We often get calls from people looking at getting into colour management and wondering how to start and what it really costs.
Keith discusses some different aspects of colour management that may be of interest...
There are lots of extra resources on this site which we've collected together
at the end of the article.
- "The prints look just like the pictures on the screen..." -- a slightly surprised photographer after Keith had calibrated his monitor for him the first time
Where do I start?
There are several misconceptions about colour management.
These include it being expensive and it being difficult to understand.
Hopefully, by the time you've had a look through this article you will have a better idea of why you should look at colour management as an essential part of producing better pictures.
There is really only one place to start - your monitor. If it doesn't actually display accurate colour, it's difficult to get prints right and even more so getting anyone else to produce them accurately.
At it's simplest you should adjust your monitor by eye to get good brightness and contrast.
There are various software tools that can help you in this (see the Viewing Tips for more)
Good as these tools are, they all rely on your own eyesight, which might not be as accurate as you think.
There is a wide variety of hardware now available that will automate the process. You install the software, plug in the calibrator (USB) and follow the instructions.
The Spyder4Elite calibrator from Datacolor. The device rests against your screen whilst colours are measured
There is much more about this in the reviews of the -- Spyder4Express -- Eye One Display Pro -- Pantone Huey Pro -- ColorMunki Display -- ColorMunki (we've still got all our reviews of older kit as well)
There is one area that is often overlooked by people after they have calibrated their monitor -- to do it again later. Monitors drift in colour as they age and regular checks are worthwhile (some organisations where colour accuracy is vital, do it every day).
So, does calibrating your monitor give you better prints? It certainly helps, but there are lots of other factors to consider.
I've written a short article -Why don't my prints match my screen?- that covers the issues.
It is also important that the software you are using supports colour management. If you are not sure, open the same image in several different applications at the same time and see if you can see a difference. Applications like Photoshop will manage colour correctly, while the free imaging application you got with your digital camera or scanner may not.
As colour management becomes more widely known, look for reviews and articles in popular Photography and Computer Magazines. -BUT- don't assume that they always know what they are talking about...
I was once sent a copy of a review of monitor calibration in MacWorld UK, where the reviewer mentioned comparing profiled monitors to a 'reference' print -- printed on an unprofiled inkjet printer. Talk about missing the point ...fortunately the review was only available to subscribers, so a wider audience was spared.
I often get asked for suggestions about learning more about the nuts and bolts of Colour Management.
My usual suggestion is Bruce Fraser's Real World Colour Management. My own copy is well thumbed. It's my first port of call if I'm asked a question and I feel I don't quite understand an issue well enough to be absolutely sure of an answer.
Check latest price/availability from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk
1st Edition RWCM
2nd Edition RWCM
Other Amazon sites
Amazon France / Amazon Germany / Amazon Canada
See some other books Keith has on the shelf, on our Books Page
We've links to some articles and books at the end of this article, but since a lot of people ask for the really quick version of what it is all about, I've put a very short description of colour management on a page of its own.
What about printing?
Now the picture on your screen is a bit more reliable, you may find that those colour casts and defects in prints are much improved.
If you are using manufacturers inks and paper, then the printer profiles supplied are often very good.
If printing from an application like Photoshop then the suggested way is to use 'no colour adjustment' in the printer driver and use the appropriate printer profile in the Photoshop 'Print with Preview' window (site with good tutorials about this).
Several professional photographers we have helped out, have commented that just by calibrating their monitors and using manufacturers profiles, their consistency and quality of work has improved noticeably.
3rd Party printing
If you are going to send your images to a third party for printing, then it helps if you can send consistent data. Using standard colour spaces (such as Adobe98 or sRGB) you can be more sure of what you are sending. If your contact at the lab is not able to answer basic questions about their colour management policy and preferred formats, then maybe consistent results are unlikely? I've reviewed a set of test images that you can use if sending pictures off for printing, and we've a page with many free test print resources.
Other Papers and Inks
Manufacturers inks and papers may be more expensive, but until third party ink manufacturers offer printer profiles for various printer/paper/ink combinations you are just going to have to experiment. There is also the question of how long your choice of ink/paper is going to last.
Unless replacement inks were actually made by the same company as produces the printer manufacturers inks, then treat any claims that they are 'the same as originals' with suitable scepticism.
Of course you can produce your own printer/ink/paper profiles.
When testing a new paper I like to make a good range of test prints
This sounds expensive
Well it can be... The equipment to produce top quality profiles - and the expertise to do it - does not come cheap. If you are just going to be using a few paper types then consider getting custom profiles made. You print a standard pattern, send it off, and a profile gets mailed back to you.
The complexity and expense of this process varies, but it is pretty straightforward. You might wish to experiment with doing profiles yourself (see Keith's review of the Spyder3Print and review of printer profiling with the Eye One) but be prepared for plenty of experimenting. There are several reviews of colour management devices in our reviews section, including a colour management check-up kit which can help you with getting more accurate colour.
At Northlight we produce most of our prints on a large format Canon iPF8300 printer. The Canon supplied profiles are good, but could be improved upon - especially for Black and White.
Our own printer profiling for the iPF8300 uses the X-Rite i1Profiler package.
If some of these solutions sound too expensive, then consider the real costs of getting it wrong. Factor in the time and resources lost in not getting things right first time.
Take time to learn the principles behind colour management, it's well worth it. The better you understand what is going on, the easier it is to spot something that is not right, and fix it.
Remember that the end result is what counts -- for me that's excellent prints and satisfied clients.
I've put references to well written and informative articles on the web in our colour management links section. These are ones I've personally found useful.
One particular article I've found that has helped a lot of people is the latest Photoshop CS2 colour management chapter from Martin's Evenings excellent book http://www.photoshopforphotographers.com /pscs2/download/ PSCS2_colmanage.pdf -- useful even if you are not using CS2
Keith provides colour management advice and presentations to many companies and business organisations, helping people take their first steps in the subject.
Feel free to contact us for more info. Don't be intimidated by some of the experts, just ask...
Contact details :
Northlight Images, 86 Harrow Road
Leicester, Leicestershire, UK. LE3 0JW (Maps)
Telephone (Mon-Fri. 9am-5pm) +44 (0)116 291 9092
Colour management information on this site
General Colour Management
- Adobe utility for printing profiling targets (CS5) with no colour management.
- CMYK for photographers (1)
Some considerations when a client asks for images to be submitted in CMYK
- CMYK for photographers (2) - Press management
An overview of colour management for when your work is destined for large scale printing.
- Why don't my prints match my screen?
A short article showing why there is more to getting your prints to match your screen, than just calibrating your monitor. It's the vital first step, but you do need to consider some other factors for best results.
- Why are my prints too dark?
One of the more common printing problems we get asked about. Addresses some of the steps you can take to produce more consistent prints.
- Dark prints revisited - If you're having problems adjusting your monitor, Keith has some details of an experimental approach, using adjustment curve layers that may be of some help.
- Choosing a working space
There are a number of popular choices for working colour space when editing images. Keith shows examples and discusses his personal choices for different applications. One size definitely does not fit all.
- Room and office decoration and lighting for photo editing
Some information on what to consider when setting up a space to work on digital images and evaluate prints.
- The very simple guide to 'what is colour mangement'.
Is the red in RGB the same as a London bus, or a UK Telephone box? A very short explanation of what colour management is, and why you use it.
- Colour management introduction
- Beware the colour management Tar Pit
Know what levels of colour management (and expense ;-) suit the needs of your work... A personal view from Keith covering some of the things it is good for, but also why you should be careful to understand why you are doing it in the first place.
- Printer test images
- Media settings and profiling for third party inks
Keith recently converted an Epson Stylus COLOR 1160 to third party inks. In describing the profiling of a this set-up with a third party glossy paper, he shows how that often neglected aspect of profiling -driver media settings- can make all the difference between a so-so print and one that he would be happy to send out as a sample to his commercial clients. Test images for media selection.
- Adjusting your monitor 'by eye'
Not the best way, but better than nothing at all
- Colour management and the web - why getting good colour on web sites is not as easy as you thought
- Removing Adobe Gamma - Adobe Gamma is often installed by default on Windows PCs, this short note describes how to deactivate it.
- Dual monitor profiling under Windows XP SP2 - A brief note on profiling and calibrating dual monitor systems under Windows XP SP2.
- Camera Profiling for ACR with the DNG Profile Editor
Using a ColorChecker card, we've created custom camera profiles for the Ricoh GX200. Used for processing RAW camera files with Adobe Camera Raw. Applicable to any camera producing RAW files that can be opened in ACR.
- Using the ColorMunki for black and white with QTR
A special version of our black and white test print for reading linearisation data for QTR
- Using QTR and PrintFIX PRO for better black and white prints
By using the PrintFIX PRO to take readings from a greyscale test target, you can create luminance only icc profiles that can give a noticeable improvement to black and white print set-ups. It can even be used to improve the results from the likes of Epson's new 'advanced black and white' print settings.
- Colour Management
Links to articles and sites we've found useful.
(Please do let us know if you find something useful that we've missed)
Equipment and software reviews
X-Rite (ex GretagMacbeth)
- Using the Canon SU-21 spectrophotometer unit with the iPF6450 printer
- Setting up the SU-21 spectrophotometer on the iPF6450 Fitting the optional SU 21 spectrophotometer unit on a Canon iPF6450 24" printer.
- i1Profiler - scanner profiling review - The latest V1.4 update to i1Profiler adds scanner profiling, using a range of specialist targets for film and flat bed scanners. The review shows how the output of even a basic desktop scanner can be greatly improved.
- ColorMunki Smile - Review of the basic level monitor profiler.
- i1Photo Pro 2 - Review of the i1Pro 2 for printer profiling.
- i1Basic Pro 2 - Review of the i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer kit.
- Using i1Profiler to measure QTR linearising targets.
- Using the i1Pro 2 for linearising B&W printing - Making use of ColorPort and QTR.
- ColorMunki Display - Review of the monitor calibrator from X-Rite and an explanation of why monitor profiling is a good idea.
- i1Display Pro - review of new monitor and projector calibration colorimeter.
- i1 Profiler - overview and links to information and more detailed reviews of functionality.
- i1 Profiler - Printer profiling (RGB)
- i1 Profiler - Monitor calibration
- ColorChecker Passport - test card for photography. Also allows DNG camera profiles to be built for the Adobe ACR raw converter
- i1iSis OBA compensation - Optical brighteners can cause problems in profiling some papers. Article shows why, and reviews X-rite's approach to building corrected profiles for different lighting conditions with the iSis.
- ColorMunki Printer profiling - A detailed review looking at the ColorMunki ICC printer profiling system from X-Rite. This expands on this particular aspect of our initial review of the ColorMunki. Covers making and optimising printer profiles, with notes on profile evaluation.
- ColorMunki - an initial review of this printer/projector/monitor calibration/profiling device.
- i1 Beamer - A software upgrade and hardware attachment device for using the X-rite i1 Pro spectrophotometer for digital projector profiling
- i1 Display 2 - Monitor calibration and profiling device from GretagMacbeth - also allows ambient light measurement. (see also updated Pantone version)
- i1 Match update - updated monitor calibration functionality
- i1 LT (i1Basic) - review
Basic X-rite i1 spectrophotometer package for monitor calibration, light measurement and basic printer profiling.
- i1 XTreme - review
Complete i1 profiling package, printers, cameras, projectors, scanners.
- i1 Design
A Spectrophotometer and software for monitor calibration, light measurement and basic printer profiling.
- Measuring ruler - update to measuring ruler for the i1 design.
- i1 scanner profiling
Using the Eye One with a scan target to get better results form your film or flatbed scanner.
- i1 Camera profiling with the SG colorchecker
- i1 printer profiling
More advanced printer profiling with the Eye One.
- i1 profile editing - The Eye One Match software from GretagMacbeth (now X-rite) now allows you to edit icc printer profiles. How easy is it to use, and what things should you consider before editing profiles.
- The Eye-One iO automated scanning table - review - An automated solution to improving the quality and accuracy of target measurement for printer profiles when using the i1 (ex Eye One) spectrophotometer.
- i1 iSis - advanced measuring device for printer profiling.
An automated whole chart reader for printer profiling test charts. A3 and A4 versions provide spectrophotometer readings for both UV and UV-Cut (filtered) measurements.
- X-Rite are shipping updated i1Pro 2 with i1Profiler 1.3
Reviews: i1Pro 2 Basic
- i1Pro 2 Photo
April 2010 X-Rite ship V1.0 of i1 Profiler - Full i1 Profiler reviews and information
May 2010 X-Rite annouce new profiling software for Q4 2010 - i1 Match and ProfileMaker Pro will be superseded by i1Profiler later in 2010. We have some notes and press info in the X-rite information section of the Northlight blog. For purchases after April 1st 2010 here will be free upgrades, along with other offers when the software is available.
Sept. 2008 X-Rite and the i1 range
From Sept. the range is simplified to two options. The functionality is the same as we have reviewed, but exactly what you get varies. As a result of this rationalisation, the i1Photo, i1Photo SG, i1Proof and i1XT have all been discontinued, and the i1 range now consists of:
- The i1Basic - i1Pro measuring device with monitor profiling software
- The new i1XTreme - professional monitor, RGB and CMYK printer, camera, scanner and projector profiling, plus profile editing
With the i1XTreme you can calibrate and profile:
- Monitors - LCD, CRT and laptops
- RGB output devices
- CMYK output devices
- Digital projectors
- Digital cameras*
*Requires Digital ColorChecker SG Chart - available separately.
Datacolor (aka ColorVision)
- Spyder4TV HD - Review of Datacolor's Spyder based TV and home cinema calibration kit.
- Spyder4Express - Review of basic monitor profiling and why you need it.
- Spyder4Pro - Review of monitor profiling and calibration package (multiple monitor support)
- Spyder4Elite - Full review of the (multiple) monitor and projector profiler from Datacolor.
- SpyderCheckr - Colour test target for creating camera adjustment profiles for better colour reproduction.
- Spyder3Elite V4.0 - Review of the improved and updated software for the Spyder 3 elite - Monitor and Projector calibration.
- Spyder3express - review of Datacolor's basic calibration equipment and software
- Spyder3Print SR - Full review of the latest printer profiling system from Datacolor. Updated spectrocolorimeter allows for strip and patch reading.
- Spyder3Print - printer profiling package for creating icc printer profiles. Allows considerable optimisation of profile qualities, including black and white.
- Spyder3Pro - monitor profiling with multiple monitor support and ambient light measurement.
- Spyder3elite - review of the comprehensive monitor and projector profiling system with multiple monitor support and ambient light measurement.
- Spyder2express - entry level monitor profiling system from ColorVision for Macs and PCs.
- A review of the Spyder 2 pro monitor calibration system.
- Projector profiling with the Spyder 2 Pro.
- Spyder2PRO Ambient light measurement
The Spyder2PRO now allows you to measure your ambient room lighting conditions before deciding on monitor calibration settings.
- PrintFIX PRO
A considerable upgrade to the PrintFIX. The new version uses a Spectrocolorimeter to let you create printer icc profiles (Not sold directly any more - you can ugrade the software for free to Spyder3 Print)
- Updated PrintFIX PRO - better colour printing and B/W too...
- PrintFIX PLUS The software only version of PrintFIX PRO that allows you to create icc profiles without your own patch reader.
- The original PrintFIX review. Printer profiling system (not sold directly any more)
- Pantone Eye One Display LT - monitor profiling. The mid range monitor profiling solution in the trio from Pantone. The measuring device is an Eye One Display LT from GretagMacbeth, and uses the Eye One Match software.
- Pantone Eye One Display 2 - monitor profiling. The measuring device is an Eye One Display 2 from GretagMacbeth, and uses the Eye One Match software. This review has additional information to that in our original GretagMacbeth Eye One Display 2 review, and compares features between the Display 2, Display LT and Huey.
- Pantone Huey Pro - review
Dual monitor support and and improved set of options compared to the basic huey.
- Pantone Huey - review
The Huey is a new and relatively inexpensive addition to the monitor profiling market. Keith looks at how it performs, including its novel capacity to modify your monitor setup in response to changing room lighting.