Viewing prints online

August 3, 2009 § 1 Comment

Viewing art online is different than handling or hanging an object, a print. There are differences that I would like to discuss here.

A print is realized with the eyes in the “reflective” qualities achieved through varied methods of laying ink down on paper. Paper reflects the light from the space your in. As it has for centuries. Paper and ink has a cultural association with permanence. From the Nag Hammadi, Magna Carta, Durer’s Rhinoceros, to Photographic prints- Julia Margaret Cameron, Ansel Adams , Man Ray, etc.

This medium shares the common bond of intimacy. When we have a print in hand it becomes more than the ideas. It is accessible with a direct and irrevocable manner.

A screen or monitor, L.E.D.s, C.R.T.s, Etc. are back-lit. The light comes from the particular and varying method produced by the users screen. It is difficult for an artist to prescribe a consistent experience for multiple devices. The image becomes somewhat less of an intimate connection with the artist, yet much more deliverable.

It is impossible to properly display a “print” online, they are two separate mediums, Hopefully the limitations of one are assisted by the advantages of the other.

When we look at images online, the issue of consistency of color and tonal range are similar to working with photoshop/printer color management workflow. When developing prints I can know before printing 95% or so what the print will look like, but the backlit monitor is not a reflective piece of paper.

There has been progress in standardizing color in browsers, Firefox and Safari have recently added I.C.C. profile reading (both require you to turn it on)  To explain; when a working in photoshop, A profile must be assigned. Colors become numbers. The profile’s numbers tell the monitor how to display a color.

Safari and Firefox can now tell what color-space the image is in and more accurately display the intended color. This is a step forward in allowing the intended color reach you, the viewer. The next step will be standardizing everyone’s monitor (Safari tells your monitor the correct colors but the monitors themselves vary in reading it!)

For me to get consistent color working on my screen I have to stick a hockey puck like thing every month or so on my screen and run the software to keep it in a correct color-space. This is not a practical way to give everyone online the same color/hue/luminance experience. It’s too damn complicated.

Someday this will be fixed,  yet the onscreen image will still not be a singular object, yours to keep or pass on. Stand alone, irrevocable.


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