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case fitted for monitor profilingX-Rite ColorMunki Photo - Review

Colour management made easy? - The ColorMunki Photo

The X-Rite ColorMunki profiling solution [X-Rite] is now available and since we've been helping with some of the device testing we've got this review of some of its main features.

  • If you were looking for information on the new ColorMunki Display, we have a full review.

ColorMunki Profiling

The (approx. $500) ColorMunki device and software allows you to profile your monitor and printers (and data projectors too).

You can also make spot colour measurements.

The ColorMunki range (Mac and PC) is firmly aimed at the large majority of users who might find some of the kit I've reviewed elsewhere, a little daunting for their own requirements.

Available from Amazon USA | Amazon UK

... or try at Adorama

colormunki photo logoUpdates

More advanced articles on our site

Note -June 08 There are reported issues with profiling particular monitors on some PC systems - if you have problems with the profiling locking up, then check the X-Rite support site for a patch.

Colormunki photo packageColour management for everyone?

If you take pictures and get them printed (by yourself or by a lab) then the first thing you need to sort out is getting your monitor calibrated.

After that, if you do your own printing, then custom icc printer profiles will usually improve your print quality.

(If you move your mouse over the box image above, you'll see the contents...)

I sometimes see people on forums say it's not really needed. If you value the quality (and consistency) of your final results then this is just plain wrong.

What's not quite so obvious for me (who writes and teaches about the subject) is that a lot of people find colour management really tricky. [It's not! just some people try and make it sound a lot more complex than it needs to be]

colormunki - swiss engineeredX-Rite have looked at this large market, and in the first big new development since their take over of Gretagmacbeth, have produced a new 'all-in-one' device, the ColorMunki.

This is a multipurpose spectrophotometer, based on i1 technology (see the links at the end of this piece, for all our reviews of all the various i1 options.

  • Note for more technical readers ...It is a UV Cut version of the spectrophotometer, with the light source based on the iSis

It is aimed squarely at all those, who in the past, perhaps found the idea of colour management just a bit too much.

  • BTW, Just in case you are still wondering just what this 'Colour management' stuff is, I've a very short guide to colour management page that might be of help - it includes links to other articles on this site and elsewhere. There are also links to further information at the end of this article.

colormunki USB connectionI'm limiting this discussion/review to the basic functionality of the ColorMunki Photo, since I'm looking at software that has a few missing features.

Whilst I have some opinions (as you'd expect ;-) on the precise choices available, I'll leave them for a more detailed look at the device and its software.

There is more information available from X-Rite (warning - turn down the sound on your computer first! ;-)

What do you get

The ColorMunki is available in two versions.

One, the 'ColorMunki Photo', is what I'm looking at here, and is primarily aimed at photographers (particularly the social market and advanced amateurs).

That's the 'black' version.

The white ColorMunki Design is more for graphics designers. It's the same device, but in a white case.

The USB powered measuring device comes with a soft case and software.

There is also the ColorMunki Create package available, which is a monitor calibrator similar to the i1 Display LT, but with all new software (this is included in the features comparison chart in the summary at the end of this review) We hope to cover this further, when the device is available.

colourmunki photo package contents

Trotating sensorhe measurement part of the device is in the central rotating part.

The white bar is set to a particular position depending on what you want to do with the device.

The image to the right shows it set for measuring projectors. the sensor looks out through the clear plastic part of the case.

If you point it straight up, then you can see the small diffuser 'bump' used when measuring ambient light.

An important part of the measurement cycle with a device like this is calibration.

My own i1 spectrophotometer comes with its own white tile in a calibration base unit.

With the ColorMunki, the tile is built inside the unit and accessed by pointing the bar down 45 degrees.

Move your mouse pointer over the image to see what I mean.

The images below, show (left to right) the device set for calibration, ambient lighting and projector profiling.

colormunki sensor settings

case fittlingMonitor calibration

The device needs to go inside its soft case for this.

The long weighted strap (which seems to have some sand in it) is taken to its full length and used to counter balance the weight of the sensor.

The device is hung over your monitor so that the sensor (bar pointing towards the screen) can measure what colours your screen produces.

It's by knowing what colour the screen should be and comparing this with what is measured that is used to make a profile to give you better colour.

There is a small protective shutter in the soft case, which needs to be opened for taking any measurements.

case fitted for monitor profilingThe software allows for fairly limited choices of settings since it just isn't aimed at the likes of me who like to tinker with things ;-)

The default settings will calibrate your monitor to 6500K and a gamma of 2.2.

Advanced mode offers various settings in relation to whitepoint, gamma, ambient compensation and pre-calibration.

However, that's far more information than the target audience wants to know, so lets just say 'it will calibrate your monitor for you'...

Since calibrating your monitor is not a 'one off' process, there is a reminder you can set to tell you when to repeat the process.

I usually check my monitor every few weeks, but unless someone has changed any of your monitor settings, then once a month should be more than adequate for many users. Do remember though, that if you (or your kids for example) change -any- monitor settings then you should re-check.

  • A personal opinion... I sometimes get people ask me to quote for coming round to calibrate their monitor for them. This is a service I absolutely refuse to provide - do it yourself! In fact I generally consider any business that does charge money for coming round to do this, as unethical at best. There is also the fact to consider that many people providing such services are violating the licensing terms that the software/hardware is sold with. Since the ColorMunki is aimed at a mass market, expect some people to try and make a quick buck - tell them where to go ;-)

The view below shows the ColorMunki in place ready to check my screen.

ColorMunki on screen for profiling

Dual monitor support

Whilst on a Mac this 'just works', on PCs it's a little more complex.

For Win XP you can't to set an individual ICC monitor profile for each of your dual monitors. Only particular video card manufacturers were able to get around this issue.

If your card won't work, we've got some more tips on our Win XP dual monitor page.

  • Note - we don't have any PCs here at all, so I was unable to test this directly with the ColorMunki - some dual cards just don't work, even with the MS Color Applet (see the link above) I'm told the situation is better with Vista

Projector Profiling

By pointing the sensor through the clear plastic band, you can calibrate projectors with the software.

The sensor needs to be taken out of its bag for this and aimed to the centre of the screen. The measurement sensor can be rotated to point out of different parts of the clear window to make it easier to aim.

It's suggested that the ColorMunki should be placed at about the width of the screen away from the screen for optimum results.

Whilst I've only briefly tried this with the pre-release software, the process is not dissimilar to using the i1 Beamer attachment I recently reviewed.

Printer profiling

Color Management bookI 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

The principle of making a custom printer profile is pretty easy.

First you print out a test chart with lots of colours on it.

  • Note that it's important that the test target is printed with colour management turned off. There are some issues with Mac OSX 10.6, but there is a workaround published by X-rite.

Then you measure these colours and use the difference between measured colours and what was sent to the printer to produce a set of corrections.

These 'corrections' are essentially what goes into an icc printer profile.

When I make profiles for myself, I may use thousands of colour patches and some fancy (and expensive) hardware to make the measurements (see my i1 iSis review for more info).

The ColorMunki takes a far simpler approach.

Print out a sheet of 50 colours and measure them (after allowing the sheet to dry thoroughly) by sliding the device over the sheet.

Different types of paper take different times to dry to an acceptable degree, and there is even a timer in the software that counts down for you, for the more impatient user ;-)

scanning test chart with colormunki

The image above shows how you slide the ColorMunki along a sheet of paper to measure a strip.

The software prompts you during the measurement process and tells you if a strip is not correctly read in.

colormunki for spot measurementAfterwards the software thinks to itself for a minute or two and creates a second set of coloured patches to 'fill in' information for problem areas with your printer/paper/ink/settings.

You print out and read this second set of colours as before (using exactly the same printer settings).

Now the software goes away and creates an icc profile for you (it supports both RGB and CMYK printer).

The software also allows the option of setting various applications on your computer (Photoshop CS for example) to use this profile by default.

Refining profiles

A further refinement is that you can get the software to measure all the colours in an arbitrary image (skin tones for example) and create a further set of test patches for you to print and read.

After printing and reading these additional patches, the software creates an updated profile aimed at improving rendition of the colours in the image you used.

  • Note on how it all works
  • The first 50 patches are always the same set of device recipes (RGB or CMYK values).
  • With measurements from the first 50 patches, ColorMunki builds a profile and then run a known set of Lab values (containing neutrals, skin tones, etc.) through the profile to determine roughly the device values of those desired colours.
  • Next, print and measure the newly created second target and then build the final profile using both sets of device recipe and measurement data.
  • This refinement process helps identify exactly where these key colour areas reside in the printer gamut.
  • In previous methods, it wasn't known which combination of device recipes actually printed neutral tones so more combinations of colours were printed/measured to find out.
  • The new iterative discovery process helps find these neutrals much more easily with fewer colour patches.
  • The image based optimisation works the same way as the second set of 50 patches.
  • The CM software automatically extract colours from the image, converts them to Lab (using the source / image profile)
  • The new target is then printed and measured. This information is then added to the previous measurement data set, and used to build a new profile.
  • Using this method, more information is gained about the printer's behaviour in the colour regions that were extracted from the refinement image.
  • The idea is that, next time you print an image using the new profile, the results will be even more colour accurate.
  • Because the process uses colours extracted from the image in this process, you can improve any colour region you desire by simply using an image that contains those colours.
  • Since the process just adds additional pairs of device recipes and corresponding measured Lab values into the profile data set, it is a non-destructive process and can be repeated as many times as you desire without ever damaging the profile. Note that this is subject to accurate measurements.
  • Remember as with many things 'Garbage in - garbage out'

Of course you don't need to know how it all works... in fact, the ColorMunki is very much aimed at people who don't want to know what goes on under the hood ;-)

Note - We've got a more advanced article about black and white printing with the ColorMunki that uses the ColorMunki to make monochrome icc profiles to improve printer specific black and white printing modes (such as Epson ABW)

Spot colour measurement

The ColorMunki also has the ability to make 'spot' measurements of colours and allows you to make use of these measurements in building up palettes and colour schemes.

The picture to the right shows the underside of the device.

You can see the plastic strips that help the device slide over test sheets and the hole in the centre that leads to the actual sensor.

For spot measurements, a small guide flips out if you press the locking button.

If you move your mouse over the image, you can see what happens.

The central part of the device with the three bumps on it is the button you press for making measurements.

The picture below shows me making a spot measurement of the colour of the roof of my Lamborghini.

measuring spot colours

Note the way the guide helps get the correct place (mouse over the image to see more).

Software

The ColorMunki Photo software allows you to set up printers, monitors and projectors.

The Photo Color Picker application allows you to create custom palettes, make spot measurements and a whole host of other features. I've not looked at this software in any detail since it's far more aimed at graphics professionals (info below from X-rite).

One interesting feature is its ability to take an image and extract samples of all the key colours present. It also allows you to see which colours you have in a palette are 'print safe', i.e. which ones can't be printed by certain print setups.

There is also the Digital Pouch application which is designed to allow you to send images to a client/coworker in a digital 'wrapper' that will alert them if they look at the image on a non colour managed system, or one where the colour management is not set up correctly.

The application generates a self executing file which you can send.

colormunki and soft caseConclusions

Note - this is from using pre-release software

I've calibrated several monitors with the ColorMunki and the profiles looked fine.

The method of attachment for monitor calibration feels a bit odd with the weighted strap, but once again it worked fine.

The printer profiling produced very usable results on my standard 'awkward' test printer - an HP K80 with third party inks, 3rd party photo paper and using open source drivers on an Apple Mac.

Not exhibition quality stuff, but if it can get a reasonable profile from that lot then it shows promise.

X-Rite have told me that they are putting a lot of effort into providing training and user support for the ColorMunki.

There will be extensive training resources available, and I'll be looking at some of them for our more detailed reviews.

As a long time fan of colour management I can only welcome this effort to get it more widely adopted and accepted.

  • One (minor) personal concern that I do have, is that with the large market this product is aimed at, then an awful lot of clueless reviewers (both in print and on the web) are going to be writing about a subject they know next to nothing about. Look out over the coming months for reviews that just rearrange press releases rather than actually test what the device does ;-) :-)

Comments/questions - feel free to ask below

Available from Amazon USA | Amazon UK

Summary

Buying the ColorMunki

We make a specific point of not selling hardware, but if you found the review of help please consider buying the ColorMunki, or any other items at all, via our links with Amazon or B&H
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.


Amazon.de X-Rite ColorMunki
Amazon.fr ColorMunki Photo

Buy at the #1 Photo SuperStore
Buy new at B&H
X-Rite ColorMunki Photo Color Management Solution
Buy new at B&H
The Professional's Source | Since 1973

A colour management solution aimed at a much larger market than other X-Rite products.

X-Rite ColorMunki Photo - Minimum System Requirements

Macintosh

Windows

X-Rite ColorMunki Photo Package Contents

Updates (Dec 08)

  • Please note that I like to know who I'm talking to (just like in real life) so anonymous comments are much more likely to be ignored or sumarily deleted ;-)
Add your comments and questions
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License update (March 2009)

All existing ColorMunki customers and interested buyers now have available unlimited licensing of ColorMunki and can obtain the new end user license agreement for ColorMunki Photo at www.colormunki.com/photo. Simply click the 'support' tab and download the PDF for your records.

The chart below (from X-Rite) shows a comparison between the ColorMunki Create, Design and Photo packages.

. ColorMunki Create ColorMunki Design ColorMunki Photo
Hardware ColorMunki calibrator (white) ColorMunki Design (white) ColorMunki Photo (black)
Est. Price 129 Euros ($149) 429 Euros ($499) 429 Euros ($499)
Typical user Freelance designers
Small/mid size agencies
Creatives in Larger agencies
Corporate in house design
Freelance designers
Small/mid size agencies
Creatives in Larger agencies
Corporate in house design
Wedding, Social, Portrait and event photographers.

'Prosumer' photographers

Why would you be using it? Colour creation Colour creation Monitor to print match
Palettes software
Measurement directly into Palettes x
Display Profiling - Basic

DDC/CI support

Only 6500/2.2 available
Display Profiling - Basic

DDC/CI support

Whitepoint, Gamma, 'ambient compensation', pre-calibration
x
Projector profiling x
RGB &CMYK printer profiles

Iterative profiling (2 sheets of 50 patches)

Has ability to further refine profiles for spot colour optimisation.
x
Application setter s/w
'AppSetter'
Auto configures applications to use correct printer profiles. (CS3, Quark)
x
ColorMunki Tray utility Quick access to software
Profile reminder
Access to application setter.
Digital Pouch x x

Note that ColorMunki solutions are not designed to be upgraded. They are available only in single site or limited multiple seat licenses – i.e., those with a maximum of three computers.

The X-Rite range of products (see below for our reviews of just about all of them...)

Disclosure of Interest

Northlight Images has been involved in testing the ColorMunki, but has no commercial connection with X-Rite. Note that we do not sell hardware or software at all, and do not offer a custom profiling service.

Before calibrating your monitor on Windows PC systems, you should check to see that Adobe gamma is turned off if it was installed. We've got a short guide to removing Adobe Gamma that might be of help.

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