One of the major areas of inconsistency when it comes to most people checking their prints, is the light they use.
Whilst you can get proper viewing cabinets and print stands, they tend not to be cheap [we have a review of the one we use]
The GrafiLite from Colour Confidence is a version of the Ott-Lite 'task lamp' that uses a special 13W 'True Color' fluorescent tube to give a very good colour rendition.
What do you get?
The GrafiLite uses a 13W fluorescent tube that has been designed to produce a high quality light.
The 'TrueColor' 13W bulb has the equivalent light output of a 60W tungsten light bulb (move your mouse over the box to see what's inside)
The tubes have an estimated 10,000 hour life and replacements are available for around £15
It's based on the Ott-Lite fluorescent tube that has been widely used in craft work for some time, where this particular lighting unit is known as a 'Task Lamp'.
The box the the right also shows the neutral grey plastic mat that you get with the GrafiLite unit. (note you don't get the colour swatches or prints shown on the box)
My own preference is to view most prints I want to check under daylight viewing condition (I have several places in the house which offer relatively even daylight)
However I sometimes want to see what they will look like under tungsten lighting (particularly if they are going somewhere with just tungsten lighting) - that's no problem, I have some nice even lighting set up in some areas.
What though if it's winter or at night, and I want to do a check - well I could use a proper print viewing cabinet, with adjustable lighting types and brightnesses. Problem is that they are expensive and bulky.
The GrafiLite allows me to quickly set up a consistent light source for evaluation of prints.
The grey plastic mat also provides a neutral background that helps prevent adjacent colours (like a wooden desk) influencing what you see.
I've written an article covering many of the issues that you have to consider when asking 'why don't my prints match my screen' also one on Room Lighting for Image editing
Using the GrafiLite
The device requires very little setting up, you open up the lamp holder, insert the tube (a push fit) and plug in the unit.
Just like a fridge - the lamp switches on when you open it up :-)
Move you mouse over the image to the right to see how it opens.
The base unit is heavy enough that there is no danger of it tipping over.
I found the grey sheet a little small and made a larger one from some grey card.
If you do this, then do check that the card is properly grey, since any colour caste will affect your perception of colours. I had some grey backdrop paper that I was able to use.
The simple guide to print evaluation is to make sure that your monitor is brighter than your (fairly dim) working environment and that your print brightness is slightly brighter than your monitor.
If you don't try and look at both screen and print at the same time then your vision will adapt to brightness and whitepoint variations quite well. I have my print viewing area some way from my monitors.
Remember this is not intended as instructions for detailed proof checking - that's a whole lot more complex (and expensive ;-)
How good quality is the light? Well, using the Eye-One Share software with my i1 spectrophotometer I was able (eventually) get a reading that gave a colour temperature of about 5600K and a Colour Rendition Index of 82.
- If you have a GrafiLite then compare how some coloured objects look under the GrafiLite as opposed to normal 'Energy Saving' light bulbs ... You'll quickly realise why I don't care one jot about the energy saving bit when it's a room I'm working/living in - colours look wrong. They are fine for the hallway and bathroom, but until they get a lot better in light quality I'll keep my tungsten lighting round the house (and yes, if they stop selling tungsten bulbs, I -will- stock up on spares! ;-)
I've seen the lamp advertised as having a CRI of 95 (also 90-93), so it could well be better than my Eye One suggests.
The Share software has one of the worst interfaces I've come across in a long while but it does include a spectrum of the light source. [Share software reviewed with the i1 Design]
It's the wavy line in the right hand circular window...
You'll notice that it's not exactly smooth, but for a fluorescent light it's pretty good.
The GrafiLite is not meant for accurate proof evaluation.
One thing you will have to be careful with is reflections from the surface of any prints.
It's quite easy to hold prints such that there is no obvious reflection, and by getting a slight curve, you can provide an even illumination over a larger area
You can see this in how I'm holding the Pantone book to the right)
Where I find it really helps is comparing prints of my B/W test print.
I've got quite a variety of printers here and for black and white I like to compare different papers with their different colours and depths of blacks.
The paper/ink choice makes a big difference to how a print looks and some images work better with different papers.
I find that soft proofing doesn't help me too much here - there's no substitute (IMHO) for having a 'feel' for how paper/ink combinations look.
Having a constant viewing environment helps make that 'feel' more consistent...
Buying an Ott Lite
We make a specific point of not selling hardware, but if you found the review of help please consider buying an Ott Lite, or any other items at all, via our link with Amazon.
Amazon UK link / Amazon Fr / Amazon De
Amazon USA link / Amazon Canada link
It won't cost any more (nor less we're afraid) but will contribute towards the running costs of our site.
An economic solution to improving the consistency and quality of your printed work.
Ideal for those who can't to go to the expense of buying a full viewing cabinet or stand.
I've heard people say that such lamps are a waste of time - but I'm of the opinion that taking care in standardising some elements of your print workflow is an important first step in improving it.
Many of the comments you may see are based on 'received wisdom' rather than actual use. We may use a Viewing Cabinet that costs over ten times what this lamp costs, but we still have a Grafilite in the office for quick checks.
The design of the lamp means you do need to take care over reflections and evenness of illumination.
You also need to pay attention to general room lighting and how you've set up your monitor to really get the most from using the GrafiLite.
The GrafiLite is available from a number of retailers (GrafiLite site) in the UK and Europe for around £50.
- Note - If you find similar devices advertised, do check that they have genuine TrueColor tubes from Ott Lite in them - it's the mixture of phosphors in the tube that gives the quality of the light.
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)
- 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.