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Why are My Prints Too Dark?

One of the top two support questions we receive is, "Why are my inkjet prints too dark?" Two answers solve the vast majority of cases:

Your monitor brightness is too high

There is a small range of brightness (luminance) that is recommended for viewing and editing photographs. If your monitor is outside of this range, you are not seeing the image file as it really is. Rather, you are seeing it as dictated by the brightness of the monitor. Images can look bright when in reality they are not. When you make a print, the differences become apparent.  Please note, paper or color profiles or media settings are unlikely to be the cause of your print being too dark!

Correcting the Problem

Datacolor SpyderX

Method One  - Best practice is to use a monitor calibration device. The SpyderX Pro is a good choice.  It creates a monitor profile for color calibration and sets the correct brightness and contrast for image editing.

Method Two - Using your monitor's controls, turn the brightness down. The brightness scale is usually 0-100.  Most monitors come from the factory set at 50-75.  Start by dropping it to 10 and evaluate. Some models may require brightness set to zero for best results. While this method is not as accurate as calibration, it is certainly better than nothing.

Your Image is Underexposed

More specifically, your image could be underexposed for the purposes of printing. The difference between the emitted light of your monitor and reflected light of a print is important. The amount of light a print can reflect to your eyes depends on brightness of your environment, surface texture, paper whiteness, and amount (or lack) of gloss.  All of these factors can work to make a print look darker. It is our job to compensate for this situation, and one of the solutions is to add some exposure to your image.  

Correcting the Problem

Adding 1/3 stop of exposure, +0.33 of exposure slider, is a good start.  You may need to add more. To avoid trial and error, learn how to read the histogram

A excellent article from Northlight Images covers this topic in greater detail.  Read Why are my prints too dark?

Last updated: December 04, 2020