How To: Set Up Color Preferences in Photoshop
Want your images to look the same no matter what? Then use your color settings!

Nikola Mileta

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Many times inexperienced designers and publishers wonder why their images do not look the same in print as they do on a computer screen. Well, images will almost never look the way they look on a computer screen.

Many factors can influence the final print, from different screens that are not calibrated and photographs that are not professionally retouched, to colors settings that are not correctly applied.

In this post, I will deal with how to choose and adjust Photoshop color settings and how to assign those settings to images.

If you want your images to print correctly, you have to apply correct settings according to the printing method you will be using.

There are many settings here and it would take a book to explain them all in detail. Besides, you don’t need to know all of them. I will show you which ones to use.

Before we start, talk with your favorite printing house and ask them which icc profiles they use. If they are using the profiles that are not included in Photoshop color settings, ask them to send you icc files. When you receive them, place the files in /Library/ColorSync/Profiles.

Now you can open Photoshop. In the color settings panel (Edit/Color Settings), you will have to load this new profile. On the right, you can click Load and navigate to the destination where you have saved your icc profile file.

This profile will now be visible in the settings dropdown menu. After you have chosen your profile, all of the other options will change according to the profile.


All of these settings will automatically be selected when you choose the profile from the settings dropdown menu.

RGB working space is the working space for your RGB images. Many Photoshop experts retouch images in RGB mode, so it is essential the right profile is selected.

CMYK working space will be applied to CMYK images.

Gray and spot will be used when you work on grayscale images and images with spot colors.

Color management policies tell you how Photoshop will deal with newly opened images, especially the ones that have different color settings than yours, since printing photographs with different profiles can result in color mismatch.

We need to tell Photoshop how to handle these color profile mismatches, and we do that in the Color Management Policies section of the Color Settings dialog box.

By default, Photoshop is set to Preserve Embedded Profiles, which will keep the original color profile intact. That’s rarely something we want, so we need to change these options.

One scenario is when you deal with one printing house and you use only one color profile, and another scenario is when you are working with a few printing houses that have different color profiles.


The next description is for those of you who are working with the same printing house and you use only one color profile.

Ask When Opening and Ask When Pasting check boxes for the Profile Mismatches option should be selected.

Each time you open an image in Photoshop, you will be asked if you want to keep the embedded profile or replace it with the working one. The working one is the one you will be using and the one you need.

The Missing Profiles check box should also be ticked. If the image you open does not have any profile applied, the Missing Profile window will open and you will assign your working profile.

In this way, you will assign the correct color profile to your images as soon as you open them. The next time you open an image with the wrong color profile, you will be presented with the Missing Profile dialog box and you will have to tick the Assign Working check box.


Your best option is to uncheck those Ask When Opening and Ask When Pasting check boxes. Also leave all the options to Preserve Embedded Profiles.

Each time you open an image that has a different profile assigned, you will have to assign the correct profile manually.


To do this, go to Edit/Assign Profile. This dialog box looks almost the same as Missing Profile dialog box, but here you can choose from all of the profiles that are available and select the one you need.

How to Set Up Color Preferences in Photoshop 5

With all of these, the process is the same regardless if you open an RGB or CMYK image.

After you apply the steps described above, you can start color correcting your images if they need color correction.

These are the several steps you have to take to ensure your images will print as closely to the original as they can.

I advise you to invest some money in color proofs. Each printing house has their own proof devices that simulate the printing outcome. You can inspect them and if you are not satisfied, you can correct those pages.

If satisfied, you will have to sign those proofs and they will serve as evidence if something goes wrong in the printing process. You can always talk with the printing house representative about why the final print is not equal to the color proofs.

About the Author
Nikola Mileta
Nikola Mileta
Nikola Mileta is an art director working in magazine publishing for 20 years. He also is a founder of the website, where he shares his knowledge and opinions about editorial design and magazine production. Connect with Nikola on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.


  1. is this the same for all photoshop verisons?

  2. wow, I have been using PS for a number of years, didn’t even know this until now. Thanks!