I am making a design which I would like to print later on (I do not know yet where, so I do not have the printer profile).

The problem is always to make sure that the colours I see on screen are also the ones I will get when printed.

Having found this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eg4inW434vU I bought that calibration tool for my monitor and used it. After the calibration, the achieved ICC profile is shown and I see that it corresponds "only" up to 80% to the Adobe RGB profile, whereas it matches at 100% with a web RGB profile.

I went on the support website of the calibraiton device to understand it better and found these 2 answers, which confused me a bit:



So on one hand it says that I can either work with sRGB or Adobe RGB to create my design. On the other hand it says that the tool sets the monitor following a universal standard, in such a way that the colours I see on screen are the "real" ones, regardless of the subsequent use of the design (web or printing).

So 1st question is: how can a calibration tool ensures that the colours stays the same when printed? Printers do also have their own color profiles, which might not correspond to the one of my calibrated monitor

2nd question is: why not simply using a sRGB IEC61966-2.1 color profile? That one is already standard, right?

3 Answers 3


Let me try to answer your question by separating several questions with some diagrams. They are a bit exaggerated so it gives the idea.

1. What does monitor calibration do?

It targets different possible deviations of color.

In image (B) I have too little red, so calibration will extend the available red. It has a cost, the red could have fewer steps (C).

enter image description here

It corrects and defines some other things like white point.

enter image description here

However, it can not correct intrinsic limitations. In example (H) the monitor could not have a deep black. This is what it means a monitor can cover only a percentage of a given color space.

enter image description here

So the first answer to the 3-part question is. You do not want to have wacky colors on your own monitor.

2. What does a printer profile do?

I would like to print later on (I do not know yet where, so I do not have the printer profile).

If you do not have a printer profile you only have half the information.

Let me take a step back. A print profile defines how much ink can be used and needs to be used depending on how the specific paper reacts and absorbs the defined ink.

A print profile then gives the software information on what it needs to do regarding a specific printer-ink-paper combination.

Then this information is used in two levels.

Level 1, if the software can handle it, it shows a simulation, a preview on how the print might look.

(I) What you have in a RGB file. (J) What a print might look on a coated paper. (K) how a print might look on uncoated paper.

enter image description here

Level 2 is to actually transform the file information from RGB to the target CMYK to be fixed on the CMYK channels.

3. How does monitor calibration affect printing?

The answer to this question is the same as Part 1.

You do not want to have wacky colors on your own monitor when simulating a print preview.

2nd question is: why not simply use a sRGB IEC61966-2.1 color profile?

You can for the RGB part. The specific calibration done on your specific monitor would be to tweak a bit the colors on your specific case.

One example. Let's say you have a monitor that actually can display the sRGB spectrum. But you can actually change the brightness or contrast because of your environment or personal preferences. Then, the colors displayed are actually different than the "ideal".

Other examples can be the monitor is old, or the manufacturer's quality changed, or some component, or whatever reason.

A standard assumes that everything is going perfectly. In most cases using standard profiles is good enough.

On high-end products, like a movie (RGB only), or pro photoshoot, a printed magazine, on cooperative work of a bank (CMYK)... you need to let the least amount of loose ends, so you calibrate the high-end monitor, the working environment, the paper, the temperature, humidity, the viewing boot, the spectometers...

Even the user's eyes. Yes, your eyes can be uncalibrated! Take a look at the first part of this link "Some initial notes" and follow the instructions: https://otake.com.mx/ColorCalibration/


A profile is like an instruction that tells you how to get to city center. When you have two profiles you can relate them by knowing the city center. So now you know how to get from profile A color to profile B color that matches.

Ok so thats half of what the profiles and intents do. So it is possible that the profiles dont overlap well. Its like saying well i know where the center is and where you are but its too far away for my transport. So now you can nolonger reach every corner of the other profile. This is when the intent kicks in to do something about the scale issue.

why not simply using a sRGB IEC61966-2.1 color profile?

Because that might be impossible for your device. Are you willing to remove all cool colors possible print just because its inconvenient to your monitor. Or are you saying movies cant use vivid colors because your monitor isnt capable of those colors.

sRGB is fine, for web work. Standard does not imply that we cant do things better.

  • Ok so first issue to solve is the "compatibility" between the color profile and what the printer can do --> it is now clear why it is not a good idea to use the sRGB IEC61966-2.1. In the same way I guess works for Adobe RGB, since it has even a bigger gamut.
    – Rhei
    Jan 4 at 15:06
  • What I am still missing is "now you know how to get from profile A color to profile B color that matches". I have now my calibrated monitor, I open Photoshop and start painting and I see calibrated colours...how do I get to the printed colours? At the end I would have to do a soft proof of the colours (ideally with the printer profile) to see how they will look like once on paper...but then couldn't I do it even withouth calibrating the monitor?
    – Rhei
    Jan 4 at 15:10
  • @Rhei Thats a different question. In case of photoshop you set your output profile and have the software simulate the printer. This is not a profile thing, this is a adobe thing. How well it can simulate it depends on the gamut. Anyway, colors arent numbers numbers just abstractly represent colors for one device. Generally you dont convert the numbers you let the device do itself.
    – joojaa
    Jan 4 at 15:46
  • 2
    I think now I understand: the sRGB is a general standard, but I have to live with the hardware I have --> the calibration of the monitor makes the graphic card work in such a way to show on this specific monitor the actual colours corresponding to the standard. If I change monitor and I calibrate it again, I will see again the same colurs, but the "lookup table" behind will be different than the one generated for the 1st monitor, because every time it is a different conversion that the graphic card has to do depending on the hardware
    – Rhei
    Jan 4 at 16:23
  • 1
    @Rhei exactly. Though a bit of upgrade to thinking your monitor won't be the same forever so you need to periodically update the table. This is why very high end color evaluation monitors calibrates itself every 24 hours. Though i dont know how they keep the calibrator calibrated.
    – joojaa
    Jan 4 at 17:16

The printer profile ensures that when you ask for color X in your design, you get color X (to within the best of the printer's ability, at least). You'll get the same output regardless of your monitor profile. But how do you choose color X?

Maybe the client specified Pantone 123C, and you just plug that in without thinking — but that's probably not true of every element of every design.

Maybe you just pick something out of a hat, print it out, and see how it looks. If it's not quite right, then you tweak it. If your ultimate product is print, then that's the real test, right?

But maybe you want to use this wonderful ability of computers to edit things on the fly: you want to see what the printout will look like, on your screen, and have some confidence that if it looks good while editing, it will look good in the final product. You can probably save some time and money that way. And that is what a monitor profile is for. It's a way of making it so that when you select some color in the software, the result on your screen will look the same as the result in print... as much as the technology allows, at least.

As for choosing a working profile, it's a question: would you like to be able to choose some vibrant colors that your monitor can't display, but that your printer (or someone else's more expensive monitor) possibly can reproduce, knowing that what you see on screen will necessarily be inaccurate in some way? Or would you rather work in a space that your monitor has mor complete coverage of? That's a question that depends partly on your project goals and requirements, and partly just on how you want to work.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.