In this video, I share my thoughts and feelings on photography and color.

Find out more about color management here.

Read other interviews here.

Read my artists statements here.

Profile Your Printer

December 21, 2011 | 2 Comments

Prints made with default (left) and custom (right) profiles compared.

Good printer profiles help make good prints. Better printer profiles help make better prints. So, logically, you’ll want to use the best printer profiles to help you make the best prints.

How do high quality printer profiles contribute to print quality? A good printer profile helps render optimum shadow and highlight detail, gradation, neutrality and graybalance, as well as color rendition and saturation. (Remember, printer profiles characterize the combination of a printer’s hardware, ink, media setting, and the substrate you choose. You’ll need different profiles for different substrates on the same printer.)

How can you get good printer profiles? Look to three primary sources. One, use profiles provided by printer manufacturers; they’re free. Two, hire a printer profiling service; profiles cost approximately $100 each. Three, make printer profiles yourself; printer profiling systems run between $400 and $1000. (Profiles supplied by substrate manufacturers are of uneven quality; a few are good, many are bad.)

Which solution is right for you? It depends on both your printing conditions and needs.

If you’re using substrates supported by the manufacturer of your printer, try using the profiles they provide first; they’re often quite good. Years ago, Epson raised the bar on the quality of printer profiles provided by manufacturers. The highly sophisticated routines they use to produce their printer profiles processed by supercomputers are truly state-of-the-art. It’s arguable that you can produce better profiles, even with the most sophisticated profiling solutions available. Their profiling routines factor in subtleties like dot structure or screening frequency. One of the reasons a solution like this works is because the technologies and manufacturing standards they use are so consistent that the unit to unit variation between individual printers of the same model is extremely low. (It’s less than a Delta E of 1 or the minimum variation the human eye can detect.) Some, printer manufacturers, like Canon, provide a large number of profiles for substrates made by other companies; their quality is generally quite high with only a few exceptions. Other printer manufacturers, like HP, produce self-profiling printers. They need to be self-profiling, as the state of the printer is constantly changing; when nozzles clog, new nozzles come on line; when ink cartridges are swapped nozzles are replaced. One advantage to a system like this is you can quickly profile a new substrate on a printer with no additional equipment. The quality of the profiles is often good, but there will be times where you’ll want to improve upon it.

No manufacturer provides a comprehensive set of profiles that will cover the entire spectrum of fast-evolving substrate industry. A little experimentation with new media is advised, sometimes a lot. If you experiment with many medias or use more exotic substrates, you’d be well advised to have someone make custom profiles for you or do it yourself.

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X-Rites’ Color Checker Passport can be used to quickly deliver more accurate color in a variety of ways.

Set White Balance, White Point, and Black Point

The X-Rite Color Checker Passport is the industry standard target that can be used in several ways to render color in your digital images more accurately – setting white balance, creative enhancement, and visual confirmation.

It’s easy to use. Shoot the Color Checker once at the beginning of each shooting session and you can use that exposure as a target for all exposures made under the same light. The exposure of the target doesn’t have to be perfect. Just, roughly fill the frame with the target; it doesn’t even have to be focussed. To use the exposure of the target, use your choice of Raw conversion software to open it along with other exposures you’d like to apply the same measurements to; click on the appropriate color patches (black for black point, white for white point, gray for gray point); and sync all of the files. It’s that simple.

Create A Camera Profile

The X-Rite Color Checker Passport can also be used to make custom profiles for your individual camera. You can create a camera profile with the same exposure of the target that you use to set white balance. While camera profiles are generated with the same target, the resulting exposures are not used to set white balance, instead they are used to deliver significantly improved color rendition and saturation, providing the best starting point for any color adjustment strategy you choose. Camera profiles are created with the X-Rite software supplied with the Color Checker Passport, stored, and later applied with your choice of Raw conversion software, typically Adobe Camera Raw or Adobe Lightroom.

For optimum results, exposures used to generate camera profiles need to be made under the light (color temperature and spectral distribution) that subsequent exposures are made in. Using two exposures of the target made under different light temperatures, you can create a dual illuminant camera profile that can be used for all exposures made under a wide range of color temperatures. Single illuminant profiles are recommended for exposures made under very warm or very cool light temperatures – below 3600K (golden hours) and above 6800K (twilight).

How do you make a camera profile? First convert one or more exposures of the Color Checker Passport from the manufacturer’s proprietary Raw format to Adobe’s open standard Raw format – DNG. (Use either the free Adobe DNG Converter, Adobe Bridge, or Adobe Lightroom.) Open X-Rite’s Color Checker Passport software. Click DNG or Dual Illuminant DNG. Drag one or two DNG files into the open window. Once the software has identified the specific color patches it needs to build the profile, click Create Profile. The profile will automatically be stored for you in Camera Profiles and will be available for your use the next time you convert a Raw file in either Adobe Camera Raw or Adobe Lightroom. You’ll find it under the Camera Calibration tab/panel under Camera Profile. Save New Camera Raw Defaults and your new camera profile will be automatically loaded when you open Raw files and previews in Adobe Bridge will be rendered with it.

Using a Color Checker Passport target or a camera profile generated with it doesn’t mean that you are locked into the results they generate, they simply give you the best starting point possible for adjusting your images. Read more

Joe Brady demonstrates making camera profiles with X-Rite’s Color Checker Passport with Photoshop.

Read more in my color management ebooks.

View more in my color management DVD.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Joe Brady demonstrates making camera profiles with X-Rite’s Color Checker Passport with Lightroom.

Read more in my color management ebooks.

View more in my color management DVD.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Seth Resnick discusses his use of X-Rite’s Color Checker Passport.

Read more in my color management ebooks.

View more in my color management DVD.

Learn more in Seth’s D-65 workflow workshops.

Learn more in out Digital Photo Destinations workshops.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


X-Rite’s new ColorMunki Display and i1Display Pro make major leaps forward in color managing displays.

Technologically Advanced Hardware

Both ColorMunki Display and i1Display Pro devices feature an advanced, high-end, optical system with custom-designed filters that provide a near perfect match to the color perception of the human visual system, delivering superior color measurement results.  Both devices fully support all modern display technologies, including LED backlight and wide gamut displays. Both devices are spectrally calibrated, making them fully field upgradeable to support future display technologies.
The ergonomic all-in-one design combines three important functions …

Ambient Light Measurement – an integrated ambient measurement diffuser allows you to to take ambient light measurements of your work environment.
Display Profiling – rotate the ambient diffuser arm and adjust integrated counterweight, with push button action, along the USB cord for display profiling ease.
Projector Profiling – rotate the ambient diffuser arm to use as a tabletop stand for device positioning, or use the built-in threaded tripod mount for larger venues.

Next Generation Profiling Software

Ambient Light Measurement – automatically determine the optimum display luminance for comparing prints to your display, based on a measurement of the lighting conditions where prints will be viewed.

Ambient Light Smart Control – the intensity or amount of ambient light surrounding your workspace affects the way you perceive colors on your display. These solutions can compensate for this effect and provide the option to automatically adjust your profile or simply notify you as ambient light conditions change.

Flare Correct™ measures and adjusts your display profile for reduced contrast ratios caused by flare light (or glare) falling on surface of display. By accurately measuring your effective display contrast ratio, you’ll have an even more accurate display profile.

Intelligent Iterative Profiling, an adaptive technology that produces optimized results for maximum color accuracy on each unique display every time you profile.

Automatic Display Control (ADC) technology automates the adjustment of your display’s hardware (brightness/backlight, contrast, and color temperature) to speed up the profiling process and eliminate manual adjustments to ensure highest quality results.

Find out more about ColorMunki Display here.

Find out more about i1Display Pro here.

Read more in my color management ebooks.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

I discuss many of my primary passions in this new video from X-Rite.

Find out more at X-Rite.

Learn about the i1Photo Pro here.

View videos on X-Rite’s i1Photo Pro here.

Embedded in the i1Photo Pro program are no nonsense instructional videos that walk you through the software step by step.

i1Profiler Data Analysis allows you to look at and compare printer measurement data. This can be from two different printing devices, to see how closely they perform. Or from different sheets throughout a print run, or day to day, to determine if your device is running within standards.

Read more in my digital photography ebooks here.

View more in my color management DVD.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

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