What is an ICC Profile, and do I need one for Sublimation Printing?

by Anuradha Gokhale Marketing
If you're new to sublimation printing or you're considering getting into it then you may have had people online on various forums talking about the importance of ICC profiles but it could be wondering exactly what they are and why you might need one.

In this article we'll be trying to answer a few specific questions, What is an ICC profile? What does it do? Do you really need one for sublimation printing? How much difference does an ICC profile actually make? How would you use it?

What is an ICC Profile?

According to Wikipedia in color management, an ICC profile is a set of data that characterizes a color input or output device or a color space.

According to standards promulgated by the International color, consortium profiles describe the color attributes of a particular device or viewing requirement by defining a mapping between the device source or target color space and a profile connection space.

If you don't already know what an ICC profile is, Nearly anything which captures or produces an image uses an ICC profile. If you've got a camera on your smartphone that camera uses ICC profiles. The screen on your phone also uses an ICC profile. The monitor on your computer, the scanner on your printer and the printer itself all use ICC profiles as well.

Whatever you're watching any video on your screen is using an ICC profile and all of these built-in profiles are hidden away where you wouldn't normally notice them either in your computer or in your printer driver. but why do we need them?

With a camera a digital camera or a scanner any device which captures an image that device is never going to be a 100% accurate. The ICC profile in your camera lets your computer know how the picture taken relates to the actual colors we want to see.

There's a huge number of different cameras out there using different sensors and the ICC profile is necessary to make sense of the picture that that camera is taking.

There's a lot of different monitors available on the market and without ICC profiles the colors on one monitor would be completely different to those on another model. 

The ICC profile lets you compute to know which colors your monitor can display and how to display them. This enables your computer to coax the best performance possible from your monitor.

There's a lot of different printers out there using a lot of different inks and papers and these all have an impact on the colors produced. 

The ICC profile built into your printer driver lets the computer know what colors the printer is capable of and how to achieve the best results. 

There's a problem with these automatic profiles when it comes to sublimation printing. The profiles built into your printer driver are based on using the manufacturers' inks and photo papers.

For example, in an Epson printer, the profile is unity using Epson ink and Epson and photo paper but because we are going to be using sublimation ink on sublimation paper and then heating that then government transferring it onto a mug or a t-shirt we can't expect that standard printer profile to be 100% accurate.

Epson Printer Profile - In following picture Large triangular shape on the outside represents colors which the human eye can see and in that have dotted lines and the colors that your monitor can display. So you can see that there are colors which your eye can see which the monitor can't produce and that's what we'd expect that's perfectly normal. Within that, there are solid lines and that's what we want to be focusing on. 

There are the colors that the printer can produce using Epson ink on Epson photo paper.

ICC Profile

If you switch to a sublimation profile again for an Epson printer you'll see that obviously, the human eye hasn't changed at all the monitor that you're using hasn't changed but there's quite a big difference in the printers color space.

There are colors which the sublimation printer produces which are completely different. If you keep your eye on the solid line in the picture above which is completely different to those produced using the Epson color profile with the Epson pigment ink and the Epson of photo paper. If you use this Epson profile for sublimation printing then the colors are not going to be completely accurate but what of that difference translates to in the real world and how much do we need an ICC profile for sublimation.

Let us see another example from the following image, the images on the Left were printed using the standard Epson profile and picks on a bright were printed using a specific ICC profile for sublimation.

ICC Profile motorcycle

Starting with a motorcycle, The Red has come out rather orange without sublimation profile compared to the rich deep Reds achieved on the right using the specific sublimation profile. Also, the graves have come out a little green on the unprofiled image especially the nice neutral tones on the right.

Let's take a look at the baby in the image below. So one place where you'll definitely notice the need for ICC profiles is in skin tones. If you're producing items for your customers featuring photos of their family or friends then it will be immediately obvious to them if the skin colors aren't quite right.

ICC Profile baby tone

Generally, on a none profile printer, you'd expect everyone to come out looking either a little sunburned or a little bit jaundiced. In this case, you can see on the left is looking quite yellow which is not ideal on the right you can see the proper skin color which it's much healthier and more accurate. 

On the left unfortunately using a standard printer profile everything appears much duller than on the bright gears in the sublimation profile. 

The sky doesn't look quite as blue it looks a little overcast and red and blue shirt there looks very muted in comparison with the picture on the right which is much more vibrant and true to the original image.

ICC profiles are essential if you want accurate colors from your sublimation printer but how much extra work is that going to be for you and how complicated are they to use and then they can sound very complicated if you haven't used them before. 

There are three steps to using an ICC profile and we'll go through each of these now as an example First Disable the Profile Built into Printer

Go to printers we use as an example on Epson printer that printing preferences and then you will have these color correction options, so automatic is obviously using the automatic profile.

We'll go custom advanced, no color adjustment and click OK in this way you can disable the automatic Epson profile so the printer will leave the image alone and that setting is saved and you don't have to ever play the dance again

Now you need to install sublimation profile, so right-click on that and select install profile. 

Now finally you need to apply sublimation profile when we come to print and this is the only step you might not be completely comfortable with. 

In order to use custom profiles, you do need to use some image editing software like Photoshop cs2 which is available for free from the Adobe website.

Now go to file print and now you want Photoshop to handle colors using printer profile that you just installed and click done. It was that easy and all of those settings are saved now so you don't have to do any of that again.

All we need to do is click print so the standard printer profile is disabled. The new profile is applied and again with any image that you now open in Photoshop. if you just click print it will have applied all of those correct settings for you.


In order to get the absolute best results from your sublimation printer, you do really need to be using ICC profiles in order to get accurate colors and obviously it's sitting Express.

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About Anuradha Gokhale Innovator   Marketing

15 connections, 0 recommendations, 50 honor points.
Joined APSense since, June 12th, 2018, From Nagpur, India.

Created on Oct 1st 2018 05:40. Viewed 349 times.


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