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soft proofing: calibrating display to match test file vs. editing proofed file to resemble unproofed dupe of itself

Mar 15, 2019

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Please help me to improve my soft proof workflow.


The soft proof work I've done so far is based on things I’ve tried to learn mostly from Andrew Rodney’s publicly available teachings on the topic. I find them excellent and invaluable. I mention them here in part as a way of getting us on the same page (a good page, written by an acknowledged authority) with a common reference point, and in part because I gather that the Digital Dog is a contributor to this forum, and I would love for him to chime in here if he has the time.

I think that his teachings have (appropriately) evolved as the technology and its possibilities have evolved. Maybe my challenge now is to reconcile/integrate in my understanding some of his teachings with some of his other teachings.

Among soft proofing's many aspects, there are two (call them Aspect A and Aspect B) that I’m trying to reconcile/integrate with one another.

One aspect of soft proofing (call it Aspect A) entails (if I understand correctly) calibrating and profiling a display with target calibration aim points for white point, luminance, and contrast ratio in such a way as to achieve an approximate visual match between 1.) a test image file as it appears on that display
soft-proofed with a profile and rendering intent for a specific printer and surface and 2.) that same test image as a hardcopy as it was printed from that same file by that specific printer on that specific surface with that same profile and rendering intent, viewed next to the display under appropriate lighting and viewing conditions. (Reducing or increasing the amount of light falling on the hardcopy can be a part of this process.) Once this match is achieved, other files can be edited to taste on that calibrated and profiled display so that prints made from them by that same printer on that same surface with the same rendering intent etc. will look as expected under appropriate lighting and viewing conditions. This aspect of soft proofing is consistent with Andrew Rodney’s teaching here:

https://blog.xritephoto.com/2011/07/x-rite-i1display-pro-advanced-features-contrast-ratio-with-color...

There, he writes:

"If you soft proof in Photoshop […], Photoshop uses the ICC printer profile to adjust the print contrast ratio onto the display. [….] It is far better to calibrate the displays contrast ratio rather than adjusting the ratio solely by using the paper and ink simulations in Photoshop. When using just Photoshop to do this simulation, only the image, not the rest of the user interface is adjusted which is far from ideal. This is where i1profiler’s new contrast ratio target calibration aim point comes into play.”

I have used my i1 Display Pro and i1Profiler and a monitor hood and full-spectrum Solux bulbs in a way consistent with this aspect.

Another aspect (call it Aspect B) of soft proofing (if I understand correctly) entails 1.) beginning with the standard (visual goal) of a master file that was already (on a display that was calibrated and profiled WITHOUT regard for any visual matching of a printed test image) edited/adjusted to look its best and rendered from raw to a tiff/psd/psb; and then 2.) duplicating that file so that the dupe can be viewed without soft proofing; and then 3.) in Photoshop viewing that not-soft-proofed duplicate side-by-side with the soft-proofed master file and adding layers to the master file so as to make it more closely resemble the not-soft-proofed duplicate of itself. And doing all this on a display whose white point, luminance, and contrast ratio have all been calibrated and profiled, but NOT calibrated or profiled in such a way as to achieve a match between the way a test image appears on the display and the way it appears on a print.
This aspect of soft proofing is consistent with Andrew Rodney’s teaching here:

http://digitaldog.net/files/HowToEditSoftProof.pdf

It seems to me that these two aspects are both valid, but I don’t know whether Andrew Rodney intends for them to coexist in the same workflow. Does he? Should they? Does it make sense to do the side-by-side comparison and adding-of-layers to the master file on a display that has been calibrated and profiled as per Aspect A? It would seem that there might be some advantage to doing as much soft proofing as possible on a raw file as per Aspect A, before rendering. But how could this include a role for a Master file that was already edited/optimized as per Aspect B? And so on. Do you know what I mean? Am I the only one who's struggling to reconcile/integrate these two aspects?

I mean these questions humbly: it’s likely that I’m missing something and misunderstanding.

With gratitude to A.R. and any of you who can aid me with your understanding,

Mark

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soft proofing: calibrating display to match test file vs. editing proofed file to resemble unproofed dupe of itself

Mar 15, 2019

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Please help me to improve my soft proof workflow.


The soft proof work I've done so far is based on things I’ve tried to learn mostly from Andrew Rodney’s publicly available teachings on the topic. I find them excellent and invaluable. I mention them here in part as a way of getting us on the same page (a good page, written by an acknowledged authority) with a common reference point, and in part because I gather that the Digital Dog is a contributor to this forum, and I would love for him to chime in here if he has the time.

I think that his teachings have (appropriately) evolved as the technology and its possibilities have evolved. Maybe my challenge now is to reconcile/integrate in my understanding some of his teachings with some of his other teachings.

Among soft proofing's many aspects, there are two (call them Aspect A and Aspect B) that I’m trying to reconcile/integrate with one another.

One aspect of soft proofing (call it Aspect A) entails (if I understand correctly) calibrating and profiling a display with target calibration aim points for white point, luminance, and contrast ratio in such a way as to achieve an approximate visual match between 1.) a test image file as it appears on that display
soft-proofed with a profile and rendering intent for a specific printer and surface and 2.) that same test image as a hardcopy as it was printed from that same file by that specific printer on that specific surface with that same profile and rendering intent, viewed next to the display under appropriate lighting and viewing conditions. (Reducing or increasing the amount of light falling on the hardcopy can be a part of this process.) Once this match is achieved, other files can be edited to taste on that calibrated and profiled display so that prints made from them by that same printer on that same surface with the same rendering intent etc. will look as expected under appropriate lighting and viewing conditions. This aspect of soft proofing is consistent with Andrew Rodney’s teaching here:

https://blog.xritephoto.com/2011/07/x-rite-i1display-pro-advanced-features-contrast-ratio-with-color...

There, he writes:

"If you soft proof in Photoshop […], Photoshop uses the ICC printer profile to adjust the print contrast ratio onto the display. [….] It is far better to calibrate the displays contrast ratio rather than adjusting the ratio solely by using the paper and ink simulations in Photoshop. When using just Photoshop to do this simulation, only the image, not the rest of the user interface is adjusted which is far from ideal. This is where i1profiler’s new contrast ratio target calibration aim point comes into play.”

I have used my i1 Display Pro and i1Profiler and a monitor hood and full-spectrum Solux bulbs in a way consistent with this aspect.

Another aspect (call it Aspect B) of soft proofing (if I understand correctly) entails 1.) beginning with the standard (visual goal) of a master file that was already (on a display that was calibrated and profiled WITHOUT regard for any visual matching of a printed test image) edited/adjusted to look its best and rendered from raw to a tiff/psd/psb; and then 2.) duplicating that file so that the dupe can be viewed without soft proofing; and then 3.) in Photoshop viewing that not-soft-proofed duplicate side-by-side with the soft-proofed master file and adding layers to the master file so as to make it more closely resemble the not-soft-proofed duplicate of itself. And doing all this on a display whose white point, luminance, and contrast ratio have all been calibrated and profiled, but NOT calibrated or profiled in such a way as to achieve a match between the way a test image appears on the display and the way it appears on a print.
This aspect of soft proofing is consistent with Andrew Rodney’s teaching here:

http://digitaldog.net/files/HowToEditSoftProof.pdf

It seems to me that these two aspects are both valid, but I don’t know whether Andrew Rodney intends for them to coexist in the same workflow. Does he? Should they? Does it make sense to do the side-by-side comparison and adding-of-layers to the master file on a display that has been calibrated and profiled as per Aspect A? It would seem that there might be some advantage to doing as much soft proofing as possible on a raw file as per Aspect A, before rendering. But how could this include a role for a Master file that was already edited/optimized as per Aspect B? And so on. Do you know what I mean? Am I the only one who's struggling to reconcile/integrate these two aspects?

I mean these questions humbly: it’s likely that I’m missing something and misunderstanding.

With gratitude to A.R. and any of you who can aid me with your understanding,

Mark

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 15, 2019

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You understand it correctly. There are no contradictions between the two aspects you summarize. They coexist and serve different specific purposes to achieve a common goal: what you see is what you get.

Setting monitor white point and black point/contrast range defines the framework for color management to operate in. To the profiles, white just remaps to white, without any regard for what that white looks like on screen and compared to the paper color. This is what you call "aspect A".

But then you also need to know if there is any gamut clipping when going from document/monitor to print. This is what soft proof is for - "aspect B". This is independent from the calibration parameters you just set - leave those, they continue to do what they're supposed to do. You just need to check for clipping.

Soft proof is only as useful as your monitor gamut. To have full use of soft proof, the monitor gamut needs to cover the target gamut (print) fully. That's why wide gamut monitors are useful. With a standard gamut monitor it's all clipped to sRGB anyway, which is likely a lot smaller that the print profile.

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Mar 15, 2019

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Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply, D Fosse.

I’m feeling some regret about making my original post so long without asking specific-enough questions. I apologize for that. I’ll try to home in on the things I fear I’m misunderstanding with some more specific questions here:

Wouldn’t any Master File arrived at via “Aspect A” (insofar as it entails calibrating a display to resemble the contrast ratio of a print) be a poor starting point for making an image optimized for viewing on a web site?

Shouldn't optimizing an image for viewing on a web site entail adjustment work on a raw file viewed on a display calibrated for the contrast ratio of a display, rather than the contrast ratio of a print?

Is THAT the kind of image that should be rendered to become a Master File to which layers will be added in Photoshop—layers whose purpose I tried to describe in “Aspect B”?

Or, conversely, if the Master file is to be used as a background layer in Photoshop for adding layers whose purpose is to address the effects of soft proofing for device-specific output, then wouldn’t the quality of that Master file be higher (for this purpose) if it were rendered from a raw file whose adjustments were made while viewed on a display calibrated for the contrast ratio of a print, rather than the native contrast ratio of the display? (Because "It is far better to calibrate the displays contrast ratio rather than adjusting the ratio solely by using the paper and ink simulations in Photoshop.”)

I thought I understood that the duplicate of the Master File should look its best when viewed on a display calibrated to its native contrast ratio (with no output-specific layers). Did I understand correctly?

And I thought that the purpose of the output-specific adjustment layers on the soft-proofed Master File was to attempt a simulation of how good that not-soft-proofed duplicate looks on a display calibrated to its native contrast ratio. Did I understand that correctly?

But of course this comparison cannot happen on a display calibrated to resemble the contrast ratio of a print. Right?

Again, I want to emphasize that I mean all these questions humbly. I know that any difficulty I’m having in reconciling different aspects of these processes do not point to inconsistencies in the conception of these processes.

With gratitude,

Mark

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Mar 16, 2019

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I think you're mixing up soft proof and calibration. Soft proof is only to identify any areas of gamut clipping in the print profile.

Saturated colors outside the target (print) color space are clipped to the nearest reproducible color. This not only mutes the original color, but can also wipe out fine detail and texture in these areas and give a "dead" appearance. So with soft proof still on, you can try to compensate to bring these areas "back to life". Or you may decide to do nothing at all.

Setting up calibration parameters is something different and unrelated. That's not soft proofing. It's to get a basic match from screen to print, so that what you see on screen generally corresponds to the final print. Same basic brightness level, same white and same "whiteness", same contrast and same black level.  What you see is what you get.

If you have a white pixel in your document, 255-255-255, that pixel just reproduces as 255-255-255 on screen. There's no regard for what that white actually looks like on screen, or whether it actually matches the white of the paper in your final print. This is what you define when you set up the calibration parameters. You're connecting the two. You're defining screen white to look like paper white.

Here's an important thing: the only common reference we all share is a printed photograph on a piece of paper. We all relate to that and know what it looks like. There's no such reference for screens. There's nothing to build a shared perception on. One person's screen is blazing bright, the next person's dim and dull. No common ground.

So even if you work for screen only, it still makes perfect sense to target paper white. It puts us all on the same page. But of course you can allow a deeper black if you're not trying to match a certain print process.

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