I shoot RAW, and It would be really nice to print high gamut images.

The problem is that:

  1. I work on laptop that can only show ~60% of sRGB, and clearly a much much smaller percentage of Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB. How does one optimize the workflow if the goal is printing on a wider gamut printer?
  2. The print services I'm aware of (ye average photo shop) that cater to individuals don't seem to offer wide gamut printing.

So is wide gamut printing even an option to those of us without 2000$ monitors and 10,000$ printers?


3 Answers 3


First, one need not spend $10,000 on a printer to get a wide gamut. To be specific, to PRINT wide gamut, you don't need to spend a lot of money. There is often an implicit association between managing color and printing wide gamut, however the two are actually separate activities. These days, the actual process of managing color is automated by ICM, which reduces the complexity of color management to choosing the right ICC profile for your printer and paper, and just printing. That will usually get you great results most of the time. So right now, I am assuming that, based on the wording used in your question, you are simply looking for the ability to print on a wide gamut printer, and not looking for a dissertation on the nuances of color management (which encompasses a lot more than just printing.)

The sub-$1000 Canon PIXMA Pro series and a couple Epson printers are all capable of printing wide gamut on a variety of papers with high quality pigment inks. Usually, a $10,000 printer gets you extra commercial-ready features, like ultra large format, roll printing, built-in hard drives to store queues prints, built-in color calibration features, monster ink tanks that can survive printing a single 60x40" print, etc.

Printing at a wide gamut is more about making sure your tones and colors are within the gamut of the printer, for the given type of paper, than anything. For that, you do not absolutely require a high gamut screen. You could, technically, get away with just Photoshop.

When it comes to printing, there is actually nothing that will stop you from printing a wide gamut print if you don't have a wide gamut screen. The printer will print what it's told to print. The difference is that you will have trouble judging the accuracy of the print if you have no accurate source of reference (i.e. a wide gamut calibrated screen) to compare it with.

The key thing about preparing an image for print on any printer is making sure the colors will fit within the gamut of the print. That means, for the given set of printer, ink and paper...do the colors of your print fall in or out of gamut. Photoshop, and even now Lightroom v4 and up, offer soft proofing. You can soft proof your photos, which will give you a simulation of how the image will look when printed, with the option of simulating black point and paper color tinting. For these particular features to be valuable, you still need a wide gamut calibrated screen...if your laptop can only cover 60% of sRGB, that's going to be tough.

Another feature that Photoshop offers is the gamut warning. With this, even on a non-calibrated and otherwise ineffective screen, you can at least see how much of your print may result in a gamut error, which either requires manual tuning to bring that region of your print back within gamut, or the use of a scaling ICM rendering intent. Relative Colorimetric will scale in a methematically pure manner, while Perceptual will scale in a manner that generally maintains how human vision perceives the photo. Using either of these rendering intents is usually sufficient to get a good looking, generally color accurate print. If for whatever reason these do not suffice, there are a number of techniques you can use to manually bring out-of-gamut colors back into gamut (usually with masking techniques and some desaturation of a hue-restricted color range), tweak black and white points, etc. (The details here are probably best left for other, more targeted questions.)

For the most part, when you print, so long as you are using a quality printer, with quality papers and a proper ICC profile, you really don't have to worry. Tell Photoshop or Lightroom to print, and it'll happen. Most of the time, your prints will come out extremely well. If you don't already have a hypercritical eye for the minor kinds of defects that an extra $9000 is going to help you fix, then you don't need all that other fancy crap anyway. You'll be satisfied with your prints. You will have to use direct judgement to determine if the color looks right, you won't have anything to compare to with a screen that only covers 60% of sRGB. A number of other print tests, such as for metamerism and gloss differential, are performed directly in various kinds of lighting and at certain angles to the light anyway, so a calibrated wide gamut screen is unnecessary.

So long as you don't expect 99% accurate color reproduction, which is really going to require a nice high end, high quality wide gamut screen such as the NEC PA272W, or an even higher end LaCie or Eizo, for best results, there is nothing that will actually PREVENT you from printing wide gamut prints on a $1000 to $1500 pigment-ink printer. For that matter, the NEC PA272W is only $1200, so you don't even need to spend two grand on a monitor. You could probably get away with spending $2000 in total on both a screen and a printer, and then you really wouldn't have anything to worry about at all. The printers only really need to get more expensive if you really need to print on papers larger than 13x19"...a 17x20" printer is probably going to start at around $1500 or so, and for anything larger than that your definitely looking at over $2000 just for the printer.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Was the information I found when looking at the gamut of the Pixma wrong? Everything I was finding said that it is a sub-set of sRGB and doesn't really extend much outside of it, but maybe I just found bad information. I didn't spend a lot of time looking. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    May 22, 2014 at 13:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Gamut in print largely depends on which papers you are using. I know that my old PIXMA Pro 9500 II and Lucia inks can print wide gamut (around AdobeRGB size) on specific types of luster and gloss papers. Same generally goes for Epson printers with their UltraChrome inks. Wide gamut in print usually doesn't extend beyond AdobeRGB size, although some parts of the print gamut may extend outside the bounds of either sRGB or AdobeRGB in specific hues...such as purples/skintones (Epson) or greens and reds (Canon). \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    May 22, 2014 at 16:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ ok, that seems to match up with the experience I've had in terms of how high quality the images seem to be that I print, but I haven't actually looked at the gamut charts for my ICC profiles for my printer and papers of choice. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    May 22, 2014 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ In the case of Lucia II, Lucia EX, UltraChrome HDR, etc. you definitely have wide gamuts, and often on a wider range of papers. It should be clearly noted, however, that if you use matte papers in general, and certain natural fiber luster/semigloss/gloss papers (there are a few, such as from Moab), that your gamut is likely to be quite restricted. That's due to lower reflectivity, dMax and offtone white points, all of which affect gamut. Gamut isn't everything in print, however. There are very specific reasons to choose a matte or natural fiber paper, for their specific aesthetic. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    May 22, 2014 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Finally, papers that have a nice dMax and high L* very frequently achieve that via OBAs. OBAs can definitely improve your gamut, color reproduction, dynamic range, etc. Just beware that OBAs are uv-sensitive (they absorb UV then reflect it back at a lower energy), so they fade over time. If you want brilliant prints, especially brilliant matte prints, you SHOULD choose a paper with OBAs (Moab Lasal Photo Matte is a wonderful example), and you'll get some of the best gamut you can find. If you need "archival" longevity, then acid free natural fiber papers are usually best. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    May 22, 2014 at 16:11

Well, if you want to be able to work in a gamut, you do need to be able to display it, but it doesn't cost $2000 to get a monitor with AdobeRGB support. I use an HP LP2475w as my main monitor and it is able to support AdobeRGB fine and was only $650 when I got it several years ago.

You also need a color calibration unit, of which there are many options, but can range from $50 to $2000 with pretty solid offerings in the $100 to $300 range for the serious amateur or professional. I personally use a Spyder3, though the Spyder4 is out now. They aren't the only offering out there though. Calibration is important to make sure you have an accurate ICC profile for the response curves of your monitor though or you still won't get accurate color.

As for printing, you can then use any lab that is willing to ship to you that has wide gamut support as long as you have proper ICC calibration and gamut support on your monitor for doing the editing and properly prepping the image. Additionally, it sounds like relatively affordable printers like the better PIXMA and Epson printers can handle fairly large gamuts with good gloss or luster papers.

That said, color management is non-trivial and does require a fair bit of effort and knowledge to get right if you want to maintain really high accuracy, but it does pay off in having better quality prints even when printing in pigment ink systems like LUCIA 12 (I personally primarily print on a calibrated Pixma Pro-1 rather than using a lab. I don't know for sure what the actual gamut the paper I use supports, but I get fantastic, vibrant prints from it when using good paper.)


As a photographer that prints regularly in a gamut much larger that his display space, I can tell you it's possible, with the complete understanding that your blind in some image areas on the image you will actually print.

Even a monitor slightly larger than Adobe 1998 can not provide the coverage a high gamut process can. So this is the method I use:

Make as many edits in the raw file as possible understanding that the preview will be accurate until rendering to Pro-Photo. I use Pro-Photo because my Epson 4900 paper has a larger gamut than Adobe 1998. Set ACR to Pro-Photo and 16 bit if edits will be made after rendering the pixels. Convert and save a copy of the image in the monitors color space using a perceptual transform. Make any edits in a non-distructive way and when your satisfied with those edits, open the ProPhoto version and move them over to the real file. Flatten and subsample to 8bit, and save a Tiff file for printing.

Paper with OBA's will produce a greater gamut in most software plotting tools, but some caveats to that plan are: OBA's are fugitive so your high gamut print will only be high gamut for days or weeks unless protected completely from UV. UV Glass is expensive. Measurement of gamut volumes doesn't take the visual effect of OBA's into account as this is a plot of XYZ values not wavelengths and is subject to metameric integration. A better medium is a metalic substrate, but this of course is an artistic choice.

My wide gamut monitor I got refurbished and is just larger than Adobe 1998 but I have made some modifications. My Epson 4900 prints a very large gamut, and I paid full retail price. The rip is the big deal and also the drivers. Those are proprietary, but yes it prints a very wide gamut. (Larger than Adobe 98) All for about 5-6k not counting my programming time. You can purchase prints from my lab if you like.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So generally printers have a higher gamut than monitors? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rolf
    Apr 21, 2018 at 13:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Depends on the brightness of the display and the type of printer / rip and paper. No way to generalize those variables. The Epson 4900 can print a very large gamut on good coated paper. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 24, 2018 at 21:11

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