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GrafiLite - print viewing lighting review

Improving your print matching with proper lighting

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

Buy an Ott-lite from Amazon.com

GrafiliteIt'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.

ott lite 13 watt fluorescent tube

Just like a fridge - the lamp switches on when you open it up :-)

grafilite light activation

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 ;-)

Conclusions

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...

spectrum and CRI of the Grafilite ott lite

You'll notice that it's not exactly smooth, but for a fluorescent light it's pretty good.

grafilite being used for vieing colour swatchesThe 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.

Summary

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.

More Info

Colour management information on this site

General Colour Management

Equipment and software reviews

X-Rite (ex GretagMacbeth)

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. 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:

With the i1XTreme you can calibrate and profile:

*Requires Digital ColorChecker SG Chart - available separately.

Datacolor (aka ColorVision)

Pantone

Others

The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
Keith is always happy to discuss matters raised in his articles. You can Email Us Email Us
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