Fine Art Printing For Photographers And Other Artists
2263 Fifth St. Berkeley, CA 94710 (510) 649-8111 or (888) 649-8111 toll-free Hours 9-6 weekdays See Contact Us link for map
As one gets more serious about achieving great color in digital printing, the need for profiling devices such as monitors and printers becomes more apparent. The monitor is the first step. If you can’t see what you want your print to look like, you’ll be shooting in the dark when you try to print it. Assuming you have calibrated your monitor and produced a file that looks as close as monitor proofing can be to how you want the print, the next step involves having a good profile of the printer/ink and paper combination.
If we are doing printing for you, you can download our printer profiles for use in soft proofing your pictures in Photoshop before sending them to us. And if you are doing your own printing, we now offer custom profiling services to provide you with good color profiles to use in your own printing.
Making a printer profile
The best printer profiles are a measurement of three elements-a specific printer, the ink and the paper of choice. Paper manufacturers sometimes provide generic profiles, made on a variety of brands and models. Like anything else of a generic nature, some may be better than others. Modern printers at the professional level have very tight tolerances and a profile made on one may work well on another machine of the same model. Home and office printers are not made to such high tolerances and profiles made one one may not be very good used on another. The best profiles come from targets printed on your machine. Likewise, a profile made on one white paper might be usable with another paper, but is not likely to provide optimum quality. Chances are, if you are reading this page, it’s because you want the best quality prints you can produce. After all, didn’t you spend thousands of dollars on cameras, lenses and printers? Not having profiles for your own printer and papers would be like taking all that high priced equipment and sending your film or digital files out for drugstore prints...
What does a profile actually do? A printer, like monitors or any other device that displays color, has its own built in biases. If I want to print a particular shade of gray and my printer produces a slightly pink result from a neutral gray pixel, correcting that is the provenance of printer profiling. The pixel sent to the printer will have to tinted slightly to counter the pinkish tendency of the printer.
To make a profile, you print a target; ours consist of two sheets of paper printed with 1728 small squares, or patches, of color. The profiling software knows what the colors should be and measures what they actually are from the printer. This information is then used to produce something known as a color look-up table, or CLUT, that describes the behavior of the printer with its ink on a specific paper. That CLUT is used to produce a profile by interpolating the results of the 1728 patches to encompass all the range of color the printer can reproduce. This profile is then used at the printing stage to convert your picture file’s colored pixels to what they need to be to compensate for the printer’s biases and the result is a print that is as close to what the monitor showed you as the printer/ink/paper combo is capable of. All this takes place behind the scenes, once you go to print and choose the appropriate profile.
For us to make your profile, you must print the two target pages. These can be downloaded from our Downloads page, linked to on the left. Be sure to also download the Profile Instructions file, which will detail how to properly open and print the files, how to use them when printing and how to use them in soft proofing within Photoshop.
Important! Recent versions of Photoshop have made it more difficult to print profile targets properly using Epson printers. Please read the information on Adobe's site regarding a workaround for this problem.
Soft proofing, while not 100% accurate, is a closer way to determine how the printed image will look on a given paper because it makes use of the printing characteristics determined in the profiling of your materials. Since monitors are capable of displaying saturation levels higher than printers can typically achieve, it’s important to see if any part of your image falls out of the gamut of your printer and that is what soft proofing is for.
When dealing with highly saturated colors, consider alternating between Perceptual and Relative Colorimetric as the Rendering Intent in the printing software, or while soft proofing.
Profiling costs and discount bundles are detailed on the Prices page.