I confess, I am becoming a grumpy old man. Every now and then I pay a visit to the people over at the other place and check in and see how a few discussions are going. Almost every time I look at one group, there is at least one person with this complaint…

“My prints are too dark. No matter how much I calibrate my monitor or tweak the Photoshop settings or what paper profiles I use, it is impossible to get a print to match the screen. I give up, printing is hopeless.”

This comes as a bit of a surprise to a lot of people, including me, who are making fine prints and hanging them in galleries.

The solution to this problem is simple. The monitor is too bright. Most consumer level LCD monitors are very bright. They are optimised for watching video and playing games, lots of bright colour and movement. When a printer tries to emulate this brightness, it lays down too much ink and the print goes dark and muddy.

I try to be helpful and post this information. I check back later and there are more posts, usually from the person with the problem or someone else with the same problem. My solution is ignored or dismissed as wrong and the new posts ask if a better calibration tool, or a new paper profile or perhaps a new monitor will solve the problem.

At this point I get grumpy and give up. Why do people want to buy more stuff instead of learning how what they have works?

The process of printing a digital image is to match what you see on the screen with what the printer produces. This involves two things, accurate colour and luminance. Most people get the matching colour issue OK and get some sort of calibration system, but they pay no attention to luminance.

I spent quite a bit of time, paper and ink matching the luminance of my monitor to the print density (the amount of light in the room you work in also has a part to play). As a result, my Eizo monitor is working at only 20% luminance, but my prints match what I see on the screen as closely as can be achieved when comparing a backlit on-screen image with ink on paper.

It isn’t hard, there is plenty of information out on the intertubes telling you how to do it. But for some people, buying more stuff seems to be the way to go.