Calibrating the printer is certainly satisfying but it is expensive. Even more using the same hardware than you do, an ICC profile creation specialist can achieve a better result. Everyone does not need or see these differences, but who can do more can do less and for €40... Then, why bothering yourself !
Key points if you are a beginner...
Here are the key points to remember on printer calibration. The rest of this page will be dedicated to those who want to go into more details.
While it is almost absurd to have the calibration of the screen done by a distance service provider, it may be appropriate to delegate the creation of its printing profiles to an online expert.
Even if they use the same kits we potentially use, their experience allows them to create their own color targets and sometimes therefore obtain profiles of a very high quality, even better than the color targets provided by the manufacturer.
It is a very economical solution because, on average, it will cost you $40 per printer/paper set. Unless you seek for THE paper and therefore multiply trials, it provides at least ten profiles for the price of a Colormunki Photo.
This is particularly easy to do : you download the color targets, you print them following the instructions carefully, you send the A4 sheets after 24 hours drying and you will get wonderful ICC profiles ready to be used on your printer.
Printing conditions of the color target are very important and it is mandatory to remember them for each print using THIS profile.
What is the procedure using a distance calibration provider ?
So easy ! do not question yourself : you print the color target (often several A4 sheets), you let them dry during 24 hours and then you send them to your service provider. Once received by mail and installed on your computer, the profiles are ready for use and to make you discover or rediscover your printer.
Like for home made calibration, the distance printer calibration begins with the gauging of your printer. That means :
The calibration or gauging of a printer consists of printing a color target, once chosen :
The kind of ink cartridge - when that choice is possible -,
The printing resolution,
The printing settings.
To use this ICC profile, you will always have to use this set. All options of speed, sharpness and other parameters must be carefully noted in the settings to choose, in order to reuse THIS ICC profile.
Number of colored patch and paper choice
Frankly, I sometimes have the impression of attending a cockfight "My patterns have more patches than yours". It is sometimes possible to choose to print more than 6.000 patches???? In theory, this is supposed to improve the accuracy of the profile but in reality, with the last i1 Photo Pro 2, 2.000 patches are sufficient (and is already huge !). It is better, in my opinion, to choose about 2.000 patches, it is also cheaper and gives you the opportunity to select more kind of paper ...
Color target print
Who is not used to print color patches for calibration (and it will be difficult since you have not bought a calibration kit), the point really difficult but essential for the success of the project, is the proper selection of the right printing options in the printer driver and use the right software to print these color patches. The printing of the color target should not be done higgledy-piggledy. The reason is very simple : make sure that the driver of your printer does not override with one you made yourself, so in other words you should desable color management in your printer.
Disable any color management and be careful in the selection of the driver options for your printer.
For this reason, the printing of color targets must be performed from Adobe Color Printing Utility.
Depending on the software you use, the steps may be different, but here is the most classic one with Photoshop with an important remark : starting from Photoshop CS5, you must ABSOLUTELY use a small software called Adobe Color Printing Utility to print the color target WITHOUT calibration.
Note : to operate, the printer calibration needs to know how your printer behaves facing colors without any ICC profile. Therefore the color target should be printed without any profile, which is now possible with Photoshop since version CS5. Here's how below...
Watch out ! Printing of the color target with Photoshop
Since Photoshop CS5, a printing option has disappeared. This option was allowing you to print your calibration color target WITHOUT A PROFILE. This is no longer the case but fortunately Adobe has created a new small software called Adobe Color Printer Utility that allows you to print the file directly. I describe the process below.
Its use is very simple. Once downloaded, simply run Adobe Color Printer Utility and it directly opens your browser. Go get your calibration color target ".TIFF" on your hard drive. Then there is normally nothing to adjust in the print menu Menu> File> Print Setup ... Open the Menu> File> Print, then set the printer driver options for your printer. Here is an example with an Epson 7800 with 250 Premium Glossy paper during printing of the color patches provided by the manufacturer of the calibration kit :
1 - Printer - Choose the model of your printer in the list.
2 - Chose the right paper - Choose the one given by the manufacturer when there is, otherwise take the same type from the list. Main manufacturers, and they are few, work for various brands ! So sometimes there are very substantial "similarities".
Note ! This choice determines only the amount of ink. If you use paper of the brand of printer, your paper will be in the list. If you use another brand, choose the same type of paper, Epson in this example. In fact, all brands have the "same" range of paper : glossy premium, archival matte, barita, etc ...
3 - Color Parameters - Although disable color management in the printer. We are willing to measure the defects, the characteristics of the printer WITHOUT color management.
4 - Quality - Select the printiing resolution. I create two profiles at 1.440 dpi and 2.880 dpi, but I confess not being certain that there is a difference during the creation of the ICC profile, however I prefer the modeling of the prints at 2.880 dpi in particular for the skies.
You can also choose the speed, without, I think, this having an influence on the calibration result. But note that I never check "Finest Detail" because I have seen a bug on my Epson 7800 when I print my panoramas in very large format.
The procedure is, again, very simple and fast, if you do not count the time during which it is necessary to let your print dry, ideally 24 hours. Dyes or pigments must be quite stable to create the ICC profile. Even when one eye would not see any more difference, a spectrophotometer would !
The characterisation consists in measuring, with the spectrophotometer, the Lab colors of each patch in order to compare them to the standard CMYK values (contained in the software). Any difference will be memorised into the ICC profile of this printer for this paper/ink/resolution set. But the biggest advantage of this process is that you do not have to deal with something !
You send your A4 sheets to your distance service provider and he will deal with the whole reading and comparison process, in order to create the printer ICC profile, perhaps with a few variations, espacially with B&W targets.
The remaining step is only to install it in your computer according to the instructions of the provider, and then I suggest you to read my page dedicated to printing with Photoshop in order to use it at his best.
B&W printing ?
Basically, calibrating a printer is done once and for all : color and B&W. The purpose of calibration is to neutralize the dominant, all dominant colors. There is therefore no specific calibration to do for printing in B&W ... At least, in theory. Indeed, the color patches are created by manufacturers for color calibration purpose. Experienced providers themselves create their own color targets to further improve the calibration for B&W prints that use all the color inks.
P.S. it is true that some online custom ICC profile providers, like Christophe Métairie, (a french photographer and printer calibration provider) offer specific ICC profiles for B&W printing. I note that this is in fact optimized variants, more or less neutral, warm or cold, of a color profile. This is obviously very interesting because it is so difficult to achieve on your own, when you do not know how to do it yourself. Specific corrections are included in the ICC profile and there is nothing more to do than to choose it at the time of printing in B&W ...
The reputation of Christophe Métairie is no more to be done in terms of custom profile quality. He has been doing this for the past ten years and knows all the papers of the market !
Online custom ICC profiles : the providers
For those who do not wish to invest in a printer calibration kit because of the cost or because they use only one or two types of paper and they are convinced, nevertheless, of the interest of working with custom profiles, there are many sites that offer to do it for you. The price/quality ratio is unbeatable - Try it and you will love it !
Note ! Coincidentally, all these companies work with X-Rite solutions so the quality is guaranted. I will let you choose from these five companies while making my favorite from the expertise and experience of Christophe Metairie, especially in the realization of high quality B&W ICC profile (he is the first in list below) :
cmp-color.fr - (French photographer) With his over 10 years experience, Christophe Métairie creates for you printing custom profiles with the latest high end calibration equipment from X-Rite. His experience is unquestionable and valuable, espacially on papers.
Note ! Christophe Métairie creates his own calibration color targets, in order to optimize B&W calibration.
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