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Trade Tricks: Color Harmony

The path to getting a better print starts with a color-managed workflow. Calibrating your monitor is an important first step, but for the ultimate in control, you’ll also want to create ICC profiles for your printer.

An ICC profile is a small data file that tells devices how to interpret each other’s data. Since no two devices (i.e., your monitor and printer) “see” colors in exactly the same way, a translator is needed to help them speak the same language. That’s what an ICC profile does, ensuring that the colors you see on your monitor will be faithfully reproduced in your prints. It might sound complicated, but in practice, calibration hardware and software make it an easy process.

The Path To Color Fidelity

The first step to a better print is calibrating your monitor to get the most accurate depiction of your photo on your computer’s screen. That’s important because you want to see the image accurately before you make adjustments. Tweaking an image on an uncalibrated monitor can cause you to make wrong or unnecessary adjustments, and that can lead to the degradation of your image file.

Calibrating your monitor starts with a colorimeter, a small device that attaches to your monitor and measures wavelengths of light generated by the calibration software. These measurements are used by the software to help you adjust your screen for true output.

The next step is to profile your printer. Profiling a printer also uses a colorimeter (or spectrophotometer) to read printed targets of various colors.

X-Rite offers the EZcolor with the i1Display 2 Bundle, which lets you profile multiple devices, including your monitor, scanner and printer. The bundle comes with EZcolor software that creates ICC profiles for your printer through a process of reading a target sheet through your scanner. After calibrating your system, EZcolor software allows you to “soft-proof,” or view your images on screen before you print. The bundle is simple to set up and offers a software wizard to walk you through the process. List Price: $498.

Datacolor’s iteration of monitor calibration and printer profiling is called Spyder3Studio. The bundle includes a colorimeter, software for printing and monitor calibration, and a spectrocolorimeter to read the included color calibration target to create custom profiles for your printer. List Price: $599.

Calibrating for better prints is easy, and the small investment in time will save you much more time (and paper and inks) in the long run.


Datacolor | (800) 554-8688
X-Rite | (800) 248-9748

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