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PrintFIX PRO spectrocolorimeter with test printsThe PrintFIX PRO
Version 2 Software

An update to our review of the PrintFIX PRO printer profiling system

The PrintFIX PRO was reviewed a while ago (original PF PRO review), and produced good quality icc printer profiles.

ColorVision (Now Datacolor) have now brought out Version 2 of the software package. It's a free upgrade which includes a substantial number of improvements and a range of new features that will be of definite help to those wanting to make their own printer profiles.

Of particular interest to us is the much improved support for black and white printing.

This review looks at the Apple Mac version of the software, however the Windows version is essentially the same.

The SpyderPrint is the current version of the PrintFIX PRO as of January 2012

If you have a PrintFIX PRO then you can download the updated software (for free) from datacolor

We have updated reviews of all of Datacolor's current products, such as the Spyder4Elite

The PrintFIX PRO Spectrocolorimeter

Keith has been trying out the PrintFIX PRO with a new printer we were recently testing.

What's new?

The PrintFIX PRO software version 2 follows much of the working procedures of the original software, so I'll not go over details of operation, rather show some of the additional features, and how some existing functionality has been improved.

If you are new to the device, you might want to look at our original review first

At the most basic level, the profile generation algorithms have been tweaked and improved so as to get better and more consistent profiles.

You can use your existing measurement sets and make use of the more advanced options.

You can of course just go ahead and produce a profile without touching these settings.

basic profile generation settings

Basic Adjustments

advanced profile generation settings

Advanced Adjustments

You can reference the greys printed via your profile to the paper white, or go for 'absolute greys' which are strictly neutral.

I tried the non absolute version on a warm paper and although the effect looked OK it wasn't to my taste -- but then again I don't greatly like sepia or some of the other toning effects that you can easily get when building special purpose profiles. If you do like these effects then there is plenty to play with...

Note the panel to the right of the adjustment sliders.

This is where you can choose some preset adjustment sets - particularly useful for black and white printing (of which more shortly)

You can also import Photoshop curve files to further alter profile generation.

From the help files:
Start by opening your sample image in Photoshop, and softproofing it through your printer profile, using the Custom Proof Setup command. Now edit this image using a Photoshop .acv curve, at Image > Adjust > Curves. Global curves adjustments will effect brightness in the selected tones. Red, Green, or Blue curve adjustments will change color balance in the selected tones. Now name your curve set and save the .acv file to PrintFIX PRO’s Data > Presets folder. Select this curve set in PrintFIX PRO’s Build Profile Setup window to apply it to your profile.

preset adjustment sets

Do remember that editing profiles and general tweaking can only fix so much. It is still vitally important to go through the media settings setup and get things right at the start of the process - skimp on this stage and you will waste a lot of ink, paper and time.

I've written a short article about just how important media setting are - it's based on some of my tests made for the writing of this article

One excellent feature of the old software was the extensive help system - you could learn an awful lot about colour management and profiling by studying it. I'm glad to say that it has been extended and even includes a whole section on the mysteries of soft proofing.

You can use the 'Soft Proof' option to check various aspects of your profile performance after building one. But do take time to read up on exactly what is going on and the limitations of using it - it really helps, but don't just assume it will 'fix' any problems you might have.

  • As before, you have to accept that some paper/ink/printer combinations are just not much good, and no amount of profiling will help

soft proofing for testing profiles

Checking a profile using 'Soft Proofing' - there is also a useful guide in the help files explaining how to choose which rendering intent to use.

  • Don't forget that what you see on screen can -never- fully match what you print on paper...
    If this is news to you, then do have a look at my article "Why don't my prints match my screen"

New Grey Target

One area that I was particularly interested, in was the option to print a new set of patches specifically for improving greyscale performance.

In addition to the existing targets (such as below), there is the option to print out an extended range of greys

selecting print targets

Colour profiling target

extended grey patches

Extended greys

Note that the patches are mostly just off neutral grey. Hopefully the combination that produces a 'true' grey is in there somewhere and can be used to give a neutral greyscale with your printer.

Using the greyscale patch sheet is optional and it is always possible that you might get a slightly better colour profile by not using it - however I didn't find this to be the case with the profiles I built (in -general- more patches give better profiles)

If you are really keen on making lots of measurements, here's the full set that I tried when making a profile for PermaJet Fibre Base Gloss paper for an Epson R2400 with a PermaJet Eco-Flo ink system.

full set of targets

Printed patch targets

Additional tools

ColorVision have listened to what people wanted to do with the PrintFIX and have said they intend to introduce more features and options over time.

The current software (V2) has a range of tools available of interest to people wanting to get a bit more into colour management.

additional tools

Additional tools

If you are really keen on sitting down and taking thousands of measurements, you can now average measurement files to get that extra bit of accuracy. Just remember that eventually you really will start getting no real benefit from all those extra measurements - put the stuff away and get out more, and take more photos! :-)

All the details are in the help files (do read them!), but one feature I found most interesting was the support for QTR

While you could always make spot (Lab) measurements with the spectrocolorimeter, you can now export files of Lab values and Density measurements.

You can set a file to export the readings to, make readings with the spectrocolorimeter, and when finished click on 'Done' to export the data in a number of formats. You can even export your normal patch measurement files in text format.

measurement dialog

Measurement options

Note the mention of QTR on the panel - QuadToneRIP. QTR is aimed at specialist black and white printing, but you can also use it to generate luminance only icc profiles to linearise black and white printing.

Note I've written an article about B/W profiling doing this, using the old version of PFP - it just got even easier to do :-)

There is a section in the help files that describes different options for black and white printing and profiling.

Conclusions

I tried out the new PFP when I was lent an Epson R2400 by PermaJet, to have a look at their Eco-Flo ink system and some papers.

The colour profiles generated for Fibre Base Gloss (FBG) paper were excellent - better even that the default one that was provided by PermaJet (they have told me they are updating their profiles ;-).

For black and white results, just look at the picture below.

The somewhat magenta print next to the spectrocolorimeter was produced using the default colour profile. The one below it was using a PFP2 profile (built with extra greys).

I tried using the Epson Advanced B/W mode printing and it was almost as neutral (in tungsten halogen lighting) as the PFP profile.

When I created a QTR luminance only profile to use with the ABW mode, it was slightly more linear than the PFP profile, but still not as neutral.

I used my own B/W test image to try out the black and white capabilities. It's a very harsh test, and I suspect that with a bit more care in creating the profile I could produce B/W prints that meet my fairly exacting standards (no mean feat!)

test prints for checking profiles

Lots of prints...

  • In fact if you look carefully at the photo at the start of the article, you can see the non-linearity and magenta tinge of the default (PermaJet) profile.
  • I showed a black and white print to someone, made using this profile, and they said it looked great -- then I showed them one using the PFP colour profile...
  • The difference was obvious and now the one that had previously looked 'great' was all a 'funny colour'.
  • Just goes to show that lots of people couldn't spot a duff print if you hit them with it... Sad but true :-)

Summary

If you already have the PFP then the upgrade is a no-brainer (it's free!).

Buying the SpyderPrint (current version)

We make a specific point of not selling hardware, but if you found the review of help please consider buying the Spyder Print, 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.


Purchase From B&H (also helps us)

If you want a good tool to make yourself high quality colour profiles, the PrintFIX PRO should meet many of your needs. If you are into black and white, then it's an excellent tool that could dramatically improve the quality of your prints.

Support for 'non-standard' ink sets and printing via other than the normal printer drivers has been improved.

Just remember that to get the very best results, you -will- need to make the effort to really understand what you are doing ... and -why- you are doing various things.

More Info

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
Northlight Images prides itself on its independence when giving advice. We do not sell hardware or software and have no direct commercial links with any of the software or hardware vendors that may be mentioned here. See our Review Policy for more information.

Declaration of interest - Keith was asked to look at beta versions of the software and hardware before its final release, but Northlight Images has no commercial relationship with ColorVision.

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