Finding the Best Lighting for Color Calibration and Print Evaluation

Back in the day when I, Tom Hauenstein, was on the road teaching the principles of color management I was often asked, “What color temperature bulbs should I use for evaluating prints?” Another common question was, “What color temperature should I use when calibrating my monitor?”

The answers to these questions are actually related to each other, and the right answer to each is… whatever color temperature you prefer.

Color Temperature Reference ChartHowever, these two color temperatures – for both the monitor and the lighting you use for evaluating prints – need to be consistent. Start by determining which monitor color temperature is right for you.  The usual options range from 5000 K to 6500 K.

I find 5000 K to be a little too warm and 6500 K too cool, Goldilocks. Therefore, I feel that a color temperature of 5500 K is just right.  Most new calibration software allows you to calibrate your monitor to different white points. This makes it easy for you to test which color temperature is right for you.

The Test
Find a file that is a good evaluation image. The PDI target usually works and can be found on LexJet’s website at the following link: http://www.lexjet.com/LexJetWebProfiles/Epson%20Printers/Epson%202200/Driver/PDI%20Target.tif.

White BalanceCalibrate and profile the monitor to 5000 K. Open the evaluation image and examine it at this temperature. Pay attention to the gray build in the file and the flesh tones. Then, calibrate and profile the monitor for 6500 K and do the same thing.

Most likely you will prefer the look of one over the other. If you have two computers, then it is really nice because you can place them side by side. You can then calibrate and profile one to 5000 K and the other to 6500 K and not have to rely on your memory.

Then do a third calibration and profile halfway between these two at 5700 K and compare them to the other two. This will give you an idea which color temperature works best for you. I know this test takes quite a bit of time, but it is something you will have to do only once in your life. Once you decide which temperature is the best for your eyes, your job is done.

Light Bulbs
Now that you know which color temperature you like best for the monitor, the light bulbs are easy. You simply need to find bulbs with the same color temperature as your monitor.

You should evaluate prints in the same temperature as you color corrected them on-screen. This will eliminate a lot of the discrepancies between the print and the monitor. You can usually Google a certain color temperature and find a bulb that matches it.

Doing this should tighten up color management, and allow you to trust your soft proof.

Tom Hauenstein is a technical sales specialist for LexJet’s line of primers and coatings for HP Indigo presses, and brings his expertise in the printing process and color management to commercial and large-format printing customers across the U.S. Tom is also a member of the Technical Advisory Board for Sign & Digital Graphics magazine.

Transforming Trash into Art to Help Reduce Trash

No Es Basura Exhibition

For three months in the spring of 2012, from March 7 to June 6, Peter Gwillim Kreitler collected trash from 1,250 linear feet of Santa Monica Beach, California. This trash collection turned into a photography collection called No Es Basura, This is not Trash, now on display at the Bergamot Station Arts Center in Santa Monica.

No Es Basura ExhibitionIn the introduction to the collection, Kreitler explains: “Sixteen months later, John Reiff Williams, the gentleman who photographed our wedding in 1985, embraced the challenge and brought what was discarded, forgotten, or simply mundane into an object of art. The transformation is evident. And now our venture is intended to delight, inspire and motivate all of us to embrace our commitment to cleaner oceans and beaches.”

No Es Basura ExhibitionWilliams was an excellent choice, as his photography often blurs the lines, literally and figuratively, between the abstract and reality, perhaps best illustrated by his three signature photographic series – the La Jolla Beach Project, The Edge of Collapse Series from Mexico City and the Hollywood Boulevard Series – covered here at the LexJet Blog.

“Peter was going to do the project himself, and kept calling more for advice because he couldn’t get the results he wanted. He asked me to photograph the Arrowhead plastic water bottle, which was the first one in the series, and after that he said, ‘You have to photograph this whole show.’ He’s an old friend, so I couldn’t say no,” recalls Williams. “He had boxes and boxes of stuff, and finally brought the boxes over. After three or four boxes of that you scratch your head to remember what was in the first box, so I put the items in clear plastic. Even if I knew it was going to be a show I wasn’t thinking about continuity, but just the integrity of each object. These objects sat out for two or three days sometimes as I thought about them.”

Peter Gwillim KreitlerAs an example, the photo shown here of Kreitler standing next to the print of tangled fishing lures, hooks and bobbers at the exhibition was a matter of perspective. Williams imagined he was underwater, he was a fish, and this was his next meal.

“I tried to be honest with the photography, and asked myself: ‘Have I seen anything like this before,’ and, ‘Can I take this image any further?’ If you can’t amaze yourself, then you can’t amaze anyone else,” says Williams.

Williams estimates he took 5,000 photos of the debris and detritus that Kreitler collected at Santa Monica Beach and printed about 125 for the exhibition. Williams printed all the test prints, but was limited in scale by the size of his Epson 3880 inkjet printer. So, he called on master printer Roger Wong to print the gallery pieces, ranging from 16″ x 20″ to 40″ x 60″, on Hahnemuhle FineArt Baryta 325 g.

John Reiff Williams
The photographer, John Reiff Williams.

“Our profiles, printers, monitors and color-management systems were all matched, so Roger was basically able to print blind with just a few adjustments,” explains Williams. “Up until this point I had been printing on Hahnemuhle photo rag, so this was a big switch for me to go to a gloss paper, and the prints look great.”

To see the photographic collection, click here.

Walls to Windows: Creative Interior Imagery Makes a Perfect Match

 

Creative Interior Imagery
Creative Interior Imagery not only seamlessly carried the “tree” theme from walls to windows (from left to right), but perfectly matched the interior paint.

Creative Interior Imagery, based in West Pittson, Pa., merged interior décor and design with digital printing for a medical center that wanted something less conventional and more inviting for its patients.

Eric Marsico, a partner at Creative Interior Imagery with Keith Tomkins, recommended hundreds of feet of wall and window murals to carry the common “tree” theme recommended by the medical center’s architect throughout much of the facility.

“They were hesitant at first because they had used wall murals on other projects that didn’t hold up. We pitched LexJet Velvet WallPro SUV with ClearShield Wall Armor and found that the stuff is tough when partnered together. We beat it up in the shop to test it beforehand and it held up really well,” says Tomkins.

Atrium Decor PrintingFor the windowed nurses’ station Tomkins chose LexJet Simple Perforated Window Vinyl (70/30). The trick was to ensure a perfect match from walls to windows. Not only that, but Tomkins took great pains to match the interior paint as well.

“They painted their building with a specific paint color, so we went to the paint manufacturer’s website, pulled those paint numbers, and plugged them in to make sure we matched their paint. We got the RGB formulations, converted them to CMYK and incorporated those colors into the graphic. They were impressed with how closely our prints matched their paint colors. You can’t tell where the wallpaper ends and the paint starts,” says Tomkins.

Tomkins adds that to ensure a seamless transition along the walls through the windows and back onto the walls from panel to panel he took pictures of the empty spaces and manually lined everything up instead of using the tiling function in the RIP software.

Creative Interior Imagery
The combination of GigaPan photography printed on LexJet Velvet WallPro SUV with an Epson SureColor S30670 brings the tree theme to life in the main atrium.

In addition to the vector tree art that adorns the walls and windows, Creative Interior Imagery installed a gigantic photo of a tree Tomkins found and captured in a local park. Tomkins photographed the tree with his GigaPan camera so that fine details would be apparent in the final print, also on LexJet Velvet WallPro and protected with Wall Armor.

“They wanted the tree to go up the wall and across the ceiling so you felt like you were sitting underneath it. I took the shot going up the trunk and through the canopy. By the time it was done it was a 1.2-gigapixel image. It’s 11 feet off the ground, goes up 19 feet and across the ceiling 14 or 15 feet and is about 10-12 feet wide. The resolution is amazing. If you get right up to it you can see the texture in the bark; it’s just like you’re standing in front of the tree,” says Tomkins.

Tomkins adds that this is the company’s largest project to date and that the combination of the right materials and a precise color management system made it a successful project sure to bring similar projects through the doors in the future.

Creative Interior Imagery“We spend a lot of time working with profiling software. We have an i1 and custom-profile all of our media. There are manufacturing tolerances in everything – printer, ink and media – and when we do it in-house we can get it spot on, like we did with the paint colors, which shows how the profiling helps. That’s one of the things that sets us apart, and when you get into a major project like using different materials and matching décor and paint color management is a big issue,” explains Tomkins. “And, at nighttime when the inside is lit, you can see it from the highway and it looks fantastic.”

The project was printed on Creative Interior Imagery’s Epson SureColor S30670 low-solvent printer. To illustrate the tight color tolerances Creative Interior Imagery’s color management system can produce, Tomkins recently created a gigapan wall mural of New York City using 12 different inkjet media on four different printers (the S30670, and the Epson Stylus Pro 11880, 7900 and 4880).

“With this 2 1/2′ x 6′ mural in our showroom we can show people how their print will look on the different media and show off our color matching skills, because that’s difficult to do,” says Tomkins. “The architectural firm did a walk-through of the medical center with interior designers after we installed the murals, and person who was leading the group remarked that no one else could match the quality of the materials and workmanship, so we were feeling pretty smug about that.”

Free Webinar this Friday with Chris Orwig Explores Lightroom

Lightroom Webinar with Chris OrwigCalifornia-based photographer, author and educator Chris Orwig, who has a reputation for bringing practical experience, technical expertise and passion to the teaching he provides, will lead a free webinar hosted by X-Rite this Friday, April 11, starting at 1 p.m. ET.

Using his own images from start to finish, Chris will highlight how photographers can use an X-Rite ColorChecker Passport with Adobe Lightroom, to make better photographs. Attendees of this live webinar will also have the opportunity to ask Chris questions.

Here are some of the topics Chris will discuss:

  • Lightroom new features
  • Working with Catalogs and backing up your work
  • Creating custom profiles with the ColorChecker Passport
  • Organizing with the Library Module
  • Enhancing your photographs with Develop Module
  • Crafting expressive photographs
  • Lightroom workflow from start to finish

To register for the free 1 p.m. ET webinar on April 11, visit:

https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/357466666

The World’s Largest Photo Portfolio?

Stanley Smith Portfolio by The Image Collective
R. Mac Holbert, owner of The Image Collective in Ashland, Ore., turns the pages of the giant portfolio he built with professional photographer Stanley Smith, printed on Sunset Photo eSatin Paper. Smith’s images require this scale for accurate representation.

It may not be the world’s largest portfolio of photography, but it’s certainly one of the most unique portfolios we’ve run across, and it had to be that way. The work of veteran pro photographer Stanley Smith, who is also the Head of Collection Information and Access at The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, requires a grand presentation to accurately display his photography in print.

Stanley Smith Portfolio by The Image CollectiveThat’s why Smith approached R. Mac Holbert, owner of The Image Collective in Ashland, Ore., to produce a giant portfolio. Holbert is a pioneer in the art of photographic and fine art reproduction. A founder of Nash Editions, Holbert is one of the most trusted sources in the nation for accurate image interpretation.

“I was hired by the Getty years ago to do some color management consulting and met Stanley there, and I’ve maintained a friendship with him all these years. About six months ago he started talking about putting together a very large portfolio because his images really need scale, and he wanted to put enough images together in one portfolio that he could take around to various galleries in the Los Angeles area,” explains Holbert. “We settled on Presidents’ Day weekend for him to come up spend three or four days here putting it together. I had been given all his files a month prior to that weekend, and was able to do the optimization on all of them and print them before he arrived.”

Stanley Smith Portfolio by The Image CollectiveThe scale of the finished piece is truly immense: 35 42″ x 60″ prints bound in canvas for a total weight of 68 pounds. The most difficult aspect of the project, according to Holbert, was binding it.

“When he arrived we had 35 prints done and spent those three days putting them together in a portfolio, and that was quite difficult. We had to attach two pieces of three-inch fabric tape on the end of each print so it would be part of the hinge and get them all lined up perfectly,” recalls Holbert. “We used a couple of rosewood strips to bind it, and a canvas cover on top and back that covered up the spine area. We finished it about two hours before his plane left. It was an enjoyable time, but a lot of work.”

Smith adds: “It was three intense days at The Image Collective working with R. Mac Holbert to, finally, complete the production of my new portfolio, and all the prints expertly enhanced by Mac, who is absolutely the best person I’ve ever met at converting an artist’s vision into pixels. Then, the daunting task of binding the book together for a final product that is really beautiful.”

Stanley Smith Portfolio by The Image CollectiveHolbert used an Epson Stylus Pro 11880 and Sunset Photo eSatin Paper for the 42″ x 60″ prints. He was looking for a thicker, more durable paper that could withstand the repeated use of leafing through the giant portfolio. Moreover, says Holbert, he wanted to maximize the color gamut and Dmax of each print.

“We were very happy with the paper; it had the Dmax and color gamut we were looking for, which can be a problem. The eSatin was spectacular,” says Holbert.

In addition to scale, Smith’s work demands the right combination of printer, paper and the eye of a seasoned print reproduction specialist like Holbert. The images Smith creates are typically built from various images shot at one scene and merge them together.

“He’ll set up his tripod and take 40-50 shots, and blend certain aspects of each image into one scene. He’s essentially compacting time into one image,” explains Holbert.

The complex nature of the Smith’s images required Holbert’s expert eye, which goes beyond simply color management techniques.

“When you’re creating world-class prints, you’re dealing in the last 2 to 3 percent of perfection. You can remove 1 percent of Cyan from an image, for instance, and suddenly it comes alive,” says Holbert.

For sharpening an image, Holbert uses a Photoshop plug-in called PhotoKit Sharpener that he says allows extremely precise sharpening, as opposed to just low, medium and high. “Those are the kinds of tools I migrate to, because anything that can give me even a 1 percent edge will make a big difference.”

Step 3 in Color Management: Understanding ICC Profiles and Settings

In Step 1 of the color management to-do list we discussed how the quality of your monitor impacts the precision of your output. In Step 2 of 3 we focused on understanding how printer and media choices affect color. The final step includes learning about ICC profiles and settings as well as some tips and tricks for viewing the print.

How do we get our monitor, which uses RGB values to project your image, to translate to our printer, which uses CMYK values? How do profiles work? And why is following the settings LexJet provides with the profiles so crucial to the accuracy of your results?

Custom Color Profiling
Figure 1 shows the 1,728 patch printout used to make a custom profile.

When LexJet creates a profile, we cover a wide range of specific printer models and LexJet media choices so our customers do not have to go through the time-consuming process of making their own profiles for each product/printer combination.

A Profile is Born
We first start by choosing a media type in the driver or plug-in, depending on which printer the profile is for. This lays down a platform for the rest of the profile to be built upon. If you get this wrong when using the profile your results will show a big discrepancy from the monitor to your print.

We give you this media type and settings to use with every profile we make and each will vary by printer and material type.

The process uses a chart of 1,728 patches, which are printed to that specific media choice with those specific settings. Each color patch has a mathematical color value set by the International Color Consortium (see Figure 1).

The patches are then run through a spectrophotometer, which then measures the actual values of those colors with that ink and media combination. The software creates a correction curve for that media to reach the closest color in CMYK language that the printer can produce. A profile is born!

To find out how to download and install ICC Profiles, check out the following videos:

Download and Install ICC Profiles – PC

Download and Install ICC Profiles – Mac

Rendering Intent and Lighting
In the process of making profiles there are colors that are out of gamut since you are converting projected light values (RGB) to reflected light values (CMYK). The way the printer determines how to handle those colors is called a Rendering Intent. To read about the different rendering options and what they mean, visit our prior post: How to find the right rendering intent.

For the purposes of this article we’ll generalize by advising you to stick to just Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric. There is an overall theory that Perceptual is usually best for semi-matte, satin or glossy surfaces and Relative Colorimetric is best for matte surfaces. If you want to be specific to each image, use the soft proofing technique to see which looks best on that specific image.

Another point to be made here is that Perceptual tends to produce smoother gradations in color while Relative Colorimetric stays truer to the original color when rendering.

Now that you have your monitor correctly calibrated, you have an understanding of your printer and media you are using and you can comfortably say you are using the right profile, rendering intent and settings. We’re now ready to click print! So here are a few valuable pointers on viewing or presenting your print…

If you’ve come this far you are obviously concerned at the accuracy and quality of the print. How you display a print can be equally as important as all of the steps we just provided on the production side. Light temperature can add another wrench into the color management mix when viewing a print for accuracy.

The print will look different under a cooler light source (fluorescent) than a warmer light source (Tungsten). So, if you have calibrated for 5500 K on your monitor but are viewing it in a warmer light the colors on the print would look warmer than on your monitor.

Keeping lighting consistent will help you judge accuracy in fairness. In a perfect world your workspace would have daylight-balanced bulbs (5500 K) installed and you would block out any exterior light sources that would interfere with the temperature of the light around your work computer. Your monitor would be calibrated using the same daylight 5500 K setting.

It’s not often we find customers working under such tight constrictions but those that do are less likely to find discrepancies when comparing the soft proof to print.

This leads to the next question: “What if I don’t know what light my customer is displaying the final product under?” Well, that is subject that you can educate your customers about! Providing them with a document that underlines proper care of the print and proper lighting instructions will only back up the fact that you are their printing expert. That should be part of the reason they go to you and not the guy down the street.

Here’s an example of the lighting instructions you can provide your customer: Placing your print under daylight balanced bulbs with minimal varied light interference will give the audience the most accurate depiction of the original art/photo.