Contents > How to calibrate your printer ? 2 / 3
 

Calibrage d'un écran avec un colorimètre

 

Self-calibrate your photo printer
Published on April 15, 2015 / Updated on October 26, 2018

 

To calibrate your printer yourself, you will need a special device, different (with some exceptions) from your screen colorimeter : a spectrophotometer or spectrocolorimeter! But it doesn't matter what the name is. This device costs more (from 250 pounds) or even much more than a screen colorimeter but you will have the pleasure of creating your own ICC printer profiles...

 

Now that we have seen the previous page why calibrate your printer, we will see how to do it on this page.

The creation of an ICC printer profile is done, as you now know, thanks to ICC profile creation software such as X-Rite's i1 Profiler, X-Rite's i1Studio, or Datacolor's SpyderPrint 5 and a test chart whose reference file is known (i.e. the L*a*b* colors of each patch that the printer should ideally print). This test chart is provided with the software and is therefore specific to each calibration kit.

 

Kit i1Photo Pro 2

 

First of all, we will see what the steps are in calibrating a printer since, whatever kit you buy, this procedure will be the same : calibration and characterization.

Then, I will introduce you to the different kits on the market. I am currently carrying out the test of the most well-known and recognized on the market.

1 - Why calibrate your printer ?

2 - How to calibrate your printer ?

 

 

 

Printer calibration : all steps

Basically, whether you have your profiles done or you do them yourself, the procedure is almost the same. As always when it comes to calibration, you must first calibrate your printer (calibration) and then record its characteristics (characterization).

Calibrating the printer

It will be a long time ago when you were satisfied with just one paper because you had succeeded with the generic profile in obtaining something correct. Whether it's for online calibration or with a basic printer calibration kit like the i1Studio (which works really well, as I've been able to check several times), you can go looking for the right paper/ink pair for you... Like no more and no less than at the "time" of the silver print in the darkroom!

Calibrating a printer therefore consists in printing a test chart after having chosen :

  • The printer;
  • the set of ink cartridges - when you have a choice -,
  • the paper,
  • the printing resolution,
  • and the right set of printing parameters.


To use THIS ICC profile, it will always be necessary to use THIS combination. All speed, sharpness and other options, if used, should be carefully noted in the settings to be chosen to reuse THIS ICC profile.

Choice of the number of patches and paper

Little to say except that the i1Studio, which does not have the reputation of being a "first price" kit, will only ask you to print 50 patches so be careful not to fall into the excess number of patches. In theory this improves the accuracy of the profile but in reality, with the latest i1 Photo Pro 2, 2000 patches are quite sufficient (and are already huge!).

   
  Original file on the left - A print with ICC profile would have given a print very close to the original (neutral print as on the original) and with a dominant without profile on the right.
 
 

Number of patches : my advice ! 

Today it is the same with the number of color patches to print to calibrate your printer as with the number of colors your TV is able to display : the overbid!

If you have the choice, printing 3/4 A4 sheets will already be enough : this usually represents 2000 coloured areas. That's exactly what you need to cover your printer's gamut! Even with a single sheet of 225 patches, I got amazing results with the SpyderPRINT 5.

 
     
   
 

The printing of the test chart

The printing of the test chart is not done in any way. The reason is very simple : you must make sure that the calibration of your printer driver will not overlap with the one you performed yourself.

You must therefore disable all color management and be careful when choosing the options for your printer's printer driver. So two possible cases :

  • You print the test charts from the Colormunki software and the printer's color management will be automatically bypassed,
  • You have the charts as TIFF files, so the printing of the charts must be done from the Adobe Color Printing Utility software.

Depending on the software you are going to use, this procedure may be different, but here is the most classic one, the one with Photoshop with a size remark : since Photoshop CS5, you MUST use a small Adobe Color Printing Utility software to print the chart WITHOUT calibration (so I repeat it only if you have these TIFF files). Indeed, to work, the calibration of the printer needs to know how your printer behaves when faced with colors without ICC profile and therefore without color management. It is therefore necessary to print the calibration chart without any profile, which is now impossible with Photoshop since the CS5 version. Here's how to do it below....

   
 
 

Attention ! Printing the test chart with Photoshop

Since Photoshop CS5 ! Since Photoshop has been upgraded to CS5, a printing option has disappeared. However, this option allowed us to print our printer calibration charts WITHOUT PROFILE. This is no longer the case but fortunately, Adobe has created a new small Adobe Color Printer Utility software that allows you to print the test chart file live. I describe the process below. 

Adobe Color Printing Utility

Logo Adobe Printer UtilityDownload Adobe Color Printer Utility for MAC SuivreDownload Adobe Color Printer Utility for PC Suivre

 
     
   
 

Its use is very simple. Once downloaded, simply launch Adobe Color Printer Utility and it opens directly to your browser. Go and get your "Mire.TIFF" file from your hard disk. Then, there is normally nothing to set in the print menu Menu > File > Print Setup.... Then open Menu > File > Print and adjust the settings of your printer's print driver. Here is an example with an Epson 7800 printer with a Premium Glossy 250 paper when printing the test chart provided by the manufacturer of the calibration kit :

   
   
 

1 - Printer - Choose the printer model from your list of printers.

2 - Choose the right paper medium - Choose the one given by the manufacturer when it exists otherwise take the same type from the list. The good manufacturers, and they are few in number, work for several brands ! So sometimes there are very large "similarities".

My advice ! This choice only determines the inking rate. If you use paper from the printer's brand, your paper will be in the drop-down list. If you use another brand, choose the same type of paper as at Epson in this example. Indeed, all the brands have the "same" paper ranges : Premium gloss, Archival matt, baryta, etc.

3 - Color settings - Be sure to disable the printer's color management. We are trying to measure the defects, the characteristics of the printer WITHOUT color management.

   
 

 

 

 

4 - Quality - Choose the printing fineness. I create two profiles at 1440 dpi and 2880 dpi but I admit I'm not sure there's a difference when making the ICC profile, but I prefer the shape of the prints printed at 2880 dpi in the skies in particular.

Note ! You can also choose the speed without, in my opinion, having an influence on the calibration. But note that I never check "Thinner details" because I have a bug on my 7800 Epson when I print my panoramas in a very large width.

Characterization of the printer

Mire de calibrage d'imprimanteThe procedure is, once again, very simple and quick if you do not count the time during which the print should be allowed to dry, ideally 24 hours. Dyes or pigments must be well stable to achieve the ICC profile. Even when an eye couldn't see the difference, a spectrophotometer would still see it !
It consists in measuring with a spectrophotometer the L*a*b* colors of each patch in order to compare them with the CMYK reference values (also contained in the software). All differences will be contained in the ICC profile of this printer for this paper/ink/resolution pair. Each one has its own procedure so you will find them developed on each test page. However, here is an example with my old PULSE kit from X-Rite, already old, because basically it's always the same thing...

As in the picture below, it will be sufficient to read all the printed patches, the number of which depends on the desired precision chosen.

   
  Reading the colored patches of a print chart when creating a printer ICC profile.
  Open the software and this time select the characterization of your printer. The program opens a new window where you will see the color patches appear as they are read.
   
  Reading colored patches with X-Rite's i1Studio software.
 

It is time to create the profile of this printer/paper pair. Very simple because it is enough to choose the lighting illuminant (D50, etc...) and to save the ICC profile with a perfectly identifiable name (printer/paper and possibly illuminant if you did not use the one proposed by default.

I invite you to read my page dedicated to printing with Photoshop  Suivre

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Which kits to calibrate your printer ?

To measure coloured patches you need a measuring device. A device that is capable of accurately measuring colors is called a spectrophotometer (or, slightly less "accurate", a spectrocolorimeter). Spectrophotometer solutions are available from £399.00 and spectrocolorimeter solutions from £249.00 and it is of course the preferred tool for professional printer calibration solutions. There are two spectros on the market in mid-2018 : The famous Colormunki Photo in the kit of the same name has just been replaced by the new i1Studio released in November 2017 whose only change is the software because the measurement tool is identical and the SpyderPrint and it is their association with different software that will allow to "create" an offer adapted to all audiences.

Calibration software

There are far fewer than for screen calibration. Datacolor offers a rather economical solution - from £249.00 - SpyderPrint 5.0 which competes with the new i1Studio from X-Rite, significantly more expensive but also more complete and more efficient, especially with saturated colors. Obviously, these solutions are very credible offers for amateurs or professionals who do not seek "scientific" or even surgical precision. If the X-Rite software, whether in their "amateur" or "professional" versions without aiming for absolute i1Studio accuracy and even more so in their professional museum version i1Profiler remain THE References, the SpyderPrint 5.0 suitcase (soon in test on this site) is an undeniable success for novice amateurs. That said, Christophe Métairie use X-Rite's high-end solutions to create your custom ICC printing profiles.

Attention ! Some of these kits are also capable of calibrating a screen and would therefore duplicate a screen calibration colorimeter, although I remain convinced that a colorimeter is preferable to calibrate a screen because they are much more accurate at measuring their deep blacks. The deep blacks of a screen are darker than the blacks of an inkjet print.

   
 
 

Vocabulary : spectrocolorimeter or spectrophotometer ?

A monitor calibration tool is called a colorimeter or to calibrate a printer you must use another device. There are two types of calibration tools for calibrating a printer: a spectrophotometer or a spectrocolorimeter. If a colorimeter can only be used to calibrate monitors, a spectrophotometer can be used for both, although it is less suitable for calibrating monitors because it generally cannot measure very deep blacks. Finally, a spectrocolorimeter is less accurate at calibrating a printer than a spectrophotometer because it does not use the same technology.

 
     
   
 

Why can't we - and shouldn't we ! - calibrate a printer from a print run ?

For a very simple and important reason : the colorimetric defects of a printer, like any other color reproduction device, are never linear. What does that mean ? Quite simply that if you observe a slightly magenta dominant in your grays, this dominant will not be equal on ALL grayscales. You can very well observe a dominant magenta in the dark greys between levels 25 and 50 for example and rather green towards the very light greys. But then how can we correct these non-linear dominants? Well, with the color correction menu of your printer driver it is impossible because it only offers a precisely linear correction as shown in the figure below. If you move the magenta cursor to correct a green dominant, you will do so equally on all colors, all levels, of your photo.

 

Epson print driver for manual color correction when no ICC profile is used.

 

The only possible way would then be to edit a custom curve per color layer in Photoshop ! Laborious work if there is one and... automatically realized by a calibration kit and its spectrophotometer !!!!! Why bother then ?

   
 
 

What about the black and white printing ? 

Basically, the calibration of a printer is done once and for all : for color and black and white. The purpose of calibration is to neutralize the dominant colors, all of them. There is therefore no specific calibration to be done for black and white printing.



Three important remarks :

 It is true that some custom ICC profile manufacturers such as Christophe Métairie offer you specific ICC profiles for black and white printing. I note that these are in fact optimized variants of a color profile that are more or less neutral, cold or hot. It is obviously very interesting because it is complicated to do when you don't know how to do it yourself. The corrections are therefore integrated into the ICC profile and there is nothing more to do than to choose it at the time of printing.
It is worth noting that Christophe's reputation for quality custom profiles is well established. He's been doing this for ten years and knows all the papers on the market !
 Calibration problems may persist if your printer does not have enough of this ink cartridge. For beautiful blacks and whites, you need at least 8 cartridges.
 The brand new i1Studio calibration kit (released in late 2017), based on the excellent Colormunki Photo spectrophotometer and i1Profiler software, has a black and white optimization function. In short, it's a great Colormunki Photo !

 
     
 

There are now two ways to calibrate your printer...

Choix du papier et des encres d'impressionCalibrating a printer with a dedicated kit is now within everyone's reach if they agree to pay the price : between 250 and 2,000 pounds. I personally use the new i1Studio kit at £399.00 a lot to calibrate my old Epson 7800 printer.

Note ! The new i1Studio kit at £399.00 is based on the same spectrophotometer as the famous Colormunki Photo. So it's a "super" Colormunki Photo just a little more expensive.

Even without any particular know-how, you will obtain quality ICC profiles, much better than generic manufacturer profiles. That said, it must be recognized that generic profiles have also made great progress and that to print souvenir photos this will be clearly sufficient.

Now what if you are an amateur, professional photographer who values the quality of your prints ?

It can be said that in 2018, there are two approaches :

  • Either create your own ICC profiles,
  • or have them done remotely by a qualified service provider (paid or free of charge).

Here are the advantages / disadvantages of both methods...

1 - Make your own ICC printing profiles :

a) Advantages 

  • The pleasure of doing it yourself;
  • You can easily create as many ICC profiles as you want, so with as many papers as you want,
  • Whenever you want, even on Sundays !;
  • We have a better understanding of what we are doing and what is happening : excellent from a pedagogical point of view;

b) Disadvantages

  • The price : minimum £250/500 and it can go up to £2,000 !
  • Calibrating a printer is very simple but an expert can go even further with his own tools : this means that with the same calibration kit, a calibration expert who can create his own print patterns himself, will provide you with even better ICC profiles for your printer/paper pair, especially if you print in black and white, with your color inks.

2 - Have your ICC profiles printed remotely :

a) Advantages

  • Mire de calibrage d'imprimanteThe price ! you have no calibration kit to buy and the price of ICC profiles is on average under 50 dollars (between 20 and 50 pounds). It is sometimes even offered by the brand of paper you use - Permajet papers -.
  • For this price, you will also have a better profile - slightly - than if you had created it yourself; Why ? because some service providers create their own charts to improve, for example, black and white calibration.
  • Print with the best profile available !

b) Disadvantages 

  • You don't have the pleasure of doing it yoursel !
  • You have to be patient and not want to calibrate your new paper on a Saturday night ! (Please allow three working days as the worst prints must be sent by post. This does not happen by SMS !)

 

   
 
 

To be remembered...


 Even more than for the display, the calibration of the printer is essential.

 But I absolutely advise you to make or have made YOUR ICC profiles for YOUR printer and YOUR papers. Generic profiles are only a correct second best, no more.

 It is not necessary to create Black and White ICC profiles. They can only improve the printer's behavior if you only print in B&W.

 It is not necessary to buy a calibration kit : for the price of the SpyderPRINT 5 (£250 in first price) you will have 10 Expert profiles at www.profilicc.com

 But the huge advantage of having your own calibration kit is that you can immediately create all the profiles you want, when choosing a paper for example.

 Calibrating a printer with a spectrophotometer is even easier than calibrating a screen. No target values ! Just print the test chart and read it in the spectro !

 
     
   
  Have your photo printer calibrated or do it yourself with the i1Studio... Soon
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Through these tips pages I will help you to properly calibrate your photo printer to get the "right" colors...
 

- Calibrating a photo printer ?
- Self-calibrate your photo printer

  - Why calibrate your photo printer ?
- How to calibrate your photo printer ?
- To be remembered...
- Get your printer calibrated
 

- How to calibrate your monitor?
- Best colorimeters buying guide
- Best monitors buying guide


 

Calibrate your photo printer with the best quality/price ratio: i1 Studio !

Read my full review...  

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Calibrate your monitor with the best
quality/price ratio: Colormunki Display !

Read my full review...

Wex Good Deals ! £99.00

   
 

 

     

 

 

 
 

 

       

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