?

    Printed output will be lighter, or maybe said more specifically, grayer than the screen. A good monitor will have very deep blacks and richer, darker colors than paper can reproduce. Gloss paper will come the closest. Satin or matte paper less so. Uncoated papers will be very dull and washed out looking in comparison to the screen.

    What about L* for displays and printers?

    L* is the first part of the L*A*B* color space. It doesn't really refer to paper (though any color you see can be described that way). It stands for Lightness. Open any test RGB image in Photoshop and choose Image > Mode > Lab Color. You'll see that the channels have changed to Lightness, a, and b. Lightness now controls how dark or light the colors of the image are, and nothing else. Any adjustments run the color axis from white, through the perfectly neutral grays, to black. All color is now in the a and b channels. A and B don't stand for anything other than the color axis they represent.


    It's been quite a while now, but as I recall, I did not use L* in CEDP. Bugs the heck out of me they have no PDF manual for this software, so I can't even guess what I did use without installing it again.

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