Printing seems easy, and it should be. But printing quality images at home to save money over the drugstore prints is very hard. The biggest problems I see people have is that after they are finished trying to print photographs out on their color inkjet printers, the finished product doesn’t always come out the way you expect it to.
CMYK vs RGB
You just took an awesome picture with your digital camera the camera captured all of the information in front of the lens and stored it as a file of RGB data. Meaning that it recorded the image / light it saw as percentages of red green and blue. Your printer will be printing these same pictures as CMYK (percentages of Cyan Magenta, yellow and Black). The primary colors of light are RGB and the primary colors of Pigment are CMYK, this fundamental difference between work you see and work you print throws a lot of people off.
The RGB spectrum and the CMYK spectrum can represent most colors very well but there are certain areas where they don’t match up.
Warning Areas! Certain colors you need to be aware of that have issues printing are deep blues, fleshtones, and yellows. That s not to say that they can’t be printed but that it is very possible that the output might differ from what you expect. These colors exist in parts of the spectrum of visible light where there is no direct CMYK translation for the color. This is one of the reasons printers have started coming out with additional inks such as green, orange, red and blue inks to try and expand the spectrum of printable color.
In photoshop there is an option the change the mode for the document from RGB to CMYK. Doing this will save you a lot of trouble in getting professional results. By changing this mode photoshop will convert the colors from one selection to another, and it will even warn you if you pick a color to work on that isn’t able to be printed. You will see an exclamation point next to the color in the color picker. Click the icon and photoshop will select the next closest color that it can print.
Change the color mode of the document before you do any editing, cropping, or color correction, and your results will look that much better!
Hopefully this little tip on the differences between the two spectrums helps you understand why not all of your pictures print the right way. This isn’t an end all fix, but by working on the documents before printing you can save yourself some hassles later on.