Understanding Print Preview in Photoshop

screenshot of print preview window in photoshop CS3
Print preview window in photoshop CS3.


Adobe Photoshop is the standard for graphic editing and photo retouching. This also means that the number of options and functions it has might overwhelm the user. Photoshop's Print Preview is one of those. Photoshop gives you total control over the print options of your graphics, but knowing what they all mean can be a task, even for the experienced user.

This is a quick rundown of the Print with Preview function of Photoshop. While it is not a complete guide, it will satisfy the most common needs for the non-designer or the in-house designer. While this article is not meant to explain the Print Preview in all of its details, it will shed light on the most important ones.

Getting Familiar with the Photoshop Print Preview Window

screenshot of print with preview window in an old version of photoshop
Print with preview window in an old version of photoshop.


To access the Print Preview window go to File>Print... (or File>Print with Preview in older versions of Photoshop). With the with Preview you not only see how your document will print, but you can also change page settings and so on.

Let's explore the Preview window. On the top left, you, of course, see the preview of your document. Next, to the preview, you see the value within the Position pane and the ones within the Scaled Print Size.

Those values control how your image will print on your page. In this illustration, Centre Image is checked, but if it was unchecked, you would be able to decide exactly where your image is supposed to print, by changing the X and Y values. If you don't like inches, you can choose to set your values in centimeters, millimeters, points or picas. Changing those values does not affect the size your graphic will print at on your page.

Photoshop Print Preview: Scaled Print Size Options

Screenshot of Position and Scaled Print Size in Photoshop


The Scaled Print Size pane instead does act on the size of your graphic. You can change the size of your graphic by typing a percentage in the Scale field or by typing a value either in the Height or Width field. Changing value in either field will change the value of the other one proportionally. The little chain icon on the right factually means that the proportions will be maintained.

If the Show Bounding Box option is checked, Photoshop will show the boundaries of your graphic. In our example, the black rectangle around the logo you see in the preview is the bounding box. You can see that the logo is significantly smaller than the page itself.

The bounding box will not be printed with the image, it only shows up in the preview. It allows you to change the size of your graphic by dragging the mouse from it either inwards (to reduce the size) or outwards (to increase the size).

Under the Show Bounding Box option, there is the Print Selected Area option. In our example, it is grayed out. In order for that option to be available, you first need to make a selection then you can open the Print preview window by going to File>Print with Preview. The Print Selected Area option will then be available and if checked, Photoshop will only print the area inside your selection.

Photoshop Print Preview: Additional Options

Screenshot of print options in Photoshop


If you need to change the paper size you are printing on, go to Page Setup on the right-hand side of the preview window.

Under the Page Setup button, you can see a button that says Fewer Options. If you click on it, you will see that all the options you see under the preview pane will disappear. Those options are usually not needed unless you are setting up your document for professional output. We will go over those very briefly, but we will not get into those ones very much at this time. When the extra options are not shown, the Fewer Options button toggles to More Options.

Under the preview pane, you will see a drop-down menu. By default, it should be set to Color Management, but you will see that the pull-down menu offers also another option, i.e. Output.

Photoshop Print Preview: The Colour Management Options

Before we get into the Color Management options, it is necessary to understand what color management solves. Colors in a graphic don't look on my monitor the same way they do on yours. On my monitor colors might look more blue, maybe darker, while on your monitor colors might look more red.

This is normal. Even among monitors of the same brand colors will look different. This is the same also when printing graphics. One printer will differ from the other, even if they are of the same brand. One ink will differ from the other and one type of paper will differ from the other.

Color Management helps you to make sure that colors look the same when viewed on or printed from different devices. Usually, you can "record" your color settings in files called color profiles which you can give to the person who will receive your graphic, so he/she can view it or print it with the correct colors.

Photoshop Print Preview: More Color Management Options

Screenshot of Color Management in Photoshop


When you choose Color Management in the Print Preview window, you will see three panes under it: the Print pane, the Options pane, and the Description pane. Whenever you move your mouse over one of the options in the Print preview window, the Description pane will have an explanation of that option.

In the Print pane, you can choose either Document or Proof. When Document is selected, Photoshop will print your graphic using the current color settings--either the printer settings or Photoshop's settings.

Whether that be the first or the latter, it is determined by what choice you make in the "Color Handling" drop-down menu, where you can choose "Let Printer Determine Colors," "Let Photoshop Determine Colors" or "No Color Management" (There is another option, but we will leave that one alone for the purpose of this article).

If Proof is selected, Photoshop will emulate the type of color environment you chose from the proof pull-down menu. Professional print firms will use their own custom color profiles to print out proofs.

You can then choose the Printer Profile (what type of printer you will be outputting your files from) and a couple of other things, but you most likely won't need to know what those options are unless you are working in a printer's service bureau.

Photoshop Print Preview: The Output Options

Screenshot of print Output in Photoshop


As stated earlier, the Print preview window can show you the Color Management options or the Output options. To see the Output options, choose Output in the pull-down menu under the preview pane.

You will see that the lower options in the Print preview window will change. The options you see here are mainly related to professional output. Here you can set things like bleed, screen frequency and so on.

If you get to deal with these options at all, you will probably use the Background and the Border options. The background changes the background color your image will print on while the border will add a... colored border around your image.