Using ICC profiles with Canon printers

Confused about which profiles to use when printing on Canon printers? Don’t know the difference between PR3 and SP3? Then this article is for you. Read on.

Information about using ICC profiles on Canon printers appears to be scarce. It exists, but it is well hidden and not all that intuitive when found. We’ll take a look at what to do and how to set up a color managed environment using a Canon printer.


Those Color Profile Names

The first area of confusion lies in the naming convention that Canon has applied to their profiles.

Their profiles are named like: Canon Pro9000 PR2. While we can figure out what Pro9000 means (it’s the printer we’re using, in this case a PIXMA Pro 9000), we have no idea what PR2 means.

Likewise, other profiles come with names that include codes such as SG1, MP2 or PR3, all of which are meaningless. Well, to come right to the point, the letters indicate the type of paper and the number indicates the quality setting. This table will be your friend in identifying those codes:

Code Paper Description Quality Setting
MP1 Matte Photo Paper 1
PR1 Photo Paper Pro 1
PR2 Photo Paper Pro 2
PR3 Photo Paper Pro 3
SP1 Photo Paper Plus Glossy 1
SP3 Photo Paper Plus Glossy 3
SP4 Photo Paper Plus Glossy 4
SG1 Photo Paper Semi Gloss 1
SG3 Photo Paper Semi Gloss 3


The lower the number of the quality setting, the higher the quality. In other words “1” is high quality and “4” is low. This quality setting should match the quality setting that you select in the print driver. It is not automatic!

In the printer, you will find this quality setting by selecting the properties of the printer. On the “Main” tab, first select the appropriate paper you will be printing on and on the “print Quality” section, select the custom option then click the “Set..” button.

Canon printer Driver

Canon printer Driver

This will bring up a dialog box with a slider in which you can select the quality setting we’ve been referring to. This should match the color profile you have selected or wish to use.

Set Print Quality

Set Print Quality

If, for some reason, you cannot match the numbers up, select the ICC profile with the lowest number. So, for example, if the slider is set to “3”, but your system does not have SP3 available, select SP2 rather than SP4. That way, you will be picking a higher quality setting in the profile than the printer will render. This is better than the other way round. Of course, best is to have the two quality settings match.

So, now that we know how Canon names their profiles we are in a much better position to select the most appropriate one for the job at hand.

Now we can complete the color management set-up of our print workflow.

Because we prefer to be in control of how color is rendered and do not want the printer to override what we’ve specified, we will need to tell the printer not to interfere. We therefore need to turn the color management in the printer OFF. This too is set in the properties dialog.
In the “Main” tab. Tick the “Manual” option of the Color/Intensity section and click “Set…”

Then select the “None” option under the Color Correction pull down. This turns off all color management activity inside the printer, allowing us to trust what we see on-screen when editing the photo. We typically use applications like Photoshop CS, CS2, CS3, Photoshop Elements or Lightroom for that task.

Set Color Managent to OFF in the Printer

Set Color Managent to OFF in the Printer

No Color Management in the Printer

No Color Management in the Printer



Preparing the Photograph

The most common color space used by digital cameras is the sRGB color space. It is a good idea to have this color space associated with your images if you use them on the web or have them printed by a commercial printing lab (although some of the higher quality labs may provide you with alternative instructions).

However, the sRGB color space does not provide the widest of color gamut. The reproduction range of the modern Canon printers actually extends beyond the sRGB range. If you have your camera set to assign sRGB profile to the images you take, then you are limited as you cannot increase the gamut. It is advisable therefore, to set your camera to AdobeRGB, a broader color space, especially if you plan on doing a lot of printing on your Canon printer. [note to Canon users: Your camera produces files names like IMG_6733 when shot in sRGB, but changes the naming convention to _MG_7355 when the AdobeRGB profile is selected. So now you know, your camera is not broke, :-)]

Remember to assign sRGB to your images when sending files to labs or when putting them up on the web!

To assign in Photoshop, go under the FILE menu and select the “Assign Profile . . ” option

Assigning Profiles in Photoshop

Assigning Profiles in Photoshop

Now we are ready to print.

In summary:

1. We have the photo represented on-screen in a color gamut that is suppored by the printer.
2. We’ve turned off all color management inside the printer, so it will not override what we send it
3. We have loaded the printer with a specific type of paper
4. We know the naming convention of Canon’s paper profiles, so we know which one to pick.

Now we can proceed with printing the photograph.

If using Photoshop, select the Print With preview.. option, found under the File menu.
Double check to make sure the photograph has the Adobe RGB profile assigned.

Then, in the options, select the following:

1. Color Handling = “Let Photoshop Determine Colors”
2. Printer Profile = Here we select the Paper Profile that matches our paper and selected quality setting
3. Intent = Perceptual

Printing from Photoshop

Printing from Photoshop

When all is confirmed, click “Print” and you should get a beautiful print that matches what you see on screen.


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This entry was posted in Photography Tips.

27 Comments

  1. Jenny February 3, 2010 at 1:14 pm #

    Thanks Albert – the first explanation that has been of use!
    One question – why use Intent = Perceptual?

  2. albert February 3, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    Hi Jenny
    The Perceptual rendering intent aims to preserve the visual relationship between colors so it’s perceived as natural to the human eye, even though the colors themselves may change. It is therefore a good choice for photographic reproductions.

    The Relative and Absolute Colorimetric intents will shift colors by comparing whites between the source color space and the destination color space. Any out-of-gamut colors are shifted to the closest reproducible color. This all may lead to a print that does not quite look right.

    The Saturation intent is better suited to graphics and illustrations as tries to create vivid colors. This looks good in charts etc, but the process happens at the expense of the relationships between colors, as you would find in a photo.

    So, I hope this is all clear, in summary, WHEN PRINTING PHOTOGRAPHS, the Perceptual intent will produce the most pleasing results as it maps the colors to the printer’s output in such a way the eye finds pleasing. The way the other intents do this mapping may result in odd color shifts and is not recommended for photographs.

    Thanks for visiting my site
    ALbert

  3. peaches February 14, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    This is helpful. I’ve struggled for ages trying to find out how to match my Mac, Nikon D80, and Canon i9100. But what printer profile do I pick for the i9100?

  4. albert February 16, 2010 at 4:28 pm #

    Hi Peaches
    I do not know the i9100, but I suspect the names of the profiles are the same (PR1, SP3, etc) as the profiles relate to the paper used. Providing you installed the printer driver using the CD that came with your printer, these profiles should be on your system.

  5. peaches February 20, 2010 at 1:13 pm #

    Canon support says that the printer is so old that they didn’t have ICC profiles. You just choose the paper type in the print dialog box. But I have changed so many settings now that I can’t make heads or tails of anything. everyone’s advice is different, and I don’t know enough about it to apply it to my situation. I am shooting in RGB but most people still say to use adobe RGB and let PSE manage color. RIght now something is askew because all my prints are blue.

    This is maddening when you don’t know much about it.

  6. albert February 20, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

    Hi Peaches
    I can sense your frustration, just by reading your post. Really sorry to hear of your troubles. Don’t know how much different my advice is from others,, but if you’re willing to try the following, it may help you out.

    If Canon don’t offer profiles for the i9100, then try a paper manufacturer that does. One of them is Ilford. THey have superb paper and you can get it at places like Amazon or at a local camera store (but probably not at a place like Staples or Office Depot).
    I personally like their Gallery Smooth range, especially the Pearl which has become my favorite paper.
    See this link here http://www.ilford.com/en/products/galerie/smooth/desk/smoothMediaSheets.asp for their Gallery Smooth products.
    On this page, on the left, you’ll see a “download ICC profiles” link. You will need to register, but the profiles are free and they DO have i9100 profiles.

    When you have the paper and the matching profiles, follow the procedures I describe in this article, just think Ilford paper instead of Canon paper. I am sure, you’ll have better results.

    As for sRGB vs Adobe RGB?
    Well, Adobe RGB is a larger gamut. In other words, it captures more colors than sRGB. I like to have as much “playroom” as possible, so I shoot in Adobe RGB. After all, I can always go down to sRGB (less colors), but I cannot go “up”. Think of Adobe RGB as a 16oz cup of coffee and sRGB as a 12 oz cup. I can fill the 12 oz cup easily, but I can never fill the 16 oz cup if all I have is 12 oz to start off with.

    The modern printers, such as the PIXMA Pro 9000 and 9500 have great color spectrum, larger than sRGB so it makes sense to capture in Adobe RGB so you are taking advantage of all the colors that these printers can print. I do not know about the i9100 and it is entirely possible that Adobe RGB is overkill for it. However, it won’t do any harm.
    Just remember that most labs and the Internet use sRGB, so if you post images on the web or take them to a place like Costco to print, make sure you convert them to sRGB.

    Hope this all makes sense.
    Good luck, hope you get it sorted out. It is quite a thrill to see those beautiful prints come out of your printer.
    Albert

  7. peaches February 21, 2010 at 6:33 am #

    Thanks Albert. I would prefer to shoot in Adobe RGB, but it was when I tried to change my color management to Adobe RGB that I confused my equipment, so now somewhere I must be telling it conflicting advice. It’s not a paper issue. The prints don’t just have a blue tint, they are totally blue. If I use the Canon software Easy Photo Print, I get a regular, non-blue print. However this software a) does not allow custom sizes and b) does not allow PSE to manage color. I’ve checked all the typical troubleshooting items, cleaned the print head, changed ink, etc etc. I just have the wrong settings in color management.

    I’ll keep trying. I wish there were a revert to default button somewhere!

    I appreciate your help.

  8. peaches February 21, 2010 at 6:35 am #

    Also, Albert, I want to step up my printing and I am considering the new Canon 9500 with the wide range of black and grey inks. I am just worried about the expensive ink.

    Any printer advice? I may give up on the wide-format options to save money, but I do love being able to make 11×13 prints. I am tired of bad B&W prints though on these color printers.

  9. Framkallning March 19, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Hi, that was without a doubt an interesting article. I had actually been searching for a photo printing related article for a while now. Great! Do you offer a subscription service? because I can’t seem to find the details anywhere.

  10. Tiffany Jones May 23, 2010 at 5:45 am #

    Yeah, Thanks for the great information really enjoyed the read ! 🙂

  11. Patrice RUBY June 18, 2010 at 1:24 am #

    Hello,
    Unfornately, the new Canon printer profiles have strange name like :
    CNB8XAA and so on…No way to know whic ones are for Pro 9000…?

  12. Patrice RUBY July 26, 2010 at 12:52 am #

    Got it..for pro 9000 all the CNB7Uxxx applies…
    exemple : CNB7UNA0 = PT1 or platinum quality 1 …
    But problem : for same paper and quality, there is another profile : CNB7UNAA….????

  13. Danielle Odden September 1, 2010 at 3:52 am #

    Hello Some good content on here. Good work.

  14. Jan October 17, 2010 at 8:04 am #

    Hallo Albert,

    Ik word gek van het uitzoeken voor het juist invullen of aanvinken in de volgende printers tw.
    Canon Pixma MP980 en de 9000 Pro mark II. Ik heb zelf de ICC profielen gemaakt met de colormunki en met de Eizo monitor ColorEdge CG241W. Wat moet er nu exact worden aan- of uitgevinkt in afdrukopties in het menu van de printers en wat in PS CS5 ?

  15. Mark November 27, 2010 at 6:46 am #

    Thank you, this was a very helpful article

  16. Sam December 4, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    Excellent guide – all canon printers should come with this! I’m having difficulty printing on Ilford Galerie Classic Pearl – the icc profile (from ilford) produces terrible results. Printing on it using the canon semi gloss icc and settings produces good colours but with a slight magenta cast and slightly flat, but passable. Any ideas?
    Thanks!

  17. Pebbles May 24, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Thank you so much, Albert. Great information, as others have posted yours has been the most reliable in all of my searches to date. My labels are printing much nicer now. Thanks again!

  18. Jim July 16, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    Thank you for that advice Albert. I was wondering if you would use the “Let Phototshop Manage Color” even if you had proofed the print with the appropriate ICC profile for the printer. I use CS% on Mac OS X which seems to give varying results. I’ve tried “Let Photoshop….”, :Printer Manage…” I’ve even tried Colorsync…and wow won’t again. Due you think it might because I uses Adobe RGB (RAW) in the DSLR and then change the profile to ProPhotoRGB in Adobe camera Raw? I’m tearing my hair out and there’s not a lot left.

  19. albert July 19, 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the way Macs deal with this, but the principle should be the same.
    If you let the printer manage color, then you essentially give final control of color rendering to the printer. In other words, whatever you have done in Photoshop is a waste of time as the printer will decide how it is going to output the image.
    That is why you should always use the “Photoshop manage color” settings. This SHOULD work.
    The ONLY thing I can think of is if you use the incorrect ICC profile for the paper/printer combo you are using (using ProPhotoRGB should be fine as it is a bigger space than Adobe RGB so no data is lost). You could try and set it back to Adobe RGB for printing purposes (go Edit|Convert to Profile and select Adobe RGB).
    In the printer make sure you have the paper that matches the printer’s ICC profile and you should be good.
    Good luck

  20. Brenda May 6, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

    Thankyou! More than 4 years on, your tutorial is still relevant and extremely helpful! Referencing this turned our printer from being a dud to awesome where photos are concerned – and it’s a Pixma, we couldn’t understand why it spat out such horrid colours! But as you say, now it produces beautiful prints. I have bookmarked this page for reference. Now that I have fixed my computer, there are 3 others in the house that need help. So, thank you, many times over 🙂

  21. Craig August 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Thanks for the good info. I’ve been printing out of MS Word for the past 22 years, and I’m new to using ICC profiles. I’m using Adobe Photoshop Elements 6, and I’m getting good color matching now, but the print is still too dark. Is there any way to brighten it up? Thanks.

    Test Picture:
    http://www.pbase.com/craig_c/image/66306564

  22. albert August 8, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    Hi Craig
    Dark prints usually mean your monitor is set too bright.
    Brightness on a monitor is an adjustable setting and can be set very high. You will then adjust your images accordingly, but because of the bright screen, you do not adjust the image enough. So, it will look OK on screen but is really quite dark and that is what you see when you print.

    There are only two solutions:
    1. Deliberately crank up the brightness of your images when you print (not recommended) or . .
    2. Turn down the brightness of your monitor to match the print (recommended).

    Good luck

  23. Johnny September 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    I believe that the color space you select does not matter if you are shooting RAW. Am I correct?

    Also, I was told that Lightroom uses ProPhotoRGB instead of AdobeRGB, how does that change things?

    By the way, why do you manually select “Fine” in the Windows print driver instead of just using “High” quality?

    Thanks for the info.

  24. Rob January 12, 2013 at 8:21 am #

    Hi,

    Thanks for the great tutorial; best one I have found on the subject. I haven’t printed a photo in some time and forgot my previous trial and error settings that were working; my recent attempts at making prints were way off from the monitor. With your tutorial I am back to printing what I see on my monitor and I understand the conflicts in the settings I was using!

    Thanks,

    Rob

  25. albert January 12, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    Hi Rob
    Glad this was of help.
    Have fun printing

    Albert

  26. Peggy December 22, 2015 at 5:06 am #

    I am using an MX882. I followed all of your instructions. What I got was a very dull, greyed photo. I had to go back to my original settings, which, of course, came out too dark. Back to square one.

  27. albert December 22, 2015 at 10:13 am #

    Hi Peggy, sorry to hear this did not solve your problem.
    However, I suspect you are pretty close to a solution!
    When the prints come out too dark, that is usually caused by your screen brightness being set too high.
    This was a very common complaint with Apple monitors that came out of the box with very bright screens. While they look great, they are actually too bright, causing you to edit your pictures incorrectly. The solution is simple, crank down the brightness of your screen, your pictures will now look dark (like the prints), re-edit you pictures and print again.

    Have fun . . .

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