9 Steps to Accurate Printer Color
by Dave Mobbs – August 19th, 2015
In order to produce the most accurate and high quality prints, you need to create individual printer profiles for each printer, ink and paper combination. Printer profiling is the process of optimizing your specific combination of ink, paper and printer settings.
In short, there are three steps to creating a printer profile:
1. Print a set of target colors
2. Measure those colors using a calibration device
3. The software calculates and creates a custom ICC profile for that specific combination
1. Printing your target chart
Your printer profiling software will generate a target chart for you to print. Depending on the software, you may be able to choose different sizes of charts. The number of color patches will depend on the printer and paper type to be used. Also, different profiling software programs will allow different patch numbers to be printed.
TIP: It might seem obvious – but you should print on the paper you want to create a profile for!
2. Get the settings right
When choosing to print, you need to ensure that your printer driver settings are the right ones, and that you continue to use these settings when you print onto this paper in the future. Some key things to consider are:
- Do a nozzle check before printing any color targets. This can be done on any paper type, even inexpensive copier paper.
- Make sure your printer is taking control of ‘color matching’. DO NOT select Colorsync and switch off printer driver color management
- Select the correct paper type. If you are not using a branded paper corresponding to the manufacturer of the printer, the paper brand will include a recommendation of the most suitable paper type to select.
- Select the quality and speed modes you will use when printing to this paper
3. Let it dry
You will judge a print when it has dried so you need to ensure the ink has dried before measuring the colors into the software. We recommend at least 10 minutes drying time for the paper, but an hour would be even better. If the paper is not from the printer manufacturer, more drying time is usually beneficial.
4. Calibrate your reading device
Some measurement devices will have an internal calibration tile, such as ColorMunki Photo. The i1Pro and i1PRO2 will have separate calibration tiles that are mated to the measurement device. This enables you to calibrate ‘white’ on the device before starting the measurement process, ensuring the accuracy of your measurements.
5. Measure the target sheet
Measure each row of colors. The included color management software that comes with your measurement device (spectrophotometer) will show you the progress along the way. You’ll need to measure each row of your test target before being able to calculate your custom profile. The image below shows the ColorMunki Photo measuring a printer test target. This device is also capable of calibrating your monitor or projector.
6. Select a lighting condition
Certain color management solutions allow you to choose a lighting condition for your printer profile. This should be matched to the lighting condition under which the prints you will be creating will be viewed. In most instances the standard D50 (Daylight) is fine. If you have in i1Pro or i1Pro 2 device and are using i1Profiler software, you can even measure the ambient light where your print will be displayed – providing an even higher level of color accuracy under this viewing condition. If your solution doesn’t have a lighting option in the profiling software, then Point 9 is important.
7. Give your profile a meaningful name!
Set a name for your profile that is easily understandable and recognizable. When you go to print from your chosen application, it should be easy to locate so you don’t apply the wrong profile to the wrong paper.
8. Select profile from within application
It’s important to always set the profile from within your chosen imaging application and don’t let your printer take over the color management. This profile selection will be part of the print dialogue in Adobe Photoshop or similar applications.
9. Viewing the printComparable to monitor calibration, determining the illumination of how a digital image is displayed, the visual appearance of a correctly profiled print is very much determined by the illumination conditions in which it is viewed. It is accepted that images look best when viewed under daylight conditions and illuminated to an optimum brightness level. In addition to professional viewing booths, there are table-top lamps that can offer some degree of lighting control.