Eduardo Angel
Eduardo Angel

Eduardo Angel has worked as a photographer, DP, digital consultant, photography instructor, and architect.

Understanding and Installing ICC Printer Profiles

July 16, 2012

"ICC specifications are both platform-independent and application-independent"

Before we discuss ICC Printer Profiles, let's begin by actually defining ICC. The acronym stands for International Color Consortium. The ICC was formed in 1993 by eight industry vendors: Adobe, Agfa, Apple, Kodak, Microsoft, Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, and Taligent. Since that time, some members have left, including Microsoft and Sun. Some companies no longer exist, and several other companies have become ICC members, including Canon, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, and Lexmark.

The purpose of the ICC is "to promote the use and adoption of open, vendor-neutral, cross-platform color management systems." In other words, it exists in order to create a universal color management system that functions transparently across all operating systems and software packages. What is truly wonderful about ICC specifications is that they are both platform-independent and application-independent.

The ICC has divided all device profiles into three classifications
  1. Display profiles for devices such as monitors and flat panel screens.
  2. Input profiles for devices such as scanners and digital cameras (also known as source profiles).
  3. Output profiles for devices such as printers, copiers, film recorders, and printing presses (also known as Destination profiles).

This article will concentrate on output profiles, and, more specifically, on printer profiles.

Here's a key concept in understanding printer profiles: it is not really the hardware that we are profiling. A printer profile is a combination of three variables: a specific printer, a specific paper and a specific ink set. If any of these variables change-let's say we decide to use a different paper or we change from Photo Black to Matte Black-that printer profile is invalid and we need to either select or create a new profile.

For example: If we are using the new Canon PIXMA Pro-1 with Canon's Fine Art Photo Rag paper, we must use the ICC printer profile for that specific combination. If we later want to use Canon's Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss SG-201 we need a different profile.

Canon offers a wide variety of inkjet papers including Museum Etching, Photo Rag, Platinum, High Resolution, Photo Stickers, and more. To learn more about choosing the correct media for your printer check this article. Profiles for select Canon papers and printers can be found and downloaded here on the Canon Digital Learning Center.

When using non-Canon papers and Canon's printers, check this handy page that includes links to find paper profiles from various manufacturers, including Hahnemühle, Ilford, and Moab. Or, go to the Product Page for your printer and download the ICC profiles for various papers from the Drivers & Software section.

Standard (also called generic) profiles, as the name states, are standard. They often work well, but they can't take into account your specific workflow and printer/paper/ink setup. Canon's standard profiles are built to exacting color standards with X-Rite professional color management technology, including X-Rite ProfileMaker 5 software, and i1iSis and i1iO automated chart readers. These profiles will provide good color fidelity from your Canon printer, but some users may prefer to create their own custom profiles-which exactly represent their unique workflow. If you are interested in doing this, please read our previous article on "How to create Custom Profiles for Canon Printers."

Now, here's the million-dollar question. Where are your ICC profiles stored? The answer is, it depends on your operating system (OS). When you first install the printer driver that comes with your printer, a variety of standard profiles are added by default to the corresponding folder on your system. You can also download additional profiles from the Canon website or other paper Manufacturer sites, or create your own. In those cases, here's where they should go:


Copy the ICC profile you want to use to the following folder:

  • Mac OS X – Library > ColorSync > ColorSync Profiles

Simply right-click the ICC profile that you want to use and select Install Profile from the drop down menu:

  • Windows 98/ME – \Windows\System\Color
  • Windows XP/Vista/7 – \Windows\System32\Spool\Drivers\Color

Keep in mind that on some systems you are required to have administrator privileges in order to install profiles. If you have Adobe Photoshop or any other image-editing or profile-managing software application open, be sure to close it and restart the application. These applications will have access to the profile folder and you will then be able to use the printer profiles.

As we just saw, printer profiles are the unique combination of a specific printer, a specific paper and a specific ink set. By using them properly, you can dramatically increase the quality, and consistency, of your prints. Having the option to download, or even create your own profiles is a great way to expand the ways you can present your images.

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

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