Color management guide by Arnaud Frich

Généralités sur la photo panoramique Calibrer un écran Calibrage d'une imprimante Gérer les couleurs avec Photoshop En savoir davantage sur la gestion des couleurs

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Uptaded on November 26, 2016
 

Review of the printer calibration kit SpyderPRINT (also included in the box Spyder5Studio) - Datacolor

For less than $300 it is possible thanks to Datacolor and its SpyderPRINT reviewed on this page to calibrate your printer when the competitors start at $400 at least. But what is this solution worth when said competitors use a "real" spectrophotometer?

 

SpyderPrint spectropcolorimeter Datacolor

 


For a device reviewer like me, some brands are a priori more difficult to review because they are, to the eyes of an experienced audience, less "prestigious" or accomplished. They're then quickly classified in the category of low-range equipment, to sum it up!!! Since I love discovering new devices and I note a shift in hierarchy these two last years since there's a clear progression to the top technologically speaking, I'm always curious to review the evolutions of these less "glamorous" brands, still in the minds of advanced users because average people don't care the least bit! Did this technological improvement transforming the current photography field get into the SpyderPRINT 5? Let me give you a hint: first, I was surprised by the Spyder5 Datacolor released in April and especially by its Express version, finally a first-price interesting solution...


Purchasing note! SpyderPrint can be bought alone or included in the Spyder5Studio box.


Buy SpyderPrint alone - My rating: 8.5/10!

SpyderPrint Datacolor

   
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or the box Spyder5Studio

   
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Presentation of the kit Spyder5Studio including SpyderPrint

The basic SpyderPRINT 5.0 kit is sold with the spectrocolorimeter 1005 - the same as in the previous kit - and of course its guiding panel for the reading of colored patches.

Note! Please note that this kit is also available in the box Spyder5Studio. It includes the SpyderCube in addition and the current top-range from Datacolor's monitor calibration sensors, namingly the very last and excellent Spyder5Elite released in Spring 2016, both reviewed on this site.

The calibration kit SpyderPRINT (and possibly its STUDIO box)

  • A calibration sensor which is a spectrocolorimeter and not a spectrophotometer, sensibly or a lot more expensive!

  • A long enough USB (2.0) wire.
  • The guiding panel,
  • The base of the spectrocolorimeter including the white calibration test card,

 

Contenu du SpyderPRINT 5.0

The spectrocolorimeter is set on its base, by the side of the guiding panel.

 

My opinion about the overall quality! The quality of materials must be stressed out, as well as the overall finishing. All the accessories are very pleasant to manipulate, touch, take in hand. Only the sliding of the Spyder on its guide lacks fluidity. The coatings indeed have a velvety look like you sometimes see on mobile phones. Of course, it's a detail, but it's very pleasant really!

Main characteristics:

  • Measurement device: the spectrocolorimeter 1005.
  • Program SpyderPRINT 5.0: rather easy to use and well documented.
  • Printer calibration in RGB flow only;
  • Possibility to create an ICC profiule based on the L-Star curve which enables, among other possibilities but that's what's interesting us here, to clear shadows better (and also a wider gamut).
  • Guiding panel to read the colored patches more easily.
  • 9 test card choices for all cases: color, B&W.



Technical specifications

  SpyderPRINT 5.0
Average price: $250 / Studio: $365
Measurement device
Spectrocolorimeter 1005 SpyderPrint.
 
Program
SpyderPRINT
 
Color temperature (monitor)
 
Choice of gamma (monitor)
Unlimited!
 
Alignment of several screens
Yes
 
Ambient light control
Yes, in brightness - Advanced control.
 
Videoprojector calibration
Yes
Camera calibration
No
  Printer calibration RGB only
 
Company
datacolor.com

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Printer calibration with SpyderPRINT step by step

Let's start by installing the program and the spectrocolorimeter, as simply as possible!



Reminder: new paper = new calibration

When talking about printer calibration, we should rather be talking about calibrating a set:

a given paper,
inks of a given brand,
a given printer.

Every time one of these parameters changes, you need to recreate a new ICC profile. However, if you replace an ink cartridge from the same manufacturer as your printer, it is not necessary. I'm more dubious regarding the homogeneity of the quality of "generic" or no name ink manufacturers.

Installation of the program SpyderPrint 5.0

It is as classic as it gets! You download the program on the site indicated on the serial number card. The program is compatible with the last MAC OS and Windows versions.


Download SpyderPRINT 5.0 - Aug. 2016

SpyderPRINT 5.0 exists in versions WINDOWS, 32 or 64 bits and MAC OS (compatible MAC OS LION, MAVERICKS and now YOSEMITE).

  Download Datacolor's SpyderPRINT Suivre


So nothing particular to say! When you hit the app's icon, language detection will be automatically performed and the program will ask you to activate it. For that, you just need to plug the sensor and connect your computer to the web to enter your serial number. Datacolor will then provide you a registration number.

1 - "Welcome screen"

When you open the app (or the program!!) you're greeted by a welcome screen offering you two possibilities:

  • Get information about color management - I hope you'll already have found everything you need on this site!),
  • Start the calibration process of a printer/paper pair and start creating a printer profile.

 


 

Click "Next"

2 - "Before starting"

You are now about to indicate what printer/paper you're going to calibrate.

 

 

Note that you can run a few printing tests to check that you don't have any blocked injector.

Click "Next..."

3 - Start creating the profile

You can choose to print the test cards or select an existing file in order to improve it. I guess you'll select "Print and measure a target".

 



Click Next...

4 - Select the number of test cards and print them

You have 9 possibilities! I'm going to try to guide you even if I'm not going to try the 9 possibilities to compare!

1 - Choose the number of patches and the type of test cards (color calibration and/or B&W) - To sum it up and according to the official Datacolor documents, 225 patches are enough most of the time. More complex test cards are there to adapt or solve a particular problem on a special paper for instance or for a B&W job.

 

 

My advice! I'll tell you, try it with 225 color patches and release heavy artillery if you're not satisfied. For purists, you might as well print the 729 patches directly because a printer calibration doesn't have to be performed often, except if you regularly change your paper type. If you print in B&W, choose the option 225 colors + 225 black and white.
If you just want to choose between several papers, limit yourself to the 225 test cards page to make your first selection then refine it when you chose your preferred paper.
But before launching the print of test cards you're going to set an important option in the program preferences right away: Menu SpyderPrint > Preferences. Here you will absolutely check a button that is empty by default: "Use the L-Star process". It will enable you to get slightly brighter and detailed shadows and a sensibly wider gamut. Not much but it's definitely going into the right direction. This is what's interesting about an L-Star curve.

2 - Launch the printing... - Here, the choices about the printer's configuration will be very important!

Watch out! As always when printing a test card, the choice of printing options in the printer's driver is very important for the success of patch measurements hence the creation. For that, DON'T HIT the "Printing..." button because you can't disable all the color management of your printer via this menu. Your test card would be printed with an incorporated profile and your profile completely altered. You need to use the Adobe program: Adobe Color Printer Utility. This program was designed on purpose by Adobe.


Watch out! Printing the test card with Photoshop

New since Photoshop CS5 ! Since Photoshop updated to CS5 version, a printing option disappeared. But this option enabled to print our calibration test cards WITHOUT A PROFILE. It is not possible anymore but fortunately, Adobe created a new little program Adobe Color Printer Utility that enables to print the test card file directly. I'm describing this process below.

Adobe Color Printing Utility

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


It's very easy to use. Once downloaded, you just have to launch
Adobe Color Printer Utility and it opens in your explorer directly. Go find your "Testcard.TIFF" file on your hard drive. Then, there's normally nothing to set in the printing menu Menu > File > Print Setup... Then open the Menu > File > Print and set the parameters of your printer's driver. Here's an example with an Epson 7800 printer with a Premium Glossy 250 paper when printing the test card provided by the calibration kit's manufacturer:

 

Options d'impression d'une imprimante Epson 7800

 

1 - Printer - Choose the printer's model in your printers list.

2 - Choose the right paper - Choose the one given by the manufacturer when it exists or take the same type in the list. Good manufacturers, and there are not so many, work for several brands! You can thus sometimes find striking "similarities".

My advice! This choice only determines the inking ratio. If you're using paper of your printer's brand, it will be in the unfolding list. If you're using a different brand, choose the same paper type as Epson in this example. All brands do indeed have the same "ranges" of papers: glossy premium, archive mat, baryta, etc.

3 - Color settings - Be sure to disable the printer's color management. We're trying to measure the defaults and characteristics of the printer WITHOUT color management.

4 - Quality - Choose the sharpness of the print. I create two profiles at 1440 dpi and 2880 dpi but let me confess I'm not certain there's much of a difference for the realization of the ICC profile, however I prefer the relief of prints at 2880 dpi, in the sky especially.

Note! You can also choose the speed without it influencing calibration according to me. But note I never check "Sharper details" because I have a bug on my 7800 Epson when I print panoramas in very wide formats.

My advice! This has nothing to do with what's interesting us here but I prefer printing at 2880 dpi because I find sky gradients even more beautiful because with more relief! For details sharpness, I can't see a difference.

Before launching the printing, be sure to check you've place an A4 format paper sheet in your printer!

Launch the printing, leave it to dry for at least half an hour and click "Next"... not before!

5 - Patch reading will be beginning shortly but first, you need to calibrate the spectrocolorimeter...

For that, you just have to place the spectrocolorimeter on its base because it comes with a white test card at the bottom of the little well (that needs to be treated very carefully, by the way!).

 

 

Hit the button above the sensor and a new page opens:

 

 

Name the ICC profile so that you'll recognize it when you choose it in Photoshop later. Click save.

The grey button in field 2 "Target reading" displays: "Open sample reading window". Click on it. A window opens, asking you if you want to follow a tutorial. You can choose not to display this message again.

A photo of the test card you chose to print opens in big size on your screen;

 


Note that the first line, ready to be red, is circled in red.

 

Watch out! Be sure to choose the type of reading you want to use at the bottom right of this page (photo here): "In bands" or "per sample". It will determine if you'll perform a continuous reading or sample by sample.

My opinion! After trying both methods, I ended up using the longest a priori hence per sample because I could never get the sufficient reading fluidity and one patch was always missing! I got tired of it and chose the easy way. So it wasn't so much longer after all because it works on first try this time!

And finally, if you choose "Division", each patch will be divided in two: real color/measured color. Of course, it doesn't influence the reading in any way.

Two recommendations before starting the reading! As Hervé Petit advised me to, place two sheets of the same paper under the printed sheet before starting reading the patches. It avoid uncontrolled reflections due to your table, especially if it is colored, and don't hesitate to tape the printed test card to your desk. It will keep it from moving during the reading of the patches. Then start reading the patches...

When you're done, click the button at the extreme bottom "Close and save" .

It is time to create your ICC profile and save it in the next page...

Last recommendation! Define a project name that is easy to identify using hyphens between words and avoiding spaces and other special characters.

6 - Spyderproof - Profile edition

In the next page, you have the possibility to edit your profile ("Advanced modifications") or to print a test print. We'll do that directly in Photoshop.

Watch out twice! In "advanced modifications", don't use the color correction cursors because then it is completely useless to create an ICC profile! Colorimetric defects are never linear! The only thing that could be interesting would be to brighten the shadows very slightly if you notice that you always almost get too dark shadows compared to your monitor.

 

 

Hit next...

>Finally you're creating your profile and saving it!

 

 

Note! The profile is stored in the file gathering all your computer's files. I invite you to read my article about questions / answers about the printer (on my french blog) on my blog since December 7, 2013.

And finally, I invite you to read my page about printing with Photoshop because this program features many convenient functionalities to print correctly with custom ICC profiles. It is all explained in details in a step by step. You can also ready again my page about calibrating a printer with a calibration kit.

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ICC profile check and Questions/Answers

Before answering some of the questions I most often receive about printing profiles, I'll make a 3D comparison of several profiles for the same paper/printer pair with SpyderPrint and top-range i1 Photo Pro 2.

3D comparison of the profile made with SpyderPRINT 5 vs i1 Photo Pro

Here's the ICC calibration profile for my Epson 7800 printer with Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper. As you can see below, the ICC profile realized with the SpyderPRINT 5 (Kit about $360) is, in volumen hence in gamut, smaller especially in one direction, the blue-greens, than the one realized with the superlative i1 Pro 2.

 

 

It's the limit of a more "amateur" solution, hence of a spectrocolorimeter rather than a spectrophotometer. If you print really saturated colors, especially towards greens and blues, you'd be better off ordering your ICC profile from Christophe Métairie. He uses the i1 Photo Pro 2.

And my impression when I compare real prints and not curves... I'm a photographer after all!

It is pretty obvious that it's very - very - good, even for quite saturated colors like these building fronts. SpyderPRINT 5 sustains the comparison with Colormunki Photo! Visually, when placing the prints side by side, not far from my screen, it is clear that the differences are rather trivial and the two prints are almost similar to the screen; very beautiful! I can't even believe it and it took me a while to direct my attention to this product because I had a negative a priori about it and Datacolor. Ouch, my fingers! All the colors are true compared to my Graphic Arts screen (Eizo CS240 calibrated with the i1 DisplayPro). However, we have to give to Caesar what is Caesar's and it is undeniable also that ColorMunki Photo does better because it is excellent even for nearly fluorescent colors. I think about the blues in the stained-glass windows of the cathedral of Bourges for instance...

 

I'm well aware that there's not much to see, it's just here to illustrate my review! Here, you'll have to take my word or come visit me in Auvergne!

 

a) What about the shadows?

But as always, the darkest parts are more difficult to emphasize depending on the light environment you're going to make this comparison in. It's not a casualty that professionals use precise viewing norms hence cabins with a normed lightning. It doesn't make much sense - although it's not uninteresting - for a club or an amateur or even professional photographer who show their work in broad daylight hence not in a cabin! Let's say that when you compare the prints under different lightnings, it appears that by default, the shadows are a little darker than on screen. But there's a solution!

My advice! Before creating your profile, be sure to take a look at the program preferences and check the box: "Use L-Star process". It's a gamma curve, even closer to the response of the eye than the classic 2.2 curve and that has the asset, long story short, to lighten very low lights. I'll refer you to the book by Jean Delmas page 118, especially if you want to know more about it. Clearly, with this option, you'll really be very close to your calibrated screen.

b) Colors?

At this level of matching between screen and print and knowing color management for more than 10 years, I can assure you it's excellent for this level of price and given the targeted audience, meaning mostly amateurs. I can really recommend it without a single thought to those who are just starting color management for printers, print colors from everyday life, even quite saturated (except maybe some blues nearly fluorescent, like I said before). Just keep in mind that the gamut is not the widest you could find nowadays, but it will be more than enough for many amateurs who will maybe never experience the case I'm talking about...

c) What about blacks and whites?

The funniest thing is that when I created my first test ICC profile, I "only" used the 225 patches simple test card, on a single sheet. I didn't even use the 450 patches test card on two sheets integrating a more specific page for black and white and the results are... very good. Nothing keeps you from trying to get more accuracy but this won't necessarily be needed.

Now your most frequent questions:

Q - Do I need to recreate my printer's profile often?

A: It depends! If your ink is the same manufacturer as your printer (Epson, Canon, HP), it is useless because the quality of the ink is checked very accurately and I never noticed, even after a year hence several changes of ink cartridges, that it was necessary. In these conditions, I would do it again every year just to be sure...
If you're using "generic" ink, I recommend you to recreate your printing profile more often...

Q - Do I need to recreate my printers (and monitors) profiles if I change my computer?

A: Not at all! You only need to recreate them if you change your printer, your paper or your ink quality. The computer only generates colors. It doesn't transform them on its own. Be sure to save them and reinstall them on the new computer, quite simply.

Q - What difference is there between manufacturers' inks and "generic" ones?

A: Especially for brands well-known for the quality of their "Photo" printers like Canon, Epson or HP, the quality checks are very thorough because they're working with color professionals (photographers but also printers, graphic designers, etc.). The regularity of their ink quality is thus fundamental. "Generic" ink producers don't have this rigor because they're more oriented towards key accounts that print Excel tables all day long. The constance in diagrams' colors is less "fundamental"!.

 

To go even further on my blog... (in french)

- Frequently asked questions about printer calibration - 1

- Frequently asked questions about printer calibration - 2

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Conclusion and rating!

Le SpyderPRINT is an undeniable technical success. If it weren't called Datacolor, that would be the end of it. It is true that this brand didn't always succeed in creating quality products at this price range. But things change. A first success in April with the release of new monitor calibration sensors, the Spyder5 series, and this Fall with this SpyderPRINT or the brand new SpyderStudio box. Yes, you can get yourself a good monitor on a tight budget - see my 2016 purchasing guide - a nice calibration sensor - Spyder5Express - really efficient if not extremely thorough and you can now calibrate your printer absolutely perfectly for an amateur use, a club or even a professional if you're making your own prints. What a change! How pleasant it is to finish a review knowing that you're fair in order to give advice that will satisfy all potential buyers, you don't need to take too many precautions to say it's not that great!

 

Notes

  SpyderPrint    
Manufacturing quality
5 étoiles
 
 
Robustness/stability over time
5 étoiles
 
 
Possibilities
3 étoiles
 
 
Quality of the ICC profile
5 étoiles ... almost 4.5
 
 
Value for money
5 étoiles
 
 
I LOVE...
  • Maximum value for money!
  • Product perfectly adapted to its target audience, which are amateurs: in this case, I would even give it a 10!
  • Possibility to create a profile based on the L-Star curve, for sharper shadows,
  • As good in colors as in B&W,
  • Easy to use.
 
 
I REGRET...
  • Not so much regarding its qualities and the target audience!
  • Reading process a bit long because the spectro doesn't slide well on its guide,
  • Gamut a little behind for most saturated colors, almost fluorescent (blues of the stained-glass windows in the cathedral of Bourges that become purple). A real spectrocolorimeter does better. But as for other colors...
  • Lack of image maybe?
  • Very few, I'm telling you!
 
 
OVERALL RATING
8.5 / 10 (For beginners: 10/10!)
 


My opinion: Here's the kind of discovery I like to make for amateurs or clubs! On paper and for a long time (I'm interested in color management since 2002!), Datacolor has had the aim to offer this audience affordable "semi-professional" solutions. Hard to agree with it completely before... Affordable indeed, but not always good enough. But this year 2016, Datacolor releases two products in a row that I can recommend: their new sensors, among which the Spyder5Elite which is integrated to the suite SpyderStudio 5 and this remake of SpyderPRINT 5 also in this box. Whether you're buying the Spyder5Studio box or SpyderPRINT 5 alone, I can assure you you're going to rediscover your printer! This SpyderPRINT doesn't overcome the Colormunki Photo but mix many test prints on a table and look for who's who and you'll be surprised! You'll not wish you'd set for the competitor or for a more professional solution very often.


Buy SpyderPrint alone...

SpyderPrint Datacolor

   
Shop
Price incl. taxes  
   
Logo Amazon.com
$249.99
   
$249.99
   
Amazon.co.uk Amazon.ca
   
Amazon.de Amazon.fr
         

 

 

 

 



or the box Spyder5Studio

   
Shop
Price incl. taxes  
   
Logo Amazon.com
$378.00
   
$378.00
   
Amazon.co.uk Amazon.ca
   
Amazon.de Amazon.fr
         

 

 

 

 

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