Print different from displayed image


First of all, sorry for my english…
I am struggling without obtaining any result in order to get prints equal to displayed images. I calibrated my monitor using a spyder x pro ( i have a latop with a secondary monitor a benq 2420 ) and after developing the raw files with Darktable 4.2 I sent the images to Saal digital( that It Is trusted ti be a professional level print lab). The prints are darker and warmer than the display images, also compared to soft proof ( i downloaded the paper profile from saal web site). Somebody have any suggestion? what is a correct way to tweak the monitor in order to obtain images similar to prints?

Hallo @Ivan_M76, and welcome!

… also compared to soft proof ( i downloaded the paper profile from saal web site).

Good! Because that is the correct way to go.

How did you deliver your image to the lab?
As a .jpg, or what?
Did you have an ICC profile embedded in that file, or not?
If so: which?

Addendum: I see that Saal Digital wants your monitor set as this…

  • Brightness: 90 - 120 cd/qm
  • Colour temperature: 5,000 Kelvin (D50)
  • Gamma value: 2.2

Which of their profiles did you pick?

Have fun!
Claes in Lund, Sweden

And in your monitor calibration, what target intensity did you use 120cdm?

Rather strange that a print lab tells how to set your monitor…

Why is it strange? They want the customer to be happy with the prints, so they assist in making that happen by addressing the main culprit (monitor calibration).


these setting are the same that Spyder X Pro use as target for calibration.
The icc profile i downloaded from Saal (italian) website should be ok ( fuji paper matte print )

Brightness should be about 90 cdm.

My question now is : what kind of illuminant( how bright )should i use in order to check the “brightness” of print? I am not sure if maybe to me the print is much darker because i look it in a dark ( or not enough bright ) place.

When I do the soft proof in darktable I notice that the histogram move to left ( so i think that the image should appear darker) but the image displayed ,doesn’t seem to darken itself , it appears only with less contrast

Hello, I run a print shop myself and I am not going to tell my clients how they should adjust their screens, because that’s not my job.

There are many graphic tools around on the internet to help you judge the quality of your screen settings, like gray widges and color patches and lots of test photos. Very helpful even if the screen isn’t profiled/calibrated.

Hello, little trick, kind of poor man’s color management. Take a photo that the lab sent you, then adjust your monitor in such a way that the image on your screen resembles the printed copy. Perhaps you can save that as a user setting. Next time you prepare photos for print, first turn on that specific monitor setting.

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I notice that other softwares, when setting the soft proof profile, have also some options that could be enabled ( for example black point compensation or simulation of paper color). Saal has guidelines also for these options, but in darktable they are not present. Is it possible that results may differ because of these options?

Make sure the display brightness is matched with the surroundings, i.e. the room you’re editing in. A white page on the display should be roughly as bright as a sheet of paper next to the display. If the walls are dark, that might also change things etc.

Whenever I edit in a dimly lit room, I almost always end up with an image that looks too dark on the next day.


Italian Saal, eh?

Ciao, @Ivan_M76!

It just hit me…
You are using darktable, and invoke softproof.
Then what? How do you act on the information
that dt’s softproof gives you?

And how do you send your images to the
print shop? As a .jpg? Got any profile embedded?

Cord. Sal.,
Claes a Lund, Svezia

I also tried using a soft proof profile from Saal Digital some time ago and it looked very wrong to me. I can’t back this up with any references at the moment (so please correct me, if I’m wrong) but my understanding back then was, that their profiles are specifically made for Adobe applications and do not work correctly with darktable (maybe due to these missing options that you mentioned).

Even without using the soft proof, I got prints that looked relatively close to what I see on my screen, though. You need to make sure that the “auto-enhance” option is disabled though, could it be that this was on in your case? At least with a different printing service this “feature” once completely messed up a few prints of mine.

Hello Luator,

I disabled auto-enhance option of Saal Digital. I try to make soft proof also with Gimp that has some of the options that are missing in darktable, but on the display the soof proof looks almost the same. I think that i need to find i correct light in order to compare prints because obviously the illumant is very important. For example If I look at prints using daylight ( near a window ) I can say the brightness is almost the same but the colors have less saturation.

Hello Claes,

I sent jpeg (100% quality) with sRGB( generated by darktable )

My goal was to compare the calibrated display with the prints no matter how good was the edit. My expectation was to have the displayed image as the print. I’m not saying that they are very different ( for print the illuminant plays a big role ) but I notice differences in saturation and for brightness (the last one depends on the illuminant ).

Some remarks from someone who has been mastering images for all kinds of prints for more than twenty years:

  • The proof is in the final medium, not the editing station
  • The Saal settings are a solid starting point for someone without access to proper calibration tools
  • Graphic cards in laptops are notoriously bad to calibrate, try to avoid that
  • External screens on laptops should be adjusted on the screen, not through the graphics card
  • Softproof is more or less a futile effort in matching two completely different media
  • Invest in a good daylight lamp on your desk, anything from 4000 to 5500K is fine

Personally I haven’t calibrated via graphics card for a long time, and on laptops even longer. Most modern screens are way better than the expensive hardware calibrated ones of the old’en days.

I also can not remember any time when I actively used softproof on a screen, ever. The proof is in the print, wether that is from an inkjet, a lab or a book. So print. Compare. Print again. Compare. Learn how your screen treats colors, where the problems are. This part can not be stressed enough, you are the secret to good looking pictures that you like.

Even in a fully calibrated environment with a hardware calibrated screen and softproof printer running a proper RIP software noone is going to trust a screen and only to a certain extent the printed softproof.

And one more advice: just like any sound engineer has a CD or USB stick with a number of songs they know by heart you should collect a set of test images that you look at on every screen, print on the weirdest devices and get to know so well that after some time a glance at them will tell you exactly the problems any media has. Especially great with all the screens floating around.

All in all, color management is overrated. Experience is much more important.
If the final image/print looks great, everything is fine. :sunglasses:


Wow, these are some golden pieces of advice. Especially about reference images. I’ll be sure to utilize that in the future. Funny I hadn’t even thought about this despite having mixed some music, utilizing reference mixes there.

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Hello Grubernd,

thank you for sharing your expertise. These advice are very helpful.

Maybe this is a silly question, but can you suggest the power, in term of lumen ?
I guess the light illuminating the print should be diffuse light and not direct light. Am I correct?

  1. I consider soft proof broken in Darktable , while using filmic. Although this has to do with bright and saturated colors , not the overal gradation and tone.

  2. your monitor is calibrated, but also at around 100 nits ? A too bright monitor is often a beginner mistake in consistent prints. Print media has no backlight:).

When you soft proof, do you use an ICC file from the print lab ? It could be that if you are just soft proofing to sRGB, their prints might just be darker then sRGB (lots of ink takes away the white ).

On some at-home consumer printers i regularly just apply a shadow boost just before saving and printing . 'if it looks good on my screen, make it brighter and print ’ was my rule :).

@Ivan_M76 There are special gadgets available to judge prints.
See image here: My first color management experiment

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That is not a silly question at all.

I found 400 to 800lm LEDs with around 4000K to be a good range for a desk lamp.

Mind, this is not your professional pre-press light desk. It is a very practical solution for home offices. The temperature halfway between daylight and incandescent gives a solid average of viewing conditions. Also it does not burn your eyes out if you switch that light on in winter time with short days.

Luckily we live in a time where good LED lights are abundant and also rather cheap, so there is no harm in trying one or another.

If you do a lot of printing you can get an extra lamp and buy a true daylight LED from one of the respectable producer that you only use to evaluate prints. That one should be probably around 1000lm - when going for proper-proper, not the output lumen of the lamp is important but the receiving lux on the desk. Of course there are standards and measuring devices for that. You would be surprised how bright a light booth with a correct setup is. Again, very helpful in a professional workflow, overkill for private stuff.