Momento Musings

Colour on screen vs colour in print

Your Screen Is Not Gospel!
Momento considers colour management to be one of the most important aspects of its daily business and goes to great lengths to reproduce your photos as accurately as possible.

Our software is ICC colour managed from the second you drag a photo into a layout, and that colour management continues right up until the ink hits the page in your book. We ensure that our printer is always running at its best by calibrating it to industry standards several times a day and every sheet we print is viewed by one of our Quality Assurance staff with the aim of spotting any printer or stock issues before your product is sent to you.

So why do your photos sometimes look different in print compared to your monitor? Hopefully the following information will help you understand why.


Jaron De Carvalho, Momento Indigo Print Operator.

Viewing Your Photos On Screen
Just like televisions, every computer screen has its own colour and brightness characteristics and because we have no way of knowing what your monitor looks like we can’t match the look of your prints exactly with what you see on your screen.
There is a way to solve this but it isn’t usually available to everyone.


Every screen has a different colour profile. ©

The process of profiling and calibrating a monitor will adjust your monitor settings to an industry standard so that you will see your photos exactly the same way that we do. Because most people can’t justify the cost of the equipment to profile and calibrate their monitor (upwards of $125), we print your photos exactly as they are supplied to us.

A Simple Colour Test
Even though you may not be able to profile and calibrate your monitor, there are some simple steps you can take to improve your display.spectrumHere’s a simple test: Look at the sequences of grey patches above. On a monitor with good brightness and contrast you should be able to see the subtle difference in tone between patches A and B. If A and B, and possibly even C all look the same then your monitor is too dark which means your printed book may look lighter than you expect.

Similarly, if you can’t see the difference between N, O and P then your screen is too light and your printed pages may look darker in comparison. It’s a simple test and not very scientific, but it’s a helpful guide.

Profile Your Monitor
Ever wondered why the imagery on the monitors at your local department store all look different? Most monitor’s have an inherent colour cast to them too, but unfortunately there’s no similar simple way to look for this cast. Neutralising a colour cast can only be achieved by profiling your monitor. If you are an enthusiast and interested in getting your monitor just right, then you can get advise on the best device for your needs from Kayell.


An example of monitor calibration ©

See the Light
Consider the light in your room. If you are sitting under bright fluorescent or LED globes or have sunlight streaming in, your screen will appear dimmer, and vice-versa. Similarly, when you view your finished book the lighting conditions will have an effect on the way the print appears; if you view your prints under a fluro light, the pages will appear bluer than if you view the pages under incandescent lights. A good test is to look at you pages in direct sunlight.


Ambient light will change the way you see your monitor ©

Print Vs Screen
It’s also important to understand the basic difference between the way your monitor displays a photo compared to the way a printed photo appears. Monitors contain a light which shines through coloured pixels and that light is usually brighter that the lighting in your home, so your images will usually appear brighter on screen and have more visible detail.


Monitors contain a light which shines through coloured pixels ©

If you have had your photos printed at your local chemist or photo-lab, these will likely look quite different from the way they look in your Momento photo book. Photo-labs print your photos individually onto photographic paper, using a different type of printing technology and they may also adjust the colour and brightness of your photos. Momento prints your book as whole pages, using digital offset printing and no adjustments are ever made to your photos.

Editing your photos
If you’re monitor is calibrated or you’re sure it is reasonably accurate, then you will be able to edit the colour and contrast of your images in photo editing software with the confidence that you are improving them. Editing with an inaccurate screen will possibly do more harm to your photos than good.

Google Picassa, Gimp and iPhoto are all free photo manipulation software. If your photos are too dark you can carefully change the brightness, contrast and colour characteristics. Please keep in mind that this software takes a bit of practice.

For some simple photo editing tips please have a look at;
How To Correct Colour Casts
5 Simple Suggestions to Improve Your Photos
Improve Your Composition
Understanding ISO

Enhancing your Photos
The Momento software provides you with a simple ‘Enhance’ option to add a little life to most of your images. The effect it has on a photo very much depends on the content of the image. The software will analyse the content and automatically enable adjustments to colour, levels (brightness and contrast) and sharpening. It doesn’t suit every photo so take care if you automatically apply it to everything. It may not fix your dark images and can make already bright blue skies unrealistically blue.


Use the ‘Enhance’ option selectively and sparingly.

Resolution and Quality Warnings
A computer monitor has less resolution to display your photos than a printer, so any low-resolution photos may appear clearer on screen than they will when printed in your book. Make sure you never ignore the Quality warning, which tells you if you have scaled your image up too far. Lighter (overexposed) sections of low-resolution photos may have ‘noise’ which will look more pixelated in print.


Low resolution photos may appear clearer on screen than in print ©

As a guide, an average sized photo that would fill about a quarter of an A4 page should have about 2000 x 1500 pixels. To fill a page in a Regular Momento photo book you should have about 3500 x 2500 pixels, and to fill a page in a Grand book, you’ll need about 5000 x 3500 pixels. When saving your photos, always make sure that the JPEG quality is no less than 80%. If you save the file with lower quality then you will permanently lose detail in the image and this will show in your printed photos. The best tip we can provide is to never over edit your photos and don’t reduce the size or quality.

Previewing your project before uploading
Momento’s software provides two kinds of ‘Preview PDF’ files to help you proof your project. Use these to check all your layouts and text and ensure that everything appears as you want it in the final printed product.

The Preview PDF is exported with the MBF file when you have finished your book and is a preview of what the printed file will look. This is an exact replica of the file Momento will print from. Never upload and order your book before checking this preview PDF, because your project can’t be altered once it is ordered.

preview pdf

Preview PDF is exported with the MBF file

There is also a Quick Preview PDF available via the File menu. This is a low-resolution version of the Preview PDF that is usually small enough to email or upload to friends or family.


Quick preview PDF

Unfortunately not all PDF viewing software is colour managed so you may notice that the colour of your photos in the preview PDFs looks a little desaturated. This is not a problem with your images or your project and won’t affect the printed product.

If you’re concerned about the image quality, view the preview PDF at 100%. To do so, select ‘Zoom’ in the View menu…

…and then choose ‘Zoom To’ and enter the value 100%.

zoom-2To view your page pairs together, select ‘Page Display’ in the View menu then choose ‘Two Up Continuous’.  To ensure that the cover is shown on its own and the pages are correctly paired, make sure you also tick ‘Show Cover Page During Two-Up’.


View your photo book pages together for the optimal proofing.

We hope this helps and if you have suggestions, questions or feedback please send us an email or give our customer service team a call on 1300 799 764.


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