15 printer terms every pro should know: your expert guide to photo printing terminology

A Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer and Canon camera on a glass table surrounded by prints.
The imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 A2 desktop printer offers high levels of colour accuracy and detail, but to get the most out of it you need to understand printing terminology. © Tangerine Films

The world of professional photo printing is a vast place with plenty of technical jargon and terminology. Whether you want to print at home or at a lab, there are many options to consider and decisions to make concerning hardware, software, media types and inks.

In order to make the right decision, you need to understand the terminology – and even if you've been a pro photographer for several years, there might be phrases you've never come across before.

Here's Canon's handy guide to common printer terms, many of which apply across Canon’s entire pro photo printer range.

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1. Automatic ink switching

Different paper needs different ink – for example matte paper needs 'pigment black' ink, whereas glossy paper needs 'photo black' ink. Canon professional photo printers switch ink automatically when the media type changes, eliminating the waste of ink, time and money. Automatic ink switching is especially handy if you like to print with different papers.

2. Baryta paper

Baryta is a fibre-based photographic paper popular among professional photographers. It is coated with barium sulphate to give it a smooth, reflective finish. It is a good option for photographers who want to display their images in a gallery.

3. Bronzing effect

This phenomenon occurs when light bounces irregularly off the surface of an inkjet print, causing a metallic lustre or 'bronzing effect' and/or incorrect colours. To combat this, Canon professional photo printers, including the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO series and the Canon PIXMA PRO-10S, automatically apply a clear coating to the print, known as Chroma Optimizer, to give a superior, uniform finish.

A Canon PIXMA PRO-10S printer on a white surface with a photo studio setup behind.
The Canon PIXMA PRO-10S uses Chroma Optimizer ink to enhance glossiness, flatten the print surface and expand the colour range.

4. ChromaLife 100+

ChromaLife 100+ is the dye-based ink system that used in the Canon PIXMA PRO-100S. Prints made using this system can last for more than 200 years in a photo album, for about 40 years on display behind glass, and for about 10 years without glass.

5. Colour gamut

The range of colours that can be accurately represented by a colour space (such as sRGB or Adobe RGB) or by a printer or screen. When taking photographs you intend to print, set your camera's Colour Space to Adobe RGB rather than sRGB – the latter is fine for images to be viewed on-screen, since most monitors are set to sRGB, but Adobe RGB can represent a wider range of colours. When it comes to output, professional photo printers use various technologies to produce a broader range of colours than traditional commercial four-colour CMYK printing, such as the LUCIA PRO 12-colour ink system on the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000.

A Canon PIXMA PRO-100S printer on a grey surface with a work desk and photo studio setup behind.
The Canon PIXMA PRO-100S features Chromalife 100+ for enhanced colour reproduction and improved permanence.

6. Colour management

Colour management is the process of calibrating colour settings across all of your devices to ensure an accurate screen-to-print match. Good colour management is important, not only in terms of accuracy and consistency at every stage of the printing process, but because it reduces ink consumption and has an impact on the overall quality of the final print. Part of good colour management is monitor profiling, which means ensuring that your computer screen's colour and brightness settings are consistent for a trustworthy display.

7. D50

A critical part of ensuring your prints match what you see on your screen is setting the colour temperature of your screen correctly. All Canon professional photo printers are calibrated at 5000K, which is daylight-balanced. When preparing an image for printing, the recommended White Point setting for your computer monitor is D50, the equivalent of 5000K or 'warm daylight'. Screens are often calibrated to D65, which means colours would appear cooler or more blue on-screen than in print.

A printer printing out a black-and-white portrait of an older man.

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8. Dye v pigment inks

Most professional inkjet photo printers use dye or pigment inks. Dye is water-based whereas pigment is oil-based. The particles of oil-based pigment inks lie on top of the photographic paper, giving deeper, darker colours, especially in monochrome printing; the water-based particles of dye inks soak into the paper to give a vibrant look. The print longevity of dye ink tends to be shorter than pigment ink, so if you want to create archival-quality prints, you should use a professional printer with a pigment-based ink system, such as the Canon PIXMA PRO-10S or the printers in the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO series.

9. Full bleed

When deciding which photo printer to use or buy, you might need to know whether a printer can print 'full bleed' (edge-to-edge without a border). Printers such as those in the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO series can print full bleed on any type of paper.

10. ICC profile

ICC stands for International Color Consortium, and the ICC profile is data that characterises a colour space and defines the colour performance for a given printer and paper. Third-party paper vendors will create an ICC profile for every paper type they produce, and it is this that tells the photo printer what settings to use and how much ink to put down for optimal results on that paper. To ensure the best print results, you should download the correct ICC profile for the paper you are using.


LUCIA and LUCIA PRO are the Canon professional pigment ink brands used in Canon professional photo printers including the Canon PIXMA PRO-10S, Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000, Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000, Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 and Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-6000. Prints made using these inks can last approximately 200 years in a photo album, and up to 60 years exposed to light, making them ideal if you want to exhibit your work.

A Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000 printer outputting an image of a boat.
The LUCIA PRO 12-colour ink system on the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000 guarantees richer colours and deeper blacks.
A Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 printer outputting a poster-size image of a woman's face shrouded in blue.
The Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-4000 uses the same LUCIA PRO 12-colour ink system as the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000 but delivers prints on media up to 1,118mm wide.

12. Print Studio Pro (PSP)

Print Studio Pro (PSP) is a plug-in for use with Canon professional printers, designed to give photographers a convenient workflow between image and final print. Compatible with photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP), it brings a number of functions together into one screen so you can easily select paper type, size, and colour profile and tones, and preview the result before printing your images.

13. Professional Print & Layout (PPL) software

Developed for the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO series, the Professional Print & Layout (PPL) plug-in enables photographers to produce prints with expert colour reproduction, tonality and sharpness. It will especially appeal to photographers who use the Dual Pixel RAW (DPRAW) function of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV or Canon EOS R to select and sharpen focus post-capture. Previously, this effect was impossible to reproduce faithfully in print, because printer software would sharpen an image across the whole frame, minimising the effect of selecting focus and defocus areas in DPRAW files. PPL also brings out detail in highlight areas to achieve a wider dynamic range, making it easier to print HDR images from single shots.

14. Rendering intent

Rendering intent tells the printer how to deal with colours that fall outside its printable range or colour gamut. When the 'rendering intent' option appears, you will be asked to select one of two options from a dropdown menu. The Relative Colorimetric mode maps out-of-gamut or clipped colours to the printer's nearest in-gamut (reproducible) colour; Perceptual mode, which should be suitable for most situations, will map the colours as accurately as possible to what is on your screen.

15. Soft proofing / hard copy proofing

Essentially there are two ways to 'proof' a print. Soft proofing simulates on-screen what the image will look like before it goes to print; for this to work, your monitor must be calibrated. Hard copy proofing prints off a sheet of thumbnails, with various colour profiles applied, to enable you to determine which is most true to the original image. You choose a thumbnail and input the print profile number into the software. The next print will be an exact match of the thumbnail. Hard copy proofing is especially useful if your monitor hasn't been calibrated. Canon's Print Studio Pro (PSP) software supports both soft proofing and hard proofing.

Autor Gemma Padley

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