I don't know much about printing but I love Stack Exchange so thought I'd post this here and see what people have to say about it. If there is a better site to ask about this sort of thing, please let me know.

I have a HP LaserJet Pro 200 Color M251nw printer at home. I've been using it for some time but always been slightly bothered by how dark and murky some images look when I print them. This happens consistently with images that have a lot of blackness/shadow in them. The shadows are too shadowy, I guess you could say.

Here's an example. The first picture is a screenshot of an image that I downloaded from the web (a painting by Waterhouse). Note that although the background of the figure is shadowy, you can make out detail.

screenshot of Circe Invidiosa

I placed this image in an InDesign document and printed the document, then took a picture of the page with my phone, which you can see below:

printed version of the image

See how dark and murky everything comes out? You can barely distinguish the woman's hair against the background. Note that when I print images that are overall lighter in color it looks great, no problems there. It's only with the dark, shadowy images that everything seems to get lost in black. Also, it doesn't matter what program I use to print the image: InDesign, Acrobat, Word... the image always comes out the same.

Is this just as good as it gets with my particular printer, or are there some settings I should look for to maybe adjust how these images print?

Please note that I know I can use Photoshop to adjust the images to compensate for this issue, which is what I've had to resort to in the past. But aside from the extra hassle, it can affect the printed image in other, undesirable ways. Plus it feels like a step I shouldn't have to take; either the printer should be adjusted to print properly or maybe I need a better printer.

2 Answers 2


Color management is a pretty hefty topic, and worth the research. The basic problem is this: given a color value, what is the appropriate amount of light/ink/toner/etc. needed to represent the color?

You've likely been working without color management, letting the programs manage it automatically. To ensure you get the colors desired, you have to keep track of the color profiles used by your documents, input devices (camera, scanner), displays, and printers; and whether your software or printer is in charge of managing color. You may get different results by allowing color to be managed by InDesign or by your printer driver. Some file types are also limited to using certain color profiles (often sRGB), and your OS' image viewer may use different color management settings as your software. Getting the exact color requires the use of calibration equipment.

Printer color depends highly on the ICC profile used by the printer, as well as the ink/toner and choice of paper. I'm not too familiar with HP color printers, so I'm not certain if HP themselves provide color profiles for their lineup. There are third-party services that can provide general profiles, or even profiles customized specifically for your printer.

Another important consideration is the fact that the RGB color space (used by all software and monitors) differs greatly from the CMYK color space (used by printers). For instance, the bright green water in your example image might be impossible to reproduce using standard inks/toner. Same goes for many other bright, highly saturated colors. Most Adobe programs have a "proofing" mode that shows you how the print might look onscreen.

Without fully delving into color management, you'll probably have to turn up the darker colors in Photoshop, and see if your printer driver has a "black point compensation" setting.

  • True, I have been ignoring color management. I just checked out my printer's settings and didn't see anything about black point compensation. Although there are "print density" settings for contrasts, highlights, midtones & shadows for each of the CMYK colors. I have a Lynda.com subscription so I guess I should start learning about color management by watching some videos on the subject.
    – peacetype
    Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 8:47

I've found that HP's office printer use their internal ICC profiles by default. Those were made to produce good looking vivid colors for office documents on generic paper.

In order to print photographic content, you have to establish a color management workflow which involves

  • a software which can use ICC profiles (like Photoshop)

  • disabling printer drivers color management (HP driver has an option)

  • a color profiler device for your display and printer (X-Rite i1 for example)

But then, your LaserJet can produce very great results!

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