The professional term for ensuring colour prints look their best, is colour management. Colour management involves different steps, but the most important one is to use a colour profile per paper you intend to use.
Most inkjet photo printers come with the ability to print your photographs using the printer’s built-in settings. These settings are hard-coded in the printer’s firmware, and they often produce very nice results if you don’t mind getting results that are nice, but not the best your printer and paper is capable of.
In order to get the best performance out of a printer, you need to allow the image editing (or DTP) application to decide how the colours will look. Programs like Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, and their siblings like Photoshop Elements and iPhoto, all enable you to set up a colour management workflow.
Setting one up is usually a simple affair, but if you have doubts, there are a few simple guidelines that will put you in pole position. The first is to choose AdobeRGB as your working colour space. If you don’t have AdobeRGB, then use another large enough colour space. sRGB and your monitor’s colour space are too small. Setting the working colour space simply involves selecting the profile with the name “AdobeRGB (1998)”.
Then carefully read your program’s instructions on choosing the right colour profiles for prints. Usually, this will amount to setting up your printer dialogue so that the image is printed using a colour profile that matches your printer AND the paper you’re using. And here is something that you can do to dramatically improve the output…
The manufacturer of your printer will have included a whole bunch of colour profiles, but the truth of the matter is that those generic profiles will again not deliver you the best results in terms of colour brilliance. To obtain the best, you will have to create a colour profile for each printer/paper combination you’re going to use yourself. That’s one of the reasons why professional photographers can print such vibrant photographs. They use a profile for every different paper they use with their printer.
Creating such profiles is a bit difficult, and very expensive because you’ll need specialist equipment to do it. Fortunately, there are a number of service providers who will create profiles for your particular papers and printer. You will have to send them a test chart that you forst printed on the printer/paper combination you want to use, and they’ll process your target and send you back a custom profile.
If you want to learn more about how colour profiles can improve your photo printing, visit my online magazine. It contains a large database of information on the topic: IT-Enquirer.com