Lightroom Presets

Presets – The Trick to Getting Good Prints

Hey everyone! I’m out in Las Vegas teaching at Photoshop World this week, but I wanted to kick the week off with a topic (and some presets) that I get asked about often.

The Old Printing Problem
Every time I get in front of a crowd and teach Lightroom I get a lot of questions about one topic… Printing. But the questions have changed over the years. The printing questions used to revolve around the color being off in the print compared to the screen. While I still get those sometimes, I think the industry as a whole has become more educated about using printer profiles and monitor calibration. I also think the software/hardware manufactures have improved things to make printing easier as well. So the color issues have subsided for the most part (in my experience from the people I talk to at least).

The New Problem
What I hear more and more though, are questions about why our prints come out darker than we expected. Whether you’re printing the photo to an inkjet or sending them to a lab, they just seem darker than what you see on screen. The primary reason for this is the screen we look at our photos on. Nearly everybody has these beautiful backlit LCD screens. There’s simply no way that this bright back lit screen can represent what my photo is going to look like when it’s printed. It’s got light behind it for Pete’s sake! It’s not a soft proof thing either. Soft proofing in Photoshop doesn’t help this. In order for you to really preview what your print would look like, you’d have to set the brightness of your screen down considerably. I don’t know about you, but I like my bright screen. It’s nice to look at and I’m not willing to sacrifice what I look at all day long for this. If I were printing more during the day, then maybe it would be worth it, but (for me at least) it’s not.

A Solution In Lightroom
So here’s what I do. If my print comes out too dark, I go to the Develop module and increase the Brightness setting by about 10-15. Exposure tends to blow out the highlights pretty quickly, so I don’t use it as a fix for dark prints. Brightness does a good job of just brightening the entire photo but still keeping the overall color, shadows and highlights intact. Then I print the photo again. If it’s still too dark, I increase the Brightness setting more (maybe 20-25).

You Don’t Have To Do This All the Time
While this trick works great, I typically don’t have to create test prints every time. Use it on a few test prints and you’ll hone in on what setting works best for your monitor/printing combination and style. You can create a preset for it (or just download the ones below) and you’ll have a quick way to simply increase your photos brightness before you print (knowing it’ll come out the right way since you’ve already tested this out).

Disclaimer: Remember, this is what I do and what works for me. I’ve calibrated my screen, my printer, soft-proofed and performed several exorcisms on my computer and this seems to be the best way for me to get what I see on screen to match what I get from the printer. If your results vary, let us know what works for you. Thanks 🙂

• Click here to download the presets.



  1. Michelle Peirce 5 July, 2017 at 05:02 Reply

    Hi Matt,
    Is your preset still available somewhere? I’m getting a 404 Not Found message. Thanks 🙂

  2. Jeff Sandrini 5 October, 2015 at 18:01 Reply

    Hi, I have read your nice posting. It is really a nice information, we like it. We are also same in this business and welcome you to visit our website. Thanks for this kind information.

  3. Shushant Rawat 7 July, 2012 at 04:55 Reply

    Hello Sir,
    I am Graphic designer and worked in Corel & Photoshop,
    I want to know best monitor setting for printing. like ( Brightness, contrast etc…)
    please help me coz whenever i make some design, that design printed in different color..
    CMYK color is not printed same as like, i make in Corel..
    Please mail me..

    Thank you

  4. Karsten 20 November, 2010 at 16:53 Reply

    Thanks to Matt and others for great printing tips. They work very nicely when you make, and perfect prints one at a time. But who has a really good solution for making a photo book – where you have to get 50, or 100, or whatever number of photos look great – at the same time? In this case increasing brightness by e.g. 10 may be a great solution for some photos – and a not very great solution for others.

    In my experience what we need in this situation is a more robust solution in the photo book situation – which probably means a methodology with a stronger foundation. Suggestions anyone?

    Best wishes,

    • Dasha 25 July, 2014 at 11:57 Reply

      To Karsten-Regarding the question on photo books. As a wedding photographer I am looking at several companies offering wedding album prints. Some of them have a great team adjusting the photos to the same brightness/exposure etc throughout the album.
      The price is higher of course for that service. But for now this is the only option I have found – still relying on the human factor, not a perfect technical solution.

  5. Andy 16 September, 2010 at 16:28 Reply

    A little to the party, but…I notice that when I ship a photo to PS to accurately size it for print, and then convert it to jpeg, the resultant image is significantly darker than the base image. I generally use a levels adjustment or a simple brightness adjustment and re-convert.
    I have also noticed that the brightness of my print will vary significantly depending which lab I use. So I don’t there is a simple fix as there are too many variables.


    I enjoy the site.

  6. Erica 11 September, 2010 at 11:32 Reply

    I downloaded the presets on my iMac (Snow Leopard), imported into Lightroom 3 (and LR 3.2) (in the appropriate place in the Template Browser under Print) and am getting the message: “Error importing “Matt’s Bighter Print (+10).lrtemplate – The template file was the wrong type of template.”

    This is my first attempt at importing a print preset. Can anyone suggest what to do from here?

    • Erica 11 September, 2010 at 12:53 Reply

      I found another print preset offered by Matt called “Matt’s 15 Photo Grid” to confirm whether I am using the correct import process and this one imported just fine.

      So that leaves me to believe that there may be some corruption(?) in the presets offered on this page (Matt’s Brighter Prints). I also downloaded them on another computer (MacBook Pro) and tried to import them into the Print module on LR 3 and I got the same error message.

      Matt, can you offer any help here?

  7. FinnH 9 September, 2010 at 12:21 Reply

    I will still argue that softproofing in PS is more to the point,expecially when it comes to colors and sometimes hue shift (while increasing brightness) trying to compensate for print. The way i work is to dublicate the original adjusted picture and then turn on the softproofing on one of them. Then I use a curve to adjust the overall lightness in the picture (like matts brightness in lightroom) and being aware not blowing out anything. Often its neccessary to adjust hue and also the amount of saturation. By only adjusting brightness (in LR) I have experienced colorshifts as well as washed out colors. A combination of the softproofing facility and curve adjustment has given me the best results. So again, softproofing in LR is one of my desires.


  8. Carolyn Fahm 6 September, 2010 at 22:58 Reply

    I recently finished John Paul Caponigro DVD on “The Art of Proofing” I always felt defeated when even a soft proofed image did not print as I envisioned it. I discovered that even a print master like JP requires an average of four proofs per image before getting a perfect print. There are multiple factors that influence our prints – screen brightness being a major one. The interaction of ink on paper is another. It often takes a succession of changes before I get a print I am happy with. Soft proofing still has the problem of the bright screen. The proof of the pudding is on the paper.

  9. Michel 6 September, 2010 at 17:35 Reply

    Hi, Matt
    Then after reading all the comments I guess I must be an exception.
    My prints are matching very closely to the picture on the monitor.
    Close enough for me not to try any adjustements.
    Have a dual monitor set-up. The main monitor is a Samsung 204T calibrated with Spyder 3.
    And a brand new Dell U2410 still factory calibrated. Now developping the pictures in Lightroom on the new Dell monitor and printing on an Epson R800.
    Also the light in my office are 2 bare 26W fluocompact @6500 Kelvin.


  10. Glyn Dewis 6 September, 2010 at 10:52 Reply

    Real nice post Matt covering a topic that is relevant to everyone.
    Using several printing partners I have a ‘preset’ in Lightroom that I apply to images before I send them off, eg…

    When I print using a company called Loxley I find images come back initially a little strong in the Green channel so I have a preset called ‘Loxley’ that reduces the Greens to the right amount. Thankfully due to the Batch facility in LR it’s just a case of ‘click’ and all the images I’m sending off have the appropriate adjustment applied before being uploaded and from the on ‘the jobs a good ‘un 🙂

    Just gotta love Lightroom for the speed of Workflow 🙂


  11. FinnH 6 September, 2010 at 09:06 Reply

    What works best for me is softproofing i PS. Occasionaly I print directly from Lightroom (not going to PS for softproofing) and using similar methods as mentioned by Matt and others here. A combination of Brightness,Fillight AND some saturation as lighten it up tends to wash out the colors somtimes. This works quite well yes. But when I really need an excellent match when printing and to pinpoint the colors and light in a particular picture, I never skip softproofing. After watching a video with Jeff Schewe and Michael Reichmann on this subject, there is no way around for me. You have to know the technic and what to look for, but with some experience there is no better method in my opinion.
    Therefore, one of my main requests for future LR updates, is softproofing:)

    Regards Finn

  12. Jason Miller 3 September, 2010 at 12:38 Reply

    Why not in order to save time , ink, and paper, make a few virtual copies with the various brightness adjustments. Make the necessary adjustments,then print them all out on a contact sheet so you have all the pages you would’ve printed all on one page, which saves you from wasting precious ink and time. Thought this might be a nice add-on to an already fantastic tip!! Thanks Matt

  13. Tom Upton 1 September, 2010 at 18:20 Reply

    The need to adjust the monitor down or compensate by using the brightness adjustment to match “Dark” prints seems counter intuitive and a real step backward. And I am unclear on the concept of Virtual Copies. Why should we have to do this with all of the technology out there? Why doesn’t this work? In the Mesozoic Era with the Radius monitors we did indeed use monitor shades and worked in controlled light environments. John T’s solution seems to be more forthright and sensible. In color critical workflows imagers have small light booths right next to the monitors side by side. Are there any inherent problems working with a more dim monitor and adjusting print contrast, color and tonality?

  14. John T 1 September, 2010 at 15:05 Reply

    I have my display brightness turned way down, and my prints match very closely. This level of brightness also works for normal viewing. Anything too much higher just kills my eyes as they are pretty sensitive to light. (I often have to wear my sunglasses even on overcast days; it just depends on the overall brightness.)

    • JayM 3 September, 2010 at 11:32 Reply

      Agreed. I set my calibration parameters to 120cd/m2 and have no issues with print matching on my Epson 3880. I think a better title for this topic would have been “A Trick to Getting Good Prints.”. That said, given this is the path someone wants to take matching brightness Lightroom offers an ideal solution given it’s non-destructive and easy to make small changes. To that end I offer the following (if not already suggested above)…

      1. Create several virtual copies of the image to be printed.
      2. Apply progressively higher brightness adjustments to each to create a series, with every one getting lighter.
      3. Create a print preset with multiple cells adjacent to each other on a single page.
      4. Fill each cel with one of the VC variants – you now have a test strip.
      5. Print the page, evaluate which image looks the best and select for your final print. This should save time and materials and remove some of the trial and error associated with this approach.

  15. Brett 31 August, 2010 at 22:23 Reply

    I’m surprised that only Martin mentioned luminance in terms of cd/m2. Shouldn’t calibrating the monitor luminance value help resolve this problem. I’m using the Spyder2 on a cheaper ViewSonic and generally don’t have major issues except on certain images where the rendering intent doesn’t work one way or the other. Although, it is also worth pointing out that the viewing conditions(light) have a huge impact on the print as well.

  16. Sue H. 31 August, 2010 at 10:59 Reply

    Thanks for this insight, Matt!

    Maybe this is a bit off topic, but you made the statement, “If I were printing more during the day…”, and I was wondering how you (other people) calibrate your monitor for a room with changing lighting conditions. I’ve calibrated my monitor for a completely dark room, which limits my editing to working only at night, which is pretty restrictive, particularly on summer weekends. Am I overcompensating for ignorance? But I feel that during the day, my room is very warmly lit, and this must make the pictures on my monitor look warmer than they actually are.


    • John T 1 September, 2010 at 15:10 Reply

      Sue – Mpix Pro has a video of Dave Cross teaching monitor calibration. He says that, ideally, the room that you process in should be dimly lit with 5500K bulbs. It should not be completely dark, just dimly lit. Cover windows with shades or curtains if necessary in order to get a comfortable working environment.

      Hope this helps.

  17. Alan 30 August, 2010 at 22:02 Reply

    I have been doing this in LR for about 2 years now. For my main paper, on an EpronR2400 I need to add about 12 to the brightness to get prints to match my monitor.

    The problem that I have with presets is that they use absolute rather than relative numbers. If my master image has a default brightness of 50, then I could use a preset with 62 for brightness applied to my virtual copy for printing. But what if my master image has had a brightness adjustment to say 35. What I need to get to for printing is about 47, but the preset will make it 62, i.e. an absolute value rather than a relative increase of 12.

    I hope Adobe eventually makes the ability to do relative presets. Or perhaps I am unaware of a capability that already exists.

  18. Peter 30 August, 2010 at 20:42 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Unless I’m misunderstanding, but when you save a preset for something like brightness, doesn’t it save the setting that you have on that specific image.

    Say your baseline is 60 and you increase by 10 to get the print results you want, then brightness is 70. So if you save a preset based on that image wouldn’t invoking it on another image set the brightness of that image to 70 also ?

    I think what you intended was for an incremental increase of 10, 20 or 30 from the users baseline ? Not sure how you create a preset to do incremental changes to a user entered baseline.

  19. MoreThanWords 30 August, 2010 at 19:01 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    isn’t there a risk in applying a ‘set Brightness to amount X’ preset to a number of pictures? Develop presets are absolute, and would therefore alter any previous brightness setting a user might already have made to his or her picture?
    Wouldn’t it be better to select all images you want to print, go into the Library Module and then change the Brightness slider in the Quick Develop Panel, because changes made there are relative, and so a Quick Develop Brightness Boost of + 10 would turn a picture that has Brighness set at 20 to 30, and one with Brightness set at 40 to 50?
    @ Miguel: try selecting your pictures in the Filmstrip and then use a right mouse click and choose Develop Settings from the context menu and select the preset you want.

  20. Kathy 30 August, 2010 at 14:03 Reply

    Though I haven’t downloaded and installed the preset yet (I’m at work) I will do so when I get home. Darkness of the prints versus the screen display has always been a problem for me, but since I use a laptop I can’t easily make an adjustment, My calibration software had decreased the brightness of the display slightly but not enough. To make a print, I generally increase either the exposure or brightness, so your preset should help a lot. Thanks for all your help and expertise.

  21. Miguel Palaviccini 30 August, 2010 at 11:05 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Speaking of presets … I am having problems applying a single preset to multiple images in the Develop module (this comes in handy if i shoot jpeg and am trying to change the white balance to all of my images using the handy tip I learned from you … make WB presets). Anytime that I select multiple images and then select the preset, it only applies it to the first image of my selection. Am I missing something?

    I know this is a bit off topic, but I thought you could help me out.

    If it helps, I’m using LR3.


    • Dennis Zito 2 September, 2010 at 07:56 Reply

      Hi Miguel,

      I’m no expert on this, but if you use a preset that applies any Develop settings in the right hand side panel of LR3, you can apply the preset to one photo and then by holding down the cmd or ctrl key select the other photos. Once they are all selected, you have two options. You can use the Sync button at the bottom of the right panel and choose from the list the settings of your preset, or you can go to Settings in the menu bar and select copy settings and choose from the list there (which is the same as Sync list). However, if you’ve used a plug-in like nik or topaz this method won’t work.

      Good luck!


  22. Nat Coalson 30 August, 2010 at 10:57 Reply

    Great post, Matt! Monitor brightness is by far the biggest problem photographers face when matching color, even if they’ve done proper calibration/profiling with a hardware kit.

    I think it’s also important to note that some printer and paper combinations will inherently print dark anyway. Fine art papers, canvas etc. all print dark so some substrates will need more compensation.

    The paper you use, and the quality of the printer profile, will make a huge difference in the results. I use Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk and Canson Baryta Photographique; both have very large color gamuts, have very little inherent color cast to the paper, and reproduce color very accurately.

    To prep images to print from Lightroom I typically add a little Fill Light, a little Brightness, and a little Saturation.

    I do this using Virtual Copies. This allows me to make adjustments for print without compromising the original, finished “master” file. You can make different VCs for different papers, etc.

    Also, if you make your print adjustments using the Quick Develop panel in Library, your adjustments are applied on top of any settings already applied. With this method, you can select a bunch of pictures (or VCs) and make your print adjustments all at once, regardless of the current adjustments for each individual file.

    With some practice, you’ll find that with a given printer/paper combination, the adjustments you’ll make for printing are nearly always the same. So you might be thinking “Preset”. Bad idea – keep in mind that Develop Presets are absolute – when you apply them, any previous value will be overwritten to the new setting. So you can’t apply the same adjustment to every photo, just to make prints. Only using the Quick Develop arrow buttons makes adjustments relative to existing settings (there is no such thing as a Quick Develop preset).

    • Eric 31 August, 2010 at 03:07 Reply

      I do agree with Nat. Using the quick develop panel to set the brightness of a bunch of pictures just work great, because it’s relative adjustment, and it’s much more faster then adjusting pictures one by one. Of course you need sometimes to adjust one specifically…

  23. KC 30 August, 2010 at 10:26 Reply

    Neither ‘Brightness’ or ‘Exposure’ work for me. I have to used ‘Fill Light,’ and increase it by 40-60, depending on what I’m printing and how much I want to see if the shadow areas.

    I have done several test prints on my Epson R1800 and found ‘Fill Light’ to provide a much better representation of what I see on screen.

    I work from home and don’t have the luxury of working in a dedicated photo environment (darkened room, gray walls, controlled light source, etc.). In addition, I do a variety of graphic and web design on the same system, and cannot be constantly fiddling with the brightness of my monitors. May not be so bad if I had one of those high-end Eizo monitors. 🙂

    • Chris 6 September, 2010 at 03:55 Reply

      KC, I have had such darks prints as well, to the point where brightness would not help. That’s because I had left the option of colour management to ‘Manage by printer’. The moment I set it to my paper profile + perceptual, it was much better (but +15% brightness would still be needed). I have an Epson R800.

  24. Michael Glover 30 August, 2010 at 10:22 Reply

    Hey Matt! –

    Great timing on this article! I’m experiencing this issue right now. I’ve been using MPIX and never had a problem. I just recently signed up for MPIX Pro and got my 5 test prints and they are all darker than my monitor. They reprinted them for me and they are still dark. This may be exactly what I need to do to correct the problem. Thanks so much for the info.


  25. Neil 30 August, 2010 at 10:17 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Great post. I’ve been doing the same thing myself but using exposure rather than brightness, I’ll give brightness a try now instead and see how that goes. I personally found reducing the monitor brightness didn’t work, i.e. it didn’t really help me get closer to matching the print, things just looked more “muddy” on screen, technical term!

  26. Mike 30 August, 2010 at 09:35 Reply

    Thanks Matt.

    Maybe not the most proficient but i have a setting on my monitor that reduces the brightness from 100 CLEAR down to 13 and this is a very close representation of what my prints will look like at the lab or my printer. After I finish editing I go back to my 100 setting.


  27. Julie K 30 August, 2010 at 09:22 Reply

    Not completely related, but how do you prepare LR photos for Mpix? export from library as full resolution jpg from raw? Or size for print and set DPI to 250? I think you can just export as at full resolution jpg and not reduce DPI to allow flexibility for larger prints. I know you and Scott like Mpix and I have just started using them vs. printing myself. Do you sharpen as MPIX says it sharpens automatically?


    • David 30 August, 2010 at 10:26 Reply

      This is a great question and would love to know what you have to say Matt. I am about to send quite a few prints to MPIX for development and shipping. I have tried them in the past sporadically but I just landed several jobs and have them set up through my website to print exclusively from them because of the endorsement Scott has given in the past. Thanks.

  28. Dennis Zito 30 August, 2010 at 09:02 Reply

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks for the Post and have a GREAT time out there in “Vegas”! Wish I could join you.

    The presets are great! Thanks! My monitor default setting is 80% of max for the brightness setting. It’s way to bright for my eyes and I get head aches looking at it to long. What I’ve been doing for calibration is resetting the monitor to the default settings and then reducing the brightness to 60% (much better on the eyes) and then recalibrating the monitor. It seems to work. However, my prints are still too dark. I made my own preset, but didn’t take into account the default +50 in brightness setting. Duh! on me! Question, how would you use these presets if you have already made a brightness adjustment to the photo? I’m assuming I’d make a virtual copy and then apply the print preset?

    Thanks a bunch and have a Super time in “Vegas”!


  29. Alexander 30 August, 2010 at 07:19 Reply

    Quite strange advice here, since a serious photographer uses monitor calibration on LCDs as on CRTs, so the backlighting is compensated perfectly by the calibration curve applied to the monitor color profile, and no such issue as you describe should occur …

      • Bob 29 September, 2010 at 14:20 Reply

        Of course there is light coming from the monitor but if it is calibrated properly and the printer is calibrated as well then they should match. The screen should not appear brighter just because it’s source of illumination is different than that of a print. It is interesting that this is a common problem yet the labs I use always have sent back prints that match my screen.

  30. Martin 30 August, 2010 at 06:47 Reply

    I agree completely, the prints aren’t too dark, the monitor is too bright. I’ve got my monitor set at about 10% of maximum brightness to deliver about 110cd/m2 which works for me in matching the print to the screen. Fortunately with just one press of a button on the monitor (Eizo Flexscan) I can switch between this custom brightness (dimness!) and maximum brightness for “normal” viewing.

    I personally wouldn’t feel comfortable with pushing the Lightroom Brightness higher just to try to compensate for a monitor that is too bright, but I agree its a quick, if unsophisticated fix. Perhaps better to do it on a virtual copy then flag it with a colour to identify it as corrected for printing.

    An alternative for those without calibration hardware would be to do a print and then turn down the monitor brightness down until it matches the print. Then readjust the image until it looks correct on the screen. This would only work if you were either prepared to work all the time with a monitor that looks too dim but at least matches the print, or if you could record the settings of the monitor brightness and easily switch between normal brightness and printing brightness.

    • Matt Kloskowski 30 August, 2010 at 10:50 Reply

      Hey Martin,
      I actually do create a virtual copy. I forgot to mention it but that’s what I do. Create the copy, apply the brightness and then delete it if I need to (or leave it).


      • Sue H. 31 August, 2010 at 10:50 Reply

        Hi Matt,

        I’d be interested to know under which circumstances folks use Virtual Copy vs. creating a Snapshot…

  31. Marek Mularczyk 30 August, 2010 at 06:12 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks a lot for the post and glad to hear you’re off to Vegas (no gambling I hope… 😉 ).

    This is a very interesting post about printing and so try for many people, especially as in most cases the prints are coming off darker, not brighter… Interesting…

    All best

  32. nggalai 30 August, 2010 at 05:47 Reply

    What worked best for me was to bite the bullet and do what you seem to hate doing:

    Turn down my screens’ brightness.

    It’s pretty simple: Put a sheet of photo paper on your desk, open a white window on your screen, turn down the screen’s luminance until paper and white window leave about the same impression.

    Mind, for most people this will be too dark. Graphics dudes and dudettes working in a controlled-light environment though may feel right at home with the resulting 90-150 cd/m² rather than 300+ Candela per square metre, simply because their screens at work will be just about as bright. At least if the employer heeds the norming bureaus’ calls.

    Mind, this is not really a feasible solution for notebooks or livingroom-style office spaces.

    • Sam 20 September, 2010 at 07:51 Reply

      I absolutely agree!
      My Eizo CG is calibrated to a brightness of 80cd/m² and after getting used to it, I love it!
      The pictures look way better, and my eyes are less strained after long sessions on the computer.
      This made me turn the brightness on my office PC way down, too. Better than wearing sunglasses for computer work.

  33. PatrickDS 30 August, 2010 at 04:43 Reply

    I’d suggest to increase the brightness in the printer driver’s settings instead of in the LR develop module and to make a preset there (in the printer settings menu). Otherwise the photo will simply not look how it should anywhere else in the workflow. Also, the brightness of a print depends on paper type (glossy, matt, satin-matt, etc), paper quality and the printer’s inks. If one changes the brightness of a photo in the LR develop module, the print might come out fine in your currently used printer, but what if you buy a new one, or go to a lab where they have yet another printer with different inks and different paper? Regardless of the exposure and brightness settings inside LR, the brightness of the print will be different each time, depending on the printer, the inks and the paper.
    In short: I think it’s better to adjust the printer’s settings than to adjust the exposure/brightness values of the photo in the LR develop module.

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