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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials

Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 6: Calibrating Your Printer

2017-09-07
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8.66 k
In this article:

Printer calibration, or profiling the printer, removes the last obstacle towards accurate colour printing and enhances your enjoyment of the print creation process. In this article, we will explain how printer calibration using a colorimeter is performed.

 

In Part 2 of this Introduction to Fine Art Printing series, we learned about different colour models, and how our monitors and printers each use a different colour model to represent colour. For colour accuracy, the printer and monitor need to be calibrated or profiled, so that only the colours that are common to both colour space are represented onscreen and printed. It is also important to note that printer profile calibration is performed for each paper type, be it a matte, glossy or canvas medium. That means that the lush landscape of a cascading Balinese rice field or the radiance of a beaming bride can be accurately and beautifully rendered on any paper, fulfilling the photographer’s vision exactly.

With that important detail in mind, we shall explain how the printer is calibrated.

 

Precise printer calibration with colorimeter hardware

There are a handful of printer calibration solutions available, e.g. Spyder5 Studio from Datacolor, ColorMunki Photo from X-Rite etc. We will describe the workflow using the ColorMunki Photo for this article, which is generally similar to the other products available on the market.

ColorMunki screenshot

 

1. Launch the ColorMunki software. Select the ‘Profile My Printer’ option, select ‘New profile’.

2. Choose your printer e.g. Canon PRO-500 series from the drop down list.

3. Name the paper type you are creating the profile for.

4. The next screen will present you with a test chart to print.

5. Click on the Print button and the printer driver dialog box appears next.

6. Select the paper to use under Media Type e.g. Canon Photo Paper Pro Premium Matte.

7. Select the print speed and print quality that you would like to use for making prints. This ensures that the colour patches accurately represent the density and amount of ink used during actual printing.

8. Turn off Colour management by the printer; as the profile generated by the calibration process can only be used by software such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom. Proceed to print.

9. Once the printout is completed, let the printout dry. For glossy media, 30 minutes should be sufficient, and for matte paper, 10 minutes will do.

10. Once the printout is dry, use the ColorMunki device (it should be connected to your computer via the USB port) and drag it down each column of colours. There is a mark on the measuring device to help you line up the patches.

ColorMunki device and color test chart for calibration

 

11. The scanned data is read by the software, which tells you which column of colour patches to measure next. Most calibration software will also inform you where each line measurement has been successful or if a repeat scan is needed.

12. Repeat this process until all colour patches have been successfully recorded.

13. When all the colour data on the test chart is measured, ColorMunki uses this information to generate a second set of colour printouts. Repeat the process of measurements using the ColorMunki. Do remember to allow the prints to dry before starting on the measurements.

14. With the second test charts measured, the software is now able to produce a unique printer profile for your chosen paper that should “tell” your printer the exact volume of ink to use for every colour hue for your preferred paper type. The software automatically names the profile using the paper name you have used – if you are profiling the printer for use with multiple media types, this is the most logical naming convention.

15. Once the printer profile has been created, ColorMunki will be able to set this profile as the default printer profile across all your programs you use to print e.g. Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.

16. Repeat the above process for other types of paper you plan to use e.g. canvas, matte paper etc.

 

Tips for even greater accuracy

With the basic printer profile created and your monitor colour calibrated, you have made a big step towards a colour-accurate workflow. That said, you can also make refinements to the printer profile for even greater accuracy.

Checking test-printed images

 

We recommend test printing a selection of images, including:

- a colour portrait,
- a black-and-white portrait
- a colourful landscape.

The newly calibrated printer profile is now the default printer profile of your printing software, e.g. Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom. Proceed to print the images. (For tips on extracting the best results from your images during printing, please refer to the first five chapters of this Introduction to Fine Art Printing series.)

Examine the printouts and determine if the colours or tones are what you expect from the screen. You may find some colour deviation from the screen e.g. the black-and-white image has a colour hue or the skin tone of the portrait images is too yellow. To rectify this, follow the steps below:

- Go to Profile My Printer on the main screen
- Choose Optimise Existing Profile
- Select the printer profile from the drop down list e.g. Canon Photo Paper Pro Premium Matte
- Select Load image to import the test image that exhibits the colour flaws

 

A new test chart will be created using the colours used in the test photo. Proceed to measure the chart as described above and ColorMunki will append the profile with more colour information. This results in an increasingly accurate profile based on the type of photos you are printing.

In our next article, we discuss the important role of paper media and how to choose a paper that suits your photography style.

 


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