Color management is basically a system whereby you try to match the color between your various devices. The bottom line for me is that I want what comes out of my printer to match what I see on my monitor – or darn near close to it. For the most part, it does. However, I find when printing on certain fabrics I adjust settings too many times which results in wasted ink and fabric. Thus, I’ve been considering buying some tools to calibrate my various monitors and printers to work in harmony. However, with equipment for profiling a monitor and printer is expensive and can run a couple thousand dollars.
When at Photoshop World in Orlando this past March, I saw information about a new product that was being shown on the tech floor — ColorMunki. This single product profiles a monitor, printer, and projector, and for about $500. Big difference in price! There are two versions — the photo version and the designer version. I’m told they are the same, except they are being marketed to different audiences. I was prepared to buy the designer version, but only the photographer version was available for purchase at the show, and I wanted it then and purchased it.
The main ingredients of Colormunki are a spectrophotometer and profiling software. A spectrometer measures bandwidths of visible light. And while you can look at your monitor and print and make adjustments based on how you see the color, a spectrophotometer does it with complete accuracy. The profiling software takes the measurements from the spectrophotometer and create a unique profile for the device your are profiling.
Heres the Colormunki spectrophotometer.
After the software is loaded and launched, you select what you want to profile. The software then walks you through the various steps — very user friendly.
I started by calibrating my monitor. The software instructs you to place the spectrophotometer within a designated area directly on your monitor . The device comes with a weighted bag that drapes over the back of the monitor so that the device stays in place. As the calibration is taking place, various color fills the screen as the device takes its measurements. My job was to basically sit and watch. When it’s finished, it creates a profile of the monitor.I’m using Macintosh equipment, and I’m happy to say that the Colorsync color management that is part of the Mac OS was extremely close to the profile created by the spectrophotometer.
Next I wanted to create a color profile for a particular silk I print on. The software instructed me to first print a color test pattern onto the media – in my case the silk.
After the print is made, I use the same spectrophotometer to slowly read each vertical strip of colors.
When the colors are read into the software, a vertical gold box instructs you to move over and scan the next vertical strip of colors. It did take me a few times to learn how to get the spectrophotometer exactly placed. But the system is very patient and will not move the gold box until the complete scan of the row is read.
After it is finished, the software instructs you to print a second set of colors, and the process is completed. This is where you’ll see a difference in color, depending on the media you’re profiling. After those colors are read in, a profile for that particular media (in my case the silk) with the printer it was printed with in my case an Epson) is created. Then, the next time when printing on that fabric, I use the profile it created.
When printing, regardless if you use a profile installed on your computer or one that you create, it is important not to double profile!
If I want to work with the specific profile I created to use with silk, I need to turn off the color management within the print driver. Otherwise I will be using two profiles — the one I created and the one the printer driver provides. Using two profiles is known as “double-profiilng,” and the vast majority of times will create a print with a heavy magenta cast.
To use a profile you created or one installed within your image editing software such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements), do the following:
- After selecting File>Print, within the print dialog box next to Color Handling, select “Photoshop Manges Colors”
- In the printer profile drop down list, select the profile you want to use.
- After you send the print command and your printer dialog box opens, select Color Management from the drop down menu and turn off the color management. The reason to turn it off is because Photoshop is managing the colors rather than the printer driver.
- In the drop-down menu, select Print Setting. I use the matte paper setting when printing on fabric
- Then print.
Using Epson’s printer driver color management
I have also found that the profiles included with Epson print driver work very well. In that case, turn off the color management when in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. To do so, reverse the instructions:
- After selecting File>Print, within the print dialog box next to Color Handling, select “printer manages color.”
- After you send the print command and your printer dialog box opens, select Color Management from the drop down menu and turn on color management. I use the Color Controls setting, which is Epson’s. The reason to turn it on is because you told Photoshop to allow the printer to manage the colors. Next to Mode, I use Adobe RGB (which is the color space I work in within Photoshop. You can also select the Advanced Setting and tweak colors, but I don’t use this as I get better results tweaking color directly within Photoshop.
- In the drop-down menu, select the Print Settings. Next to Media Type, I select Matte paper when printing on fabric. Note that there is a “high speed” printing option. High speed simply means that the printer prints in both directions rather than just one. IF you find that you have any type of smudging, turn off the high speed printing. For the most part, I leave it on.
- Then print.
In my book “Digital Essentials,” coming this fall from Electric Quilt, I have a chapter on color management. While I mention Colormunki and some other systems available for purchase, I do not go into any detail. Instead, the chapter focuses on how to use the tools that come with your computer and image editing software.
In other words, not everyone can afford a spectrophotometer – even the $500 model. Even so, you still can get very good color matching using software tools. Prior to buying this system, all of the digital prints I’ve made were done using the built-in Colorsync management that comes with the and using the Epson print driver to manage colors.