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ICC Colour Profiles & Custom Printer Drivers for Dye Sublimation


Have you ever struggled to print accurate colours onto a mug, or other item?
Blacks may print brown, or purple; yellow may print as green; and reds could be pink or orange. If this sounds familiar, then you’re not alone.

There are three basic methods of colour management for dye sublimation

  1. ICC (International Colour Consortium) profiles,
  2. RIP (raster image processing) software
  3. Custom printer drivers.

An ICC profile is a software file that ensures that when a specific colour is selected on the computer screen, the designated colour is consistently and correctly delivered on the substrate. Think of it as a colour-matching program, as the screen colour rarely produces exactly the same output colour. Thus, a profile creates a link between specific screen colours and specific output colours. It doesn’t change the colour. It ensures the correct output for a given input. 

An ICC-compliant software program (e.g. Photoshop, Corel) is necessary to use this method. The profile will be placed in the output stage of printing and the manufacturer’s (OEM) printer driver will be set to ‘no color adjustment’. This setup will colour correct the image and then send the data to the printer without affecting the colors further. Please note both Google Chrome & Firefox are now ICC colour compliant 

To print the correct colours, your printer needs to know how to print 16.7 million colours from its inkset of just 4 or 6 colours. That’s where a colour correction profile can help. A colour correction profile (often called an “ICC profile”) is created by comparing the colours that your printer actually prints against what they should be, and then providing a list of “corrections” to your printer through your software or printer driver.You may already have an ICC profile supplied by your ink supplier, but they can only provide a “best guess” correction using their own printer. Your printer is different. All printers are manufactured to within tolerances and one profile is unable to be accurate for all such variations in manufacture. To achieve the very best colour accuracy, you need a custom colour correction profile that’s matched to your printer, your sublimation inkset, and your paper

Custom ICC Profiles are available to order
More Options here

Once you have a suitable ICC colour profile you should put the files supplied into the following directory:

Please note Apple Macs have built in ICC colour profiles


Once the files have been copied into this directory, then you need to tell the printer driver to use these profiles. To do this follow these simple steps:

  • Click Start then Printers and Faxes
  • Right click on your printer and choose Properties
  • Click on Color Management
  • Click on Add
  • Select the Profile Name
  • Select Manual
  • Select Apply

The simple and most important rule for colour management in sublimation printing is consistency. Any change in a variety of variables—substrate, sublimation paper selection, pressing time, temperature and pressure—will impact the final output. Therefore, it’s necessary to experiment and test as needed in order to generate the desired results, then establish a set of standards to work by… with the full understanding that a change in the standards can lead to a change in the appearance and quality of the final product. 

Custom Printer Drivers are software programs that have colour correction built into the printer control system. The advantage of this method is the ability to use non-ICC compliant software (e.g. Browser, Paint Shop Pro, Print Shop) as well as ICC-compliant software, as the colour correction is performed at the printer driver stage. In addition, it’s easier and less technical to use a custom printer driver than it is to use an ICC profile. 

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