Quick summary of rendering intents used in printing

Written by Daniel Gregory

February 24, 2018

When printing, one of the biggest areas of confusion in the print options dialog box surrounds rendering intent. The rendering intent are a process of making decisions on how to deal with colors that are in and out of range of the various devices we use to display images. A bright highly saturated color that appears fine on a computer monitor might not be reproducible by your printer because the color on the screen is outside the physical capabilities of the media used to print it. Rendering intents are basic methods used to decide how to deal with these out of gamut colors.

Relative: When looking at the color gamut, relative attempts to move all out of gamut colors to the closest color that is in gamut. The drawback is that you can get banding in gradients for example as colors that are distinct on the screen blend into the same color on the paper resulting in banding. The benefit is that all colors that are in gamut are correctly and accurately produced by the printer.  This rendering intent also focuses on the luminosity values of the colors as a core element to preserve. If the brightness of the colors is important and you are willing to sacrifice a bit of saturation this is a good intent to start with. This focus on the relationship of the brightness of the hues makes it an ideal candidate for black and white.  This rendering intent also results in a loss of color as those out of gamut colors are compressed into the single closest color.

Perceptual: The rendering intent is best when working with highly saturated colors. In order to render the saturation levels it will adjust other colors to deal with the issueIt compresses and squishes the colors to fit into the output devices range. Because of this, there is a risk of a shift of colors as it moves the out of gamut colors into the printer space. This often times results in a loss of hue fidelity and luminosity. When it is a small adjustment, we might not notice but when larger we would detect the shift.

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