Tuesday, October 7, 2014


By Sean Bagshaw[1]
Translated into Print by John Gilbert[2]

 In this tutorial I am going to show you how to make a Photoshop action that will create a soft proofing version of your image prior to printing. This will help insure that what you see on your monitor will hopefully match want is printed.  Basically we are going to use Photoshop to simulate what an image will look like when printed on a certain type of paper.  We can speed hours post processing an image to look the way we remember it, but when it comes time to print, well our print copy does not look like the processed copy on our monitor.  Different papers interact differently with inks, printer pixels and resolutions do not match the image on our monitor.  Sometimes we need to tweak our image by making a few additional adjustments to get it to print as closely as possible to what we see on our screen.  We need the ability to compare our screen image with a print proof.  In this tutorial we are going to create an action to compare the two.

 Let’s open an image.  This image has been processed by me and saved in a tiff format.  All the layers I created to arrive at this final output are preserved in the tiff file. 

 In addition I add, as a final layer, a “Levels Adjustment Layer” set to “Screen Blending Mode”, with a 50% opacity, because I know that my printer has a tendency to print darker than what I see on my monitor.  So I want to click on the eyeball icon to activate this layer.  If you do not have this layer on your image you should create one before now.

Let’s begin.  First we want to store this action in a separate folder in our actions panel so go to the action panel and select create new folder.  Let’s name it “Soft Proof Action”.  Once we are ready to begin recording our steps, we will click the “new action button”.  This is going to create a new action in our newly created Soft Proof Folder. 

 The first soft proof we are going to create is one for Premium Luster Photo Paper.  You can create different actions for different types of paper. Different papers have different print profiles which will require you to make adjustments for a specific paper profile.
We are just about ready to start the action.  Once we click on the action button a red circle will light up at the bottom of the Action Panel to indicate that we are recording.  Everything we do from this point on will be recorded.  Ready? Click the action button.  The first step is to record a duplicate of our image.  Go to the Image Menu and select Duplicate.  In the Duplicate Image Window, check the merge layer box and click on “OK”.  You should now have the original photo opened in Photoshop with all its layers and a copy of that image with all the layers merged into just a background layer. Toggle between the two images to see the original with all its layers and the copy image with only a background layer.  At this point let’s close the original image file.  Remember when asked if you want to save the changes select “no” because we don’t want to save it with the lighten layer activated.  

 Next let’s duplicate the duplicated image.  When the duplicate dialog box appears be sure and tweak the name. It will probably automatically assign the second copy as copy2 but if it doesn’t then add the number 2 next to the word copy so that when we click on OK it does not ask me if I want to over-write the existing file.

At this point we have two duplicate files open in Photoshop, copy2 and copy.  I want to be able to see both copies at the same time in my window. Go to the drop down Window’s menu, select arrange, and then 2 up vertical.  (Windows>Arrange>2Up Vertical) .Right now you should be able to see two images side by side. 

 Remember we are still recording but you can close the actions panel to give you more viewing capabilities. Next we want to apply the premium luster photo paper profile to one of the images, let’s apply it to our first copy.  

From the View, drop down menu, select Proof Setup, then Custom. (View>Proof Setup>Custom). A “Custom Proof Condition” window will open.  In the “Device to Simulate dropdown menu select the paper type you want to simulate, in this example we are going to select the Epson Styles Pro 4900 Premium Luster Paper. 

I use an Epson 4900 printer and I print on luster paper so that is why I selected this option.  You will need to select the paper type that matches with your printer brand so you get the correct paper profile. Also select Relative Chromatic rendering from the rendering intent box.  This seems to give the closest look at what we want to see. Put a check mark in the Black Point Compensation Box, and finally check the Simulate Paper Color under the display options section of this custom proof condition window. 

It has been my experience as well as others that Photoshop tends to be a little heavy-handed when it's simulating the paper color so keep that in mind. Warning your simulated proof may look worse on the screen than it will when you print it.  Click okay.  Immediately you can see the simulated print version (copy) and the monitor version (copy2). The simulated copy is much duller, flatter, lower contrast, and a little bit cooler (bluer) then the screen image.  If we printed this out at this point it is going to look a little worse than it actually would.  Remember sometimes Photoshop can overdo it a bit and the results would not match the monitor version.  
Our goal is to get the simulated copy to look as much as possible like our screen copy2.  We need to increase contrast, increase saturation, and add a little bit of luminosity brightness.  We may also need to warm the simulated copy image a little.  These additional adjustments will help get it ready to print. Remember we will apply adjustments until we get the print version (copy) to match the monitor version (copy2).
First let’s create a curves adjustment layer. (Layer Menu>New Adjustment Layer> Curves). We will use this to brighten our print image (copy) Now add a marker to the curves line in the shadow area to anchor the darks and mid-tones, then pull the top part of the curve line up to add some highlight luminosity to our print image.

We can see that brightening up the highlights also increases the contrast a little bit too much.  So we are now going to bring up the shadows by pulling up on my dark and mid-tone anchor point just a little bit to maintain the contrast but also bring up the overall luminosity of the image.  It can be slightly different for every image so you may have to make adjustments accordingly. By clicking the layer on and off you can see the before and the after what effect your adjustment is having.  
The next thing we need to do is bring back some lost saturation so let’s add a hue saturation adjustment layer to bring up the saturation. (Layer Menu>New Adjustment Layer> Hue Saturation) Don’t overdo it, increase the saturation slider to about nine or ten.  

We can't bring back all the lost color because there are some colors in the screen image that are just out of gamut for printing based on our paper selection.  Bottom line there are some colors that we will not be able to reach but we can get closer 

The final thing is to combat the cooling or bluing of some of the colors in here that premium luster photo paper has.  To do that we are going to use Photoshop’s photo filter and add a warming filter #85 layer.  (Layer Menu>New Adjustment Layer> Photo Filter)
You may need to turn down the opacity on this layer a bit.  You should be able to see that the two images still don't match perfectly but if we look at where we began, by holding down the Alt key and clicking on the eyeball layer icon next to the background layer image, we can turn off all the other adjustment layers to see where we started.  Repeat this step by holding down the Alt key and click on the eyeball layer icon next to the background layer image again to turn all the layers back on.
 You can toggle back and forth to see the before and after adjustments you’ve made.  We can see that we're now getting our image much closer to what we wanted and so it should now print closer. In fact now we can go back up to the View Menu and toggle the “Proof Colors” on and off to see the before and after. You could also click CTRL-Y to toggle the Proof Simulation on an off.  So without the print simulation turned on our adjustments really pump the image up, probably more than our intent but it should print looking closer to what we see on the monitor. We can’t get the print version to be identical to the monitor version because of the range of gamut’s of the monitor verses our paper selection.
We can now stop recording our action.  Open up the action pallet and hit the stop button and stop recording because essentially we are done.  (Windows Menu> Actions or Alt + F9)
We now have an action that will create a soft proofing anytime we want to soft proof a print using Premium Luster Paper.  All we need to do is run the action to get to a point where we are close to printing.
To test our action close the two views and then go open our original or a new image, then add a “Levels Adjustment Layer” set to “Screen Blending Mode”, with a 50% opacity, because as I stated above my Epson Printer has a tendency to print darker than what I see on my monitor.  Once I hit play, the action will go through all the steps, it'll flatten the image, close the original master, create the duplicates, and now all I need to do is go to window, (Windows>Arrange>2Up Vertical) arrange the two copies vertically so that they are side by side, then close the action panel and here is my image with the profile simulation applied and here's my comparison image.  
We can see that all those adjustments have been applied and we can go in and fine tune them if we need to.  Once we have the image looking as close to the monitor version as possible, close copy2 but don’t save it. Click CTRL-Y to turn off the simulation.  Next size the simulated copy for print and do any print sharpening that is necessary before sending it off to be printed. This is how you create an action that will make your soft proofing go much faster and you can actually produce a whole series of actions for different paper types so that whatever paper you're going to print on you can just do a single click on the action for that paper type and automatically get set up with a proof for printing.
I hope you find this helpful and it saves you some time.  I use to print and adjust, then print again and adjust again until I got it the way I wanted.  If you don’t own your own printer, test this by having a smaller print printed by an online printing service or by a local printer or even a friend. 

 “I have spent hours watching Sean’s video and converting it into a printed version for my personal use as a follow along guide.  Sean has a whole series of video tutorials for processing images using Luminosity Masks. (Click here to be taken to his web site.)  I highly recommend them.  Sean’s videos along with Tony Kuyper’s TKActions Panel for Luminosity Masks (Click here to be takento Tony’s web site.) will be the best investment you make and will improve your post processing by 100% Plus.  John Gilbert”

[1] Sean Bagshaw You Tube Tutorial Click to view (Ctrl+Clcik)
[2] John Gilbert: Translated into a pdf document but using his pictures and printer profiles after creating this action based on Sean Bagshaw’s tutorial.

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