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Let's say I have calibrated my monitor for AdobeRGB. Then I download the ICC color profile from a printing lab and I apply that to an image I am viewing, then I expect the image to look exactly like it will appear when printed.

But this can happen only if the printer profile is with respect to AdobeRGB right? If the printer ICC profile is w.r.t. something else i.e. w.r.t. sRGB, then it won't appear correctly on my monitor, is that right? So what is the reference for a ICC printer file that labs make available like this one here from bayphoto.com.

Thanks!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What operating system are you using? What application are you using to view the photo? How, exactly, are you 'applying' the printer profile to the image? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 18, 2023 at 3:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ You should never use a printer profile for your display profile. It doesn't work that way. You should use the monitor profile created when you profiled your calibrated monitor for the display profile. When soft proofing, you need to point your image editing/viewing application to the correct printer profile, which will apply it to the image before sending the image to your monitor, which needs the monitor profile active within your GPU.. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 18, 2023 at 5:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelC ok forget all that I said. I am not using it as display profile. I am using it in Lightroom with the soft proofing option to see how the print colors look. It doesn't matter. I just want to know what the reference is. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2023 at 6:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ When I make a home printer profile using Argyll CMS, I have to specify an input profile (usually adobeRGB) in order for the perceptual transformation to work properly. Is this what you mean by a reference? It's a long time sice I've used a commercial printer but I think they may specify what profile to export in if they do the transform perceptually or they may suggest using a colourimetric transform if you are expected to download a profile and do the transform yourself. \$\endgroup\$
    – dmkonlinux
    Mar 18, 2023 at 6:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you change the link posted as it tries to download the profile itself. For instance Bay Photo Lab's ICC Profile help \$\endgroup\$
    – dmkonlinux
    Mar 18, 2023 at 7:20

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This isn't really an answer, but too much for a comment. I feel it needs to be established how the OP's workflow is set up

Can we establish some basics.

You don't "calibrate to sRGB or Adobe 98" you "calibrate/profile the screen to get a display icc profile". This then becomes your system default profile. Don't then change your displays at all - ie don't switch them to sRGB/Adobe98 etc, leave them right where they were, as calibrated.

Set your colour workspace to be your intended 'RGB' style, eg sRGB/Adobe98. [Ignore CMYK here] This can be based on your usual input files. I set mine to Adobe98 but use my camera's own version of that Adobe98 profile right the way through until export, then one conversion at export to sRGB etc.
Now your system can wrap & unwrap profiles to keep what you see on the screen matched to what Photoshop etc 'sees'.
Your printer profile you use on soft-proof & switch with Cmd/Y once defined. That's your basic workflow.

It's this ability of the system to "wrap & unwrap" profiles as necessary - it unconverts & reconverts without you needing to be aware, once it knows what & where they all are. The Mac is particularly good at this, so long as you put the right profiles in the right places & select as appropriate. You can then forget all about your RGB profiling & only need to worry about your printer profiles at export.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, this clarifies my confusion. I thought the monitor can be calibrated to a particular color space - but looks like it cannot. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 20, 2023 at 20:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Glad it helped. It is a confusion of seemingly conflicting information until someone points you in the right direction. I'd never figured it out for myself initially either, someone had to tell me 'you do this, then that, then this & tadahh… it works.' The two most common errors seem to be 1) changing the display's output 'style' after calibration & 2) setting the Display's profile in Photoshop's settings. Both of these will badly screw the workflow. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 21, 2023 at 11:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @greenberet123 Some monitors let you calibrate (or likely have presets) to sRGB. Others may not as it requires additional electronics in the monitor. displayninja.com/what-is-srgb-emulation-mode \$\endgroup\$
    – doug
    Mar 22, 2023 at 4:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doug - that doesn't mean you should ever set your display to that. You set it to 'defaults' or as wide open as it will go [+/- compensation during calibration, as advised by the software] then control it from the computer. Otherwise you're back to square one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 22, 2023 at 8:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tetsujin You are absolutely right. Monitors should be profiled for their native colorpace to get the best results printing. An exception is if the image being printed is sRGB in which case a monitor in sRGB colorspace offers a bit less dE between steps when the image is 8 bits/ch. Other than that, native monitor colorspace is the best choice. \$\endgroup\$
    – doug
    Mar 22, 2023 at 15:33
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A device's color space/profile (ICC) is in reference to visible light... typically defined in RGB colors/numbers. I.e. all devices are just some portion of the total RGB viewable spectrum... they are not sRGB, adobe RGB, or anything else.

When you calibrate a monitor you are accurately defining its color space (ICC profile), and when you softproof using a printer profile you are using a reproduction/simulation of the printer's color space... both as they exist within the visible RGB spectrum.

Defining a device as being sRGB, or using the sRGB color space (or any other one) may be limiting that device to reproducing fewer colors than it otherwise could. Or it may be attempting to use colors that the device cannot reproduce.

This picture shows a printer profile that includes all of sRGB, most of Adobe RGB, and some colors outside of both of those. If you were to softproof this printer profile on a monitor that was only Adobe RGB capable, then the printer colors outside of Adobe RGB couldn't be displayed 100% accurately; that is why softproofing is "a simulation." And this is where the perceptual/relative rendering intents become relevant; how out of gamut (unreproducible) colors are handled.

Adobe RGB, sRGB and print output are overlapping subsets of visible light

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For printer ICC profiles, the reference is the set of colors the printer is capable of reproducing with the specified inks on the specified paper when viewed under specified lighting conditions. For higher quality inkjet and dye sublimation printers printing on high quality paper, this will include much, but not all, of Adobe RGB. It may also include some colors not included in Adobe RGB.

enter image description here
The printer coverages in this graphic appears to be from overly optimistic profiles provided by printer manufacturers. In actual practice, very few to none get this close to full Adobe RGB coverage.

Even changing the paper used will mean a different (correct) printer profile. Not using the specified inks, or even a different batch of the specified inks that is out of range of the sample used to create the profile, will totally invalidate a printer profile created with the specified inks. So will viewing the printer output under different lighting conditions than specified. That is why higher end color management tools include colorimeters that can be used to read actual prints under specified lighting conditions and software that will generate a custom color profile for that printer when used with that specific batch of ink and that specific batch of paper.

...then I expect the image to look exactly like it will appear when printed.

That's more than a bit unrealistic. Even in the most well-managed color critical environments the printer's capabilities will not exactly match the display device's capabilities. The monitor can show some colors, usually a considerable percentage of the monitor's capability, the printer can't and, to a lesser extent, vice-versa. What you actually see, at best, will be the colors within the printer's capability that the monitor can also display.

Any colors the monitor can display but the printer can't reproduce will not be included. Any colors the printer is capable of displaying that the monitor can't will, obviously, not be displayed by the monitor. What the monitor will display in place of those colors depends on whether you've selected perceptual or relative colormetric rendering in the settings for the application with which you're viewing the image.

Here's the rub. Monitors and printers use two totally different processes to stimulate the receptors in our retinas and fool our brains into thinking what they are displaying is the same color as what we photographed.

  • Monitors emit light. The different colors monitors emit can be mixed in certain proportions in an additive way. When a properly functioning monitor is emitting at 100% in all three (or occasionally four) color channels, it will all add up to pure white.
  • Printers use inks that absorb light. The portion of light that the inks don't absorb is reflected and that is what we see. When every ink is fully applied to a spot on the paper, it should subtract reflection of all colors and we should see pure black, at least in theory. The reason we use black ink CMYK systems in addition to cyan, magenta, and yellow inks is because we have yet to create three inks that can be mixed together and absorb all wavelengths of light equally. The spectral content of the light illuminating a print will also affect what colors are reflected. That's why we rate lights by their CRI (color rendering index). In an extreme example, if we're viewing a print under pure blue light, any red ink will look grey or black to our eyes because the light source is not outputting any red light to be reflected.

enter image description here

You'll never have a printer that can exactly match any emissive display. That's why part of the color management process is to use color profiles to soft proof images on screen, then make test prints to compare actual prints to to what the screen displays, both with and without soft proofing turned on.

It's a forty minute time commitment, but this video comparing different printer profiles vs. various color spaces is quite informative and shows just how different the color spaces printers and monitors can display are to one another.

For those who do better with text articles, here's the condensed text version.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate all the information, but it still doesn't answer my question. I am aware of light and retinas and monitors and ink and paper. My question is very specific. Let me try to make it more specific. I have monitor A calibrated to Adobe RGB and monitor B calibrated to sRGB. God has made the monitors exactly identical otherwise. I open the same image in both monitors and I apply the same Bayphoto.com printer profile to both using the softproof option of Lightroom. Now, which monitor will be have a better representation of the final print, A or B? Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Mar 18, 2023 at 6:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Neither, particularly. It could be either one based in all the variables you have not defined. Those variables would include the specific contents of a specific photograph, since very few photographs use every color available to the monitor or to the printer. Which colors the photo contains could very well tip the balance one way or the other. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 18, 2023 at 8:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ P.S. You do not calibrate a monitor "to Adobe RGB" or "to sRGB". \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 18, 2023 at 8:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ The primary variable would be which color space the profile was created to be used in. You can either ask the provider of the profile (who may or may not give an accurate answer), or you can use tools to see if it is embedded in the profile's metadata, such as the writer of the article linked in this comment has done. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 18, 2023 at 8:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @Michael C, that was my source of confusion. I thought the monitor is calibrated to a particular color space - but looks like it is not. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 20, 2023 at 20:35

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