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Archive 2013 · Affordable printer color mgmt
  
 
ChrisGVE
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Affordable printer color mgmt


I've recently decided to print myself and I have now a R3880 on the way.

I'd like to know what experience you have with printer color mgmt, what advice would you have to select an affordable tool for printer color profiling which would work on a Mac with Mountain Lion (I've seen somewhere that it could be a problem as ML always uses a profile even to print the target).

For monitor I'm already using a Spyder3 so I'm looking for the printer only.

Thanks
Chris



Jan 10, 2013 at 12:29 PM
Jeffrey
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Affordable printer color mgmt


Once you have your monitor calibrated wouldn't you simply use the printer profiles provided by the manufacturer (or other sources, custom made perhaps)?


Jan 10, 2013 at 06:41 PM
ChrisGVE
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Affordable printer color mgmt


Well that's a bit what I am looking for. There seems to be 2 camps, those who think that standard profiles are ok and those who think that it's better to profile the printer. Also there might be cases where the color profile is not available.

Thus my question about people's experience and if they had to purchase profiling hardware, what affordable solution exists out there.



Jan 11, 2013 at 12:31 AM
howardm4
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Affordable printer color mgmt


The least expensive solution is the Colormunki Photo for about $400-450 (often on sale for 330-350). Or you can rent the same device from lensrentals.com ($50 per week) or you can get a custom profile made for $30-50-100

Some/many mfgr supplied profiles are fine and some are mediocre. Depends on the source (ala Epson profiles tend to be very good, I've heard of issues w/ certain others (they've all produced a couple of clunker profiles too). In almost all cases, mfgr profiles will get you well within the ballpark; custom profiles kick that up a notch or two. Whether that is important or even visible is up to you.



Jan 11, 2013 at 12:08 PM
sic0048
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Affordable printer color mgmt


Your printer color profile will change with every type of paper you use and every type of ink you use. I guess if you use only the manufacturers ink, and the manufacturer has profiles for all the paper that you use, that will be pretty close.

But just like every camera and monitor seem to have their own color quirks, it isn't unreasonable to think that each printer could have slightly different colors. Perhaps one of your color jets dispenses slightly more ink that the printer that was used to create the profile, etc.

The absolute best way to ensure that the colors you see on your screen while editing is to calibrate both your monitor and your printer. Again, any time you change ink or paper to a different type, you need to be using another color profile that was created with those two variables.



Jan 11, 2013 at 09:08 PM
ChrisGVE
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Affordable printer color mgmt


Many thanks all, this was very helpful!


Jan 12, 2013 at 02:33 PM
pesto126
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Affordable printer color mgmt


are with others.. colormunki photo is a great tool and lets you create profiles for each ink/paper combo that matches your screen.. once you go through the steps to setup the profiles, you are pretty assured it will come out matching. Good luck!


Jan 12, 2013 at 04:06 PM
anthonygh
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Affordable printer color mgmt


Do a lot of monochrome printing!!

That aside.....be a bit rational here.....first ensure you know what ink and papers you intend sticking to. If this is a small number, you can see if the paper manufacturer does profiles for your printer. You could even ask if members have profiles for your combo that they are willing to send you....with a modern Epson using Epson inks anyone with a profile from the same machine/paper should be very close.

Failing that, it costs about £15 here to send off and have a profile made....if you only need a couple that might be the sensible option....if you need several see what discount is available.



Jan 12, 2013 at 04:13 PM
WAYCOOL
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Affordable printer color mgmt


You got a Spyder3 why not add Spyderprint to your kit I'm very happy with mine.


Jan 12, 2013 at 06:49 PM
colinm
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Affordable printer color mgmt


If you're using Epson papers, the standard profiles will be fine. In 2013, the delta from one Epson printer to another is effectively zero, and the profiles are excellent quality.

As Howard said, f you're using third-party papers, you'll have to figure that out from experience. Some of them are good, some of them are okay, some of them are terrible. And it's worth complaining if you do find they're terrible—Moab, for example, has gone back and re-profiled things when customers have told them "Hey, this profile's a trainwreck."



Jan 12, 2013 at 07:45 PM
 

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cgardner
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Affordable printer color mgmt


The axiom of "If you can see the difference it matters" applies to color management.

First you need to understand that no printer will be an exact match to your screen; the gamuts are different. The goal is for the images you display on screen and print to match your impression of the scene in person with similar tonal range and detail, things you expect to be neutral neutral on screen and print, etc.

If you stick to the manufacturer's papers and profiles if you record an image of a person holding a Macbeth chart the person and chart, while not an exact match to screen and print, will be be close enough for non-critical applications like scenics and portraits where the exact color of things isn't that critical. Keeping the neutrals free of color biases is more critical because you expect a tire on a car to look neutral black, not have a color cast.

An example of critical color balance would be an advertising poster of a red car that will hang in the showroom over the car for comparison or a photo in a catalog a buyer will use to make color selections. For less critical subjects if the neutrals are correct an there is a full tonal range the fact an apple in a photo isn't an exact match to the one on the tree won't be noticed because apples come in a range of color variations.

The more the process control is front loaded the easier and more automatic the other steps in the color management workflow will be.

I always set custom WB off a gray card when possible and include the card in test shots. That way I don't have to adjust color when editing, other than to intentionally skew it warmer / cooler to evoke mood. With a calibrated monitor the results out of camera look as good as the calibrated monitor can make them. When I print the file straight out of camera the printer profile should, if everything is working correctly, map the gamut of the editing space (e.g. ProPhoto RGB) to the printer's gamut per the paper/ink profile and figure out what combination of CYMK ink is needed to make the tires on the car neutral black.

If you start with a file that doesn't have "by the numbers" R=G=B on a gray card in the image for reference and adjust color visually based on your perception of color on the content on the monitor its a bit like whacking at a Pinata blindfolded because of the way color vision adapts. Here's an example:

With a camera set on Daylight WB you shoot under trees in the woods. The trees are reflecting green light off the leaves making the light on the white shirt of your subject green. But your eyes have adjusted and it looks white. You take a shot and chimp. The shirt is actually green in the photo on the playback but because your eyes are adapted to the ambient it will look neutral. You will not see the color bias problem.

You get home and open the file on the computer. Your brain knows the shirt should be white and that you used the "correct" daylight WB. What happens? Your brain will adapt color perception of the screen image + magenta so the shirt looks white. Your monitor may be calibrated to a constant baseline but your brain isn't.

If your subject was holding a gray card in the photo and you click corrected on it the color balance of the monitor would shift + magenta to remove the green bias. Now your brain, knowing how the eyedropper tool works trusts that second version more than the first. If you toggle back and forth from out of camera to gray card corrected you'll see the obvious green cast in the as taken from the baseline of believing the correction being more accurate.

You can do the same thing in the field. I always set the camera to Daylight outdoors before setting custom WB. Then I shoot the card with Daylight WB, set Custom WB and then shoot it again. Toggling back and forth between Daylight and Custom WB renderings of the card I can see if the actual lighting matches daylight or has a color cast. If done under trees the Daylight shot will look green compared to the Custom WB shot of the card.

What happens if you printed the out of camera shot with Daylight WB and the green tint you don't see in the playback or computer? The printer prints will reproduce the card per the file values and it will be green on the print. It will likely be noticed more than on screen if the print is seen around other neutral objects for reference.

All of that has nothing to do with the technology of the camera > screen > printer color management but you need to be aware of how your color perception adapts and that you really can't trust your eyes to judge color objectively. To "see the difference" objectively you need a baseline your brain trusts. For lack of any better option setting Custom WB off a known neutral target is your best available benchmark.

When you need to be concerned about color management is if you set custom WB off a gray card record a full tonal range image (detail in shadows and highlights) and the image doesn't look neutral on screen and print. If it doesn't look neutral on the screen or the same detail the eye dropper values indicate it should have there's a monitor calibration problem. If you get exposure and color optimal at capture even if your monitor is way out of calibration if you don't change anything and just print it, the print should look OK if the printer profile is accurate. If the print doesn't it's an indication the profile isn't accurate and you either have a mechanical problem with the printer or an out of spec batch of ink or paper that doesn't match the generic profile provided with the printer.

What I'm suggesting here it that for lack of a better one the best indicator of whether you have a color management problem that needs addressing is a picture of the wife out in the yard holding a Macbeth target taken after you set Custom WB on the camera off a gray card. If she still looks like the woman you married an the gray patches on the MacBeth target look neutral on screen and print you don't have a color management problem. If you hold the actual MacBeth target next to screen and print you'll see the match isn't exact perhaps but not off so much you noticed in the shot of the wife.

You should calibrate your monitor with your device of choice then check the results against the photo of the wife after you calibrate. That shot set with custom WB, not what you see on the monitor, becomes the "gold standard" baseline you trust as the "right" color because all other photos you take with Custom WB will look similar out of camera. If you calibrate the the monitor and the photo of the wife holding the target doesn't look right the problem isn't the file, something messed up the calibration. You can use the camera WB baseline to check the monitor calibration rather than assuming it is always perfect.

If you get a new paper or batch of ink the first file you should print should be the one of the wife. Does it look identical to all the other test print of the same baseline reference file? If not then you might need to get a custom profile made for that paper. Should you make it yourself? Did you make pants you are wearing? Leave the task of creating the profile to those who have the equipment and expertise to do it accurately.

Edited on Jan 13, 2013 at 02:29 AM · View previous versions



Jan 13, 2013 at 12:23 AM
ChrisGVE
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Affordable printer color mgmt


Wow! Thanks a lot for your comments, I already feel I understand better color mgmt. I'll be looking for profiles and follow cgardner advices and ask the wife


Jan 13, 2013 at 01:03 AM
anthonygh
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Affordable printer color mgmt


All colour is subjective so don't get too hung up on it...what you see as a particular colour is a function of your viewing environment, your age, your culture...and even your education and race..all these factors will change colour perception.

And...even if you could get it 'right'...is that what you really want? As a rule artists want to interpret real life and represent it.... not attempt to slavishly duplicate it...



Jan 13, 2013 at 05:28 AM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Affordable printer color mgmt


I don't know whether to laugh to to cry or just close my eyes when I read posts like the one above - not Anthony's or Chris'. For all the confusion about how to go about getting great digital color, this only muddies the water that much more. It all sounds great to the person who doesn't know what he's doing, but to someone who does, it's a bunch of hooey sprinkled with a few dashes of correctness to make it all smell nicer.

I would keep it simple to start with. You've already got your monitor calibrated - a great start. When you get your 3880, I'd recommend starting with Epson papers and seeing what happens. If you use Epson's canned profiles and their media, you'll be surprised at just how great your prints will look. And Epson has some pretty great papers to get you started. After you're up and running a bit, then try adding other papers one at a time and see what your results are. When you start with Epson media and Epson profiles, you'll have a really good baseline with which to judge subsequent prints. The reason that Epson's profile are so good is that they make great profiles AND their printers are remarkably similar from printer to printer (within the same model) and again repeatable over time as well. Their inks and paper are also very repeatable and thus predictable and repeatable as well. All of that practically eliminates a huge part of the the color management equation from being a moving target.

You'll know soon enough after adding third party papers to your routine if you need to delve further into the color management abyss, but my advise, after having been there and done that for the last fourteen years, is just what I've written above. X-Rite has all the tools, hardware and software you'll need should you get to that point. Take it one step at a time.

You've got a great printer coming. You'll enjoy the hell out of it.



Jan 13, 2013 at 06:19 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Affordable printer color mgmt


The point I'm trying to make, that Peter seems to miss, is that the camera which generates the color you edit on monitor and print is a tool you can use along with a gray card for setting WB and color target for evaluation of color shifts from original>screen>print. It's a simple way to verify whether everything else after capture in the color management workflow is nominal by making what the camera captures nominal: full tonal range and neutral WB on the card. Also if you get in the habit of capturing images that way what color management is designed to can do it automatically.

If you capture a full range, gray card color balanced file in the camera where R=G=B on the card it will automatically look great on monitor and print without any adjustment because profile based color management works. Your monitor profile created via calibration will it match what you perceived by eye when the photo was taken, and when the file is sent to the printer the printer profile will map the file values similarly to the printer's gamut. No operator intervention is required. It's because clever engineers and color scientists designed profile based color management that millions of technically clueless digital photographers are able to pop the card out of camera and into the kiosk at Costco and get a normal looking acceptable result on the print.

The idea of using a photo of the wife taken on a clear day with custom WB then comparing the results on screen and print without any modification is simply a baseline you can repeat with each new monitor calibration or new paper/inks to judge if the screen calibration was done correctly or the paper profile is accurate. The photo of the wife works better than a test file you can find on the net because: 1) you know what the wife looks like in person, and 2) the file is created with your camera.

Peter is likely more critical about color than 99% of the population. So the results you get simply by displaying and printing the Custom WB file as captured might not meet his standards. But Peter isn't looking at your screen and prints, you are. So like I said, if you don't see a problem there isn't one, at least not for your needs.

From that baseline of perceptually acceptable straight out of camera full range custom WB file its just a matter of how anal you want to be about getting a picture of a color chart to exactly match a photo of it on screen and print and how much money you want to spend on calibration devices to do it.

Profiling the camera will make the color chart a closer match to the chart used to make it than you'll get without it on your calibrated monitor. A well made bespoke printer profile will reproduce the chart more accurately than a generic one. It's just a matter of how much time and money you want to spend to make that chart perfectly match the original. But from a perceptual standpoint perfect color reproduction isn't needed most of the time.



Jan 13, 2013 at 05:18 PM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Affordable printer color mgmt


Gray cards have their place, but too many people don't know how to use them, or the cards themselves are not really neutral to begin with.

For shooting, since I shoot raw, I only try and get it close in camera, as I'm going to do the final gray balance in Capture One anyway. For printer testing, a standardized test image like the PhotoDisk Test Image is really good. I've taken that image and added my own gray step wedges and a few of my own known images. It's actually better to have a digitally generated neutral for printer profile testing and even better yet to have a gradated step ramp, where you can clearly see the neutrality across the scale and where the limits of the printer/profile/paper combination are for highlight and shadow detail. The known "memory" colors in a test image like that are in there for a reason. Putting a picture of "the wife" in there may or may not help, but I would never make it my sole test image, and I would never ever refer to her as "the"...



Jan 14, 2013 at 01:18 AM
anthonygh
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Affordable printer color mgmt


Someone takes a colour picture with a camera that may or may not be 'correct' due to various factors such as lens used, sensor and software...it may then be printed by a machine that may or may not exactly replicate the colour the camera captured or the monitor shows.....or may or may not be mainly viewed on a monitor showing the exact same ourput as the photographer's monitor...and may or may not be viewed in the correctly lit environment by someone who may or may not have the same colour perception as the photographer.


Jan 14, 2013 at 02:49 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Affordable printer color mgmt


I have the same question as the OP. But I have my camera and monitor calibrated using a made for NEC Xrite and Spectraview. I have an Epson3800 and use Red River paper and a custom profile. I use only one paper. I have used this system for 4-5 years.

I would like a better match between monitor and print. I am thinking of going to the next step of calibrating my printer. The main issue is brightness. My prints are too dark even with the custom profile.




Jan 14, 2013 at 03:45 PM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Affordable printer color mgmt


Ben - There is no "calibrating" your printer. It's calibrated at the factory and it is what it is. All you can do is profile your printer/ink/paper combo to fingerprint your system. If your prints are not matching as you think they should, then it's either a printer profile issue, a monitor calibration issue or a viewing condition issue or some combination of the three.

What is the ambient light level in your editing room and what luminance in cd/m2 did you calibrate your NEC to?
Who made your custom paper profile and what software did they use. And how exactly did you print the profile target out to have the profile made?
What operating system version and version of Photoshop are you using? There are some specific combinations that could cause dark prints.




Jan 14, 2013 at 04:18 PM
ben egbert
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Affordable printer color mgmt


Sorry for using the wrong word, I am careless of words.

Yes, I need to have a better profile for my printer.

Nec is at 120CD/mm^2. Lighting is in a dark basement with a 40 w fluorescent bulb, but I use an OTT lamp to view the print and the print is hung in a mixed daylight/interior light location.

I use CS6 and WIN7-64. I work in prophoto RGB.

No clue on the profile info, I no longer have contact with the maker. But he started with my Red River profiles which are good for color and simply lightened it to match the 120 monitor.

This is why I want the ability to make my own profile to match my working environment.



Jan 14, 2013 at 04:56 PM
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