23 January, 2015

Soft proofing black-and-white for matte paper

Indooroopilly Bridge, Brisbane Queensland [click to enlarge]

I love Lightroom and I love the soft proofing feature — for colour.

Unfortunately, the colour printer profiles when used for soft proofing black-and-white images for matte paper aren't much help. For example, when I switch on the soft proofing using a printer profile for Epson's Hot Press Natural, Lightroom hobbles the contrast to the point that it appears like there's a milky cast over the image.

I get it: Matte papers don't have the contrast and the Dmax of semi-gloss and gloss papers. But if the idea is that I can adjust my image for Hot Press Natural (a matte paper) to replicate the look on the screen or on Canson Baryta Photographique (a semi-gloss paper) — that isn't going to happen. And if I print the image with no/few changes, the contrast won't be anything like what the soft proof predicts.

With black and white images there aren't going to be any "out of gamut" alarm bells ringing. And, regarding rendering intent, "relative" is the easy choice as it best preserves the luminance information. (I can't see any difference between "relative" and "perceptual" anyway. I do, however, worry a bit that Eric Chan, Principal Scientist at Adobe, advises "perceptual" for his images going to Epson Advanced Black-and-White. On the other hand, Jeff Schewe, author of "The Digital Print," tends toward "relative.")

The solutions are simple:
  1. If I need more contrast than I can get out of matte paper, then I should print on something else; or 
  2. Leave well enough alone and live with the fact that soft proofing can't do everything. (I know how far I can press the contrast on HPN, and I know what the blacks will look like.)

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