Using ICC Profiles with Canon Printers

Background

Last month we discussed how to properly utilize ICC profiles with Epson printers. This month we focus on the use of profiles with Canon printers. Many of the latest Canon printers come with ICC profiles. Unfortunately, they have cryptic file names such as CNB5CCA0.ICM and descriptions that aren't much more help than the file name such as "Canon i960 PR1". Do you know how to make use of these profiles or even what paper they are for? If not, read on and we'll try to make using these profiles as simple as possible. As we did last month, we will assume for the purpose of this article that you have ICC (color managed) software such as Qimage or PhotoShop that you will be using to print photos.

What is a profile?

An ICC profile is a file that describes how to achieve accurate color on your printer with a certain type of paper. You need to have a profile for the specific paper (and ink) you are using. For more information on what profiles are and how they work, read my August 2004 article entitled "Over the gamut and through the woods".

Finding the right profile

If you have a newer model Canon printer, it may have come with ICC profiles that installed automatically from the software CD that comes with the printer. The following profiles install with the Canon i960 driver for example:

File name Description Paper Type Quality Setting
CNB5CCA0.ICM Canon i960 PR1 Photo Paper Pro 1
CNB5CCB0.ICM Canon i960 PR2 Photo Paper Pro 2
CNB5CDA0.ICM Canon i960 MP1 Matte Photo Paper 1
CNB5CEA0.ICM Canon i960 SP1 Photo Paper Plus Glossy 1

In addition to the above profiles, you may find another more generic profile called CNBJPRN2.ICM with the description "BJ Color Printer Profile 2000". This CNBJPRN2 profile is too generic to be of much use and isn't a "real" printer profile, but is more of a color matrix shaper. As such, use of this generic profile should be avoided and profiles for specific paper/quality types should be used like the ones above. Your Canon printer may have profiles with slightly different names, but just remember that the description includes the printer model followed by the paper type (PR = Photo Paper Pro, MP = Matte Photo Paper, and SP = Photo Paper Plus Glossy), and finally the quality setting at the end (1, 2, 3, etc.). Using the profile description (visible in your photo editor or printing software in the profile selection dialog), you should be able to choose the right profile for your printer and Canon paper.

If you are unable to locate any profiles for your printer or the paper you are using, you could try downloading and installing the latest driver for your printer. It is possible that profiles will be installed with the driver. To obtain the latest driver for your Canon printer, go here and use the dropdown menus to locate your printer. You can then download and install the driver.

If you are just not able to find any ICC profiles on the Canon web site for your printer (or paper that you are using), you could always create an ICC profile yourself using a tool like href="http://www.ddisoftware.com/qimage" rel="nofollow">Profile Prism, but the intent of this article is to illustrate how to use readily available profiles for Canon paper.

Finding the WRONG profile!

Please remember that printer profiles are designed for a specific printer, a specific paper type, and specific print driver settings. Don't try to use a profile designed for Canon Photo Paper Pro with a different brand paper for example. The paper may look the same and people may think it behaves the same way in your printer, but you will likely be wasting your time and ink since profiles only work with one type of paper. Similarly, profiles for a previous (older) model printer will likely not work properly either since the printer hardware is probably slightly different and the driver may be slightly different as well.

General overview of using printer profiles

Let's assume you have located the profile for your printer and paper. There are two steps in using the profile and if both steps are not performed correctly, you can end up with horrible color in your prints (most often either green/yellow color cast or dull/dark/muddy prints). Let's look at the two steps to properly utilizing a profile below.

Step 1: Print driver setup

First we have to set all print driver settings to those required by the profile. Print driver setup is usually accessed via "File", "Printer Setup" or by clicking "File", "Print" and selecting "Properties" for your printer. A profile will only work with one specific set of driver parameters. If you choose any parameter incorrectly such as selecting the wrong paper type, wrong quality setting, selecting "Vivid Photo" from the "Effects" tab, etc. the profile will not work properly. If the profile you are using came with a "readme" file, be sure to view the contents of that file and set the driver settings accordingly. If there is no readme file that outlines driver settings (there rarely is), you may have to rely on the file name. You need to know the printer model, the type of paper, and the printing mode (quality setting) as a minimum.

Let's use the Canon i960 and Photo Paper Pro as an example. The i960 driver CD installs several profiles, one of which is "Canon i960 PR1". By the description, we can tell that this is the profile for the i960 printer with Photo Paper Pro and is designed to be used with the driver set to quality level 1. The following driver settings are appropriate for use with this profile:

Once the "Custom" and "Manual" radio buttons have been checked above and the "Grayscale Printing" checkbox UNchecked, click the first "Set" button on the right of the window under "Print Quality". The following window will appear:

Slide the Quality slider to the right so that it rests under the "1" for quality. Click the "Diffusion" button next to Halftoning and click "OK" to accept. Now back on the main driver window (first window above) click the second "Set" button under "Color Adjustment". The following window will appear:

Make sure that the "Intensity" slider and all four color sliders are set to zero (center position), UNcheck the "Enable ICM" check box and set "Print Type" to "None". Click "OK" to accept. Now back on the main driver window, click the "Effects" tab at the top. The following window will appear:

On the "Effects" window, be sure to UNcheck all check boxes so that no effects are selected. Click "OK" to accept these settings, return to the main driver window, and click "OK" to accept all the settings on all of the above windows.

Your Canon driver screens may look a bit different than the above i960 driver screens, but most Canon drivers are very similar.

Step 2: Select the profile in your printing software

Now that we have opened our print driver setup window and have selected all the proper parameters in the driver itself, we must make the proper selections in our printing software to tell that software which profile to use. Step 1 of the process (above) simply prepares the driver to accept profiled data. It is in step 2 that our printing software must apply the profile. To do this, we need only tell our printing software which profile to use by giving it the file name. Refer to the steps below to see how to perform steps 1 and 2 in Qimage and PhotoShop.

Workflow for Qimage and PhotoShop

Qimage:

Step 1 (from above):

  • In Qimage, click "File", "Printer Setup" from the main menu.

  • Select your printer and click "Properties" for that printer.

  • Follow the screens from step 1 above to set the print driver settings.

Step 2 (from above):

  • Click "Settings" from the main menu and then "Color Management".

  • Click the "Enabled" box under "Printer" toward the middle of the window.

  • Click the browse "..." button in the "Printer" group.

  • Click the "All Windows Profiles" on the lower right of the window.

  • Scroll through the list and double click on the proper profile (for example "Canon i960 PR1").

  • Leave rendering intent set to "Perceptual" with "Black Point Compensation" checked.

  • Click "OK".

  • Add photos to the queue and print.

PhotoShop:

Step 1 (from above):

  • In PhotoShop CS, click "File", "Print with Preview" from the main menu. In prior versions of PhotoShop, click "File", "Print Options".

  • Click "Page Setup".

  • Click "Printer" at the bottom of the window.

  • Select your printer and click "Properties" for that printer.

  • Follow the screens from step 1 above to set the print driver settings and click "OK" to return to the "Print with Preview" window.

Step 2 (from above):

  • Back on the "Print with Preview" window, check "Show More Options".

  • Drop down and select "Color Management".

  • Under "Print Space" at the bottom, drop down "Profile" and select the proper profile (for example "Canon i960 PR1").

  • Set "Intent" to "Perceptual" and check "Use black point compensation".

  • Click the "Print" button and print your photo.

Once step 1 and 2 have been performed you can print any photos you like and they will all be profiled using the printer profile you selected in step 2. Note that Qimage remembers all software and print driver settings even if you exit Qimage and come back later, so step 1 and 2 will only have to be performed once and will only need to be redone if you change print driver settings for some other purpose/profile. PhotoShop will not remember your settings so you'll need to redo both steps above each time you print or save your settings from the print driver window if your driver has that option.

Most problems with using profiles are caused by an error in one of the two steps above:

  1. Failure to set print driver settings appropriately such as paper type, print quality, and print type "none".

  2. Forgetting to turn on the profile in your printing software.

As long as you always insure that the print driver settings are set properly per the readme file that comes with the profile (or per the instructions in step 1 if no readme is provided) and that you have told your printing software which profile to use, you'll get accurate color for all your photos.

-- Mike Chaney