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Eye One Printer profiling

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Eye One Printer profiling

Using the Eye One Spectrophotometer to profile your printer



The Eye One spectrophotometer from GretagMacbeth (now X-Rite) is a sophisticated measuring device that can measure detailed spectral information from emissive sources (ambient light or a CRT/LCD display) or reflective sources (print samples or just about any coloured object).

i1 printer profiling

It is available with a number of different software options which enable different functionalities in the supplied software.  Whilst this is one of our older (2005) reviews it’s retained for information – it includes numerous updates and newer packages.

The ‘Eye One Design’ (review) provides basic profiling with small targets (patches of colours) but the profiling reviewed here is part of the ‘Eye One Photo‘ package.

April 2011 – The basic i1 package now comes with i1 Profiler software, which offers printer profiling

2012 – Review of the new i1Pro 2 Photo and i1Pro 2 Basic

Printer profiling

GretagMacbeth (now X-rite) provide a range of colour management hardware and software aimed at professional users.

The product that Keith specifically looks at here is part of the ‘Eye One Photo’ package, which offers monitor calibration, emissive and reflective source measurement and RGB/CMYK printer profiling.

Eye One Spectrophotometer and patch target

What do you get?

I’ve looked at several basic methods of printer profiling, including Photoshop curves to correct for printer ‘errors’ and the PrintFIX system from ColorVision.

The Eye One spectrophotometer is a very sophisticated instrument with which you can build very high quality printer profiles — if you have the appropriate software.

The profiling I’m going to cover here can be found as part of the Eye One Photo package. For details of what you get in each package, there is more info on the GretagMacbeth web site.

Feb 06 — The ruler design has been updated and the equipment now comes in a new carrying bag – we’ve got a short review covering the changes.

Color Management book

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 

RWCM  1st Edition RWCM  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

If you are completely new to colour management I’d suggest you might like to have a look over my Introduction to colour management article and Spyder 2 Pro review on this site before going too much further into this review. However, I have added links to articles and information on this site and others explaining some of the concepts mentioned here.

The basic principle of making a printer profile is to print out a series of known colours and then measure what is printed. This allows you to create a profile, which in effect acts as a ‘translation’ document between the colours in your image and those that the printer can produce.

The more colours that you print and measure, the more accurate your results are likely to be. There is far more to it than that (as you’d expect) and with a suitable choice of colours, suitable software can produce profiles from fairly limited sets of colours (or patches as they are known)

I’ve covered generating profiles with the small patch set in the Eye One Design review, where I profiled my HP K80 all-in-one printer/fax/copier/scanner/tea maker. The printer is not supported on Macs and the profiles produced very reasonable prints (a bit dark, but much better than without a profile). I’ll not go into quite so much detail on the profiling process here, so you might wish to give that review a look as well as this one.

Using the Eye One Match software, you select Printer profiling and then select the target you want to print.

288 patch profiling target

This is the RGB 1.5 target with 288 coloured patches.

45 patch Easy RGB target

The 45 patch ‘Easy RGB’ target.This is what you get to use with the Eye One Design package

2 page rgb target
The 918 patch TC9.18 target.This prints on two pages.

4 page cmyk target

The huge CMYK target (1485).This is not available in the Eye One Photo package (it just includes the ‘Easy’ version).

This prints on four pages.

The examples below are using the 288 patch target. Since all my printer drivers are RGB ones (even if the inks are CMYK) I’ll just cover RGB profiling here (there is some info on CMYK in the summary)

patch_readingYou can print the target from within the application or from another package (such as Photoshop). If you use another package, be sure to print without applying any colour management or printer profiles. Make a note of all the settings you use for later — you will forget some if you don’t!

After letting the print dry (this is important).

I placed the guide template over the print and followed the instructions on the screen.

The software prompts you to make measurements, and will complain if a strip is not scanned correctly, so you can do it again.

The plastic guide ensures that you scan a single row of the target at a time.

Each row should be scanned in 4-5 seconds. It is important that you start and end each scan on plain paper.

This example shows the 45 patch block.

This is all printed on a single page.

Reading the coloured patches.

measuring the printed patches

There are clear instructions on how to do the measurements.

There are even video clips that make it even easier…

1- video clip of eye one patch reading

2- video clip of eye one patch reading

3- video clip of eye one patch reading

Before long, I had a file containing the patch data, which I saved with a suitable meaningful name (do remember this, and also to write down paper, ink and printer details). The patch data file is a simple text file.

It really is easy, and only takes a few minutes to read a page. In case you were wondering, the colours are arranged the way they are so that the sensor can more accurately distinguish one patch from the next.

Next I loaded the data from this file into the application to create a profile. By having the measurements in files you can create the profiles at any time.

loading data to create a profile

The profile is then constructed.Despite the food and drink and newspaper, it does not take long for a profile to be generated.

If the data is not of good enough quality you will be alerted to the fact … although this has never actually happened when I’ve been making profiles.

You now have a profile for your printer/paper/ink combination. As ever, save it with a meaningful name.

Results

It was quite tricky to show the results of profiling in the Eye One Design review, with photographs of prints, converted to sRGB and compressed for web use. I tried to take some photos for this review, but by the time they were processed, any differences would only just show up on my own (calibrated) monitor and how they would look on your monitor is anybody’s guess… So, I’ll give some subjective comments on what papers I tried, and what I thought of the results. As ever please feel free to drop me a line if you want some more details.

Glossy photo paper(unbranded) – HP K80

This is the same paper I tried in the Eye One Design review. The test prints showed better shadow and highlight details. The best match was obtained with a slight gamma adjustment using a Photoshop ‘levels’ adjustment to lighten the midpoint slightly. The greys were neutral and free of colour banding, much better than the cold greys of the unprofiled printer.

Plain copier paper – Epson 9600 ImagePrint RIP

OK, A4 sheets of copier paper are not what I usually feed through my 9600. I tried this just to see what would happen. The results were quite surprising in that I never thought you could get such intense colours on plain paper. Not terribly good from a photo printing perspective (colours rather dull) but showing just how much difference a profile makes. I also tried this with the 45 patch target, where the profile produced a much more ‘sludge like’ effect. There was a much more noticeable difference between the two packages with this setup.

Permajet Textured Art Silk – Epson 9600 ImagePrint RIP

I’ve been looking at this paper as a potential semi-gloss paper for colour printing when I’ve got matt black ink in my 9600. It’s an interesting paper which I’ve looked at in another review. The UltraChrome pigment inks in the 9600 are well known for their ‘Gloss differential’ on glossy paper which means I can get much better (if shorter lived) prints using Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper in my dye based 1290 than the 9600 (even with photo black ink).

One of the problems in taking an unknown paper and printing the test patches, is what paper settings to use in your printer driver or RIP. I tried a number of different settings (Keith’s table of ImagePrint media settings for different paper thicknesses), created profiles and then did some test prints. All the test prints looked good, but on comparison you could see slight differences in shadow detail and gamut range. Now it happens that I’m currently doing a review of several Permajet products and the nice people at ColorByte Software (makers of the ImagePrint RIP that I use) have produced profiles using considerably more expensive (and complex) profiling kit than I have. So how did my Eye One Photo profiles stack up?

Note [2008] – some time after this original article I wrote an article specifically about the importance of media settings. If you take care with this, it can significantly improve your results.

I decided to print some pictures from some recent commercial work. I used some photos from a recent interior shoot, including this one of a new ‘show flat’.

room interior - dark red sofa

As I suspected, the deep reds and browns looked better when printed using the ColorByte profile. There was nothing much wrong with my own profile — until you put the two prints next to each other, when my version just lacked as much impact. Blacks were less rich and there was very slight posterisation visible in the sofa cushions. I’m not sure whether a slight tweak of the Eye One profile would not have corrected this, but the profile editing capabilities of the software from GMB was not available at the time of writing this review ( added Dec 05 – profile editing review)

That all seemed fairly clear until I printed an image of a dark coloured racing car, taken at twilight with flash. Lots of dark blues and deep shadows. Suddenly the Eye One profile print looked slightly better — I checked the original file. The ColorByte profile had produced a print that looked just like the image on my monitor, the profile I’d made was opening up the shadows a bit more. This was one of those times where a ‘worse’ print looked better :-) Now it happens that this is one of the reasons for getting soft proofing set up and working well, but I’m not going into that here…

McLaren F1 car - winner of 2004 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa

There is also the matter of which targets you print out to make your profile. I initially used the 1 page 288 patch target which is good for printers that give good neutral greys ‘out of the box’. The 918 patch targets gave profiles that ranged from pretty much the same to noticeably better — you will just have to try it and see what works best — but the 2 page targets only take a few more minutes to print and measure.

  • So, how good are the profiles I made? – good.
  • Are they good enough for my own fine art prints? – not really
  • Are they good enough for small (A4/A3) prints and proofs for commercial clients, where I don’t have a ColorByte profile for my 9600? – probably ;-)
  • Are they good enough for your printer? – depends on how good your current set up is :-)

I should add that printing via the ImagePrint RIP does limit the profiling somewhat and that in a subsequent test using the Epson driver and the 9600, the quality of the results were slightly better for this paper. I mainly use the RIP for its black and white performance, and page layout capabilities.

Note [2008] I’ve printed many more images on many different printers since writing this, and have produced some excellent profiles from the 918 patch target. It’s actually what a lot of remote profiling services use. I also didn’t cover the choice of optimal media settings at the time – this makes a big difference. I’ve also learned a -lot- more about printing and colour management in the last 3 years!

June 2012 – 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.  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
  • Scanners
  • Digital projectors
  • Digital cameras*

*Requires Digital ColorChecker SG Chart – available separately.

CMYK

Buying the i1

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It won’t cost any more (nor less we’re afraid) but will contribute towards the running costs of our site.

 Purchase From B&H (also helps us)

There are a range of target patch sets available for profiling CMYK printer (most inkjets are RGB devices, even if they do have CMYK inks)

Only the ‘Easy’ version is available in Eye One Photo package. See the options at GretagMacbeth for details.

You are more likely to use this option if you are making full CMYK profiles for RIPs. or profiling true CMYK devices like some solid ink printers.

If you actually need CMYK profiles then you will be aware of it :-)

Summary

The profiles generated by this package will probably give better results than many profiles that are supplied by manufacturers with printers for their own papers.

They will almost certainly give better results if you are using third party inks and or papers.

The profiles you generate are slightly limited in that you cannot specify details concerning rendering intents or adjust them for different illumination of the prints (ColorByte supplied 5 versions of the profile for a particular Permajet paper for different lighting conditions, with their ImagePrint RIP)

This may or may not be a problem for you…

For most inkjet printers the larger 918 patch target will give better results.

It’s good for quickly testing different papers, inks and printers and getting a good idea of what they can do.

An excellent device for a camera club to get together and buy as a club resource — no more excuses for really bad colour prints.

March 2006 — GMB have updated the Eye-One Match software with some extra functionality – more details

Overall

It’s very easy to use and gives good profiles.

Note – I’ve seen companies advertising on the web, offering profiles made using the Eye One Photo. My own opinion is that if you want someone to make you a profile, you would do far better to spend your money with a company that uses professional grade profile making software and knows how to use it.

The Eye One spectrophotometer is a top quality bit of equipment, but to consistently make -really- good profiles you need both the advanced software and the skills/understanding to use it. If you see someone selling targets made with the 45 patch ‘easyRGB’ target, then the alarm bells should ring. The 45 patch target is quite good for what it does, but I just wouldn’t have the nerve to try and sell such profiles – others are not so scrupulous …

A personal view…There are objective means of evaluating profile accuracies and colour gamuts, however I’ve looked at this product primarily as a photographer, not a colour management guru :-) If the precise numbers are meaningful to you then I would suggest that you already know far more about the subject and are unlikely to be using a profile generating setup this ‘simple’. There comes a point for myself where I think, what does it actually look like … is it a good print? Am I happy with it? Does it convey the feeling I want? This depends on the subject, the client’s requirements and the purpose of the picture, maybe even how many cups of tea I’ve had… :-) It can be very difficult to compare a good profile with a very good profile – the differences may only appear in a few particular images. You could end up doing a lot of prints to get it ‘right’.

I’d also suggest that if you are a perfectionist by nature (I’m not :-), then building profiles could easily become a lengthy (and expensive) process. Do realise the limits of the equipment and software you are using, and always consider getting professional profiles made. Remember, it’s the final image that counts… 

Sometimes you just have to stop and say “This will do, it’s good enough for what I want”. Maybe you don’t share that viewpoint but when it comes down to it, I know that a person who pores over one of my prints with a magnifying glass is probably not going to buy one ;-)

Keith

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More colour management and printing related information

For information about printers, paper reviews and profiling (colour management) see the Printing section of the main printers and printing page, or use the search box at the top of any page.
All colour management articles and reviews are indexed on the main Colour Management page - please do let Keith know if you've any questions, either via the comments or just email us?

Some specific articles that may be of interest:  

  • 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 - some basic suggestions to this common problem.

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