Step 2 in Color Management: Printer and Media Color Gamut

In Step 1 of the color management to-do list we discussed how the quality of your monitor impacts the precision of your output. Step 2 of 3 focuses on understanding how your printer and the inkjet media choices affect color.

Print accuracy doesn’t rely solely on your use of a custom profile and an accurate monitor, though these two components guide you toward the closest possible result. There are two additional variables that can have a big impact on the types of colors you can hit with any printer…

The first is the gamut of the printer. How an ink is formulated in order to print a Coca-Cola red or a Pepsi blue, for example, may differ slightly from technology to technology.

These days I field a lot of questions about choosing between an 8-color system and a 12-color system.  Or, should I use the 9-color or the 11-color printer? Is there a noticeable difference between them?

The answer is yes, there is a noticeable difference any time you add colors. However, the next question I usually follow up with is, “What are you using the printer to print?”

When considering printing technology, there are printers made for higher-speed production (HP Z5200, Canon S Series, Epson T Series, to name a few) that can print a sellable photographic image, but would not be the ideal to use for an artist, photographer or fine art reproduction house. These printers have fewer inks, which cuts down on gamut but improves on speed in most cases.

If you’re in the market for a printer, talk to a LexJet customer specialist and explain the market you are in. We will make sure that you are using the right equipment for the job.

If you are seeing a color that is in your photograph or art piece that you just can’t nail with your printer, it may be out of gamut for the printer or out of gamut for the media you chose to print to.

If you’ve calibrated the monitor, make sure your printer is running at 100 percent capacity, that you’ve soft-proofed the image with the chosen rendering intent, and used a specific printer profile to print. If it still doesn’t portray what’s on your screen, then either of the above mentioned may be at fault.

Now I just spit out a bunch of jargon that may be foreign to you, so click on the links to the tutorials here to find out more…

Download and install ICC Profiles:



How to Softproof before Printing using Photoshop:

How to print using ICC Profiles (find your printer and computer combination):

Color gamut difference between a gloss and matte photo paper.
Figure 1 shows the difference in gamut between a gloss and a matte paper in the high, mid and low range of color (top to bottom). The gloss paper is our Sunset Gloss Photo Paper (red line) and the matte our Premium Archival Matte Paper (green line) as profiled on the Canon IPF8400 with the X-Rite DTP70. Click on the image for a larger version.

You can’t do anything to increase the gamut of the printer, but you can make the right decision based on your needs at the time you purchase the equipment. Making sure you use the right equipment for the type of work you are doing will dramatically increase the quality of your print.

Our second extremely important variable to understand is the media with which you choose to print. The less reflective the media, the less light that reflects back into your eyes, and therefore, the lower the gamut and detail your print will realize (see Figure 1).

Artists have come to love matte watercolor papers and canvas, yet always demand the best color on those surfaces. This is where the owner or production manager at a fine art reproduction house runs into the biggest conflict.

The reflectivity of your media is not the only aspect of the printable supplies that affects color outcome.  White point can change your gamut as well. The brighter the white point, the more gamut you’ll pick up, not to mention an increase in that lovely term the experts like to use, Dmax, which is the darkest measurable value your printer-media combination can hit.

For canvas, Sunset Select Gloss Canvas has the highest dynamic range and color gamut of the canvas offerings LexJet produces. The highest-gamut matte canvas is our Sunset Select Matte Canvas, which has a very punchy white base. Partnering the Sunset Coating line with Sunset Select Matte Canvas has been a very popular choice amongst artists and photographers.

If you are trying to appease the artist crowd who prefer fine art papers, the highest-range matte paper is Sunset Fibre Matte (a very smooth bright-white fiber cellulose paper). If you need 100% cotton with a smooth finish, Sunset Hot Press Rag will be close behind.

If they would like texture on their cotton paper our latest addition to the line is Sunset Bright Velvet Rag.  This paper has the highest Dmax of our cotton line and prints very elegant-looking velvet-textured prints.

On the photographic side of media options, all of our bright white glossy and semi-glossy fibre-based papers put out a phenomenal range. They are all meant to emulate different versions of old-style air dried chemical bath papers that film photographers were used to exposing in the darkroom. These papers include Sunset Fibre Gloss, Sunset Fibre Elite and Sunset Fibre Satin.

Our newest paper in this category is Sunset Fibre Rag, which is 100% cotton and has a warm tone to the base. Even though it is warm in tone, the range is very large and the texture is very fitting to that style of paper.

For RC photo-based paper replicas, nothing tops the gamut of the Sunset Photo Gloss Paper. It reflects the most light, has a high-gloss wet-looking surface like one you would receive from a photo lab providing chemical-style glossy prints.

Also ever so popular for printers looking for a beautiful thick luster paper (e-surface) is our Sunset Photo eSatin Paper. This paper has a very cool white point and the surface is the most popular amongst the RC-emulating class of papers.

LexJet will provide you with the ICC profiles for every media above mentioned. If we do not list one here for your technology we will happily make one for you free of charge! Next time, we’ll tackle Step 3 in the color management to-do list: understanding ICC Profiles and settings. In the meantime, feel free to call us any time at 800-453-9538 with questions.

The Foundation of Spot-On Color Management: The Monitor

Computer Monitors for Color Management

Fine art reproducers, photographers and print shops spend thousands of dollars on capture (SLR cameras, lighting, flashes, lenses, scanners and so forth) as well as printing and finishing equipment to provide their customers with the best output possible.

Yet when it comes to touching up their images and analyzing the color on their monitor versus their printed image they find things aren’t exactly matching up. If you fall into this category and are trying to obtain the perfectly matched system between your monitor and your printer we begin with the most important piece in your color management triangle… the monitor.

To put everything into perspective, the fine people at Eizo provided us with their Flexscan EV2736W, a 27 inch LCD monitor, to compare how it measures up side by side with an everyday desktop monitor.

The Flexscan is an affordable, color-critical technology backed by a strong five-year warranty.

There is a series above Flexscan, the ColorEdge monitors, geared toward those who want and can afford the Ferrari of the monitor world. Still, the Flexscan monitors sure do bring a lot to the table in terms of gamut and definition. To see the specifications for all the Eizo monitors, click here.

To evaluate both monitors, we have calibrated them using the same restrictions (white point, CD squared, ambient light reading) using the ColorMunki by X-Rite.

Computer Monitors and Color Management
Figure 1: The green line shows the color gamut in the mid-range for the Eizo Flexscan monitor in comparison to a typical monitor (red line).

The screen captures illustrate the gamut comparison performed in Monaco’s Gamutworks software, which allows you to visibly see the gamut performance of each monitor side by side. The monitor represented by the red line is my everyday monitor. The monitor with the green line is the Eizo Flexscan.

The results of the comparison show that the Eizo conquers every aspect of the color range with a very small exception in the mid-range (see Figure 1). However, the Flexscan dominates on the low-end darker colors (see Figure 2), which equates to more detail shown in shadow areas. It also dominates at most mid- and high-range colors by offering more coverage in both.

Monitor Comparisons
Figure 2: Comparison between the Eizo monitor and a typical monitor in the low ranges.

Now that’s all scientific and physical proof that having a monitor like this can affect the amount of viewable color data in your file, but how does it relate to the naked eye side by side? This is where resolution and bit depth along with gamut come into play.

Higher resolution and bit depth both determine how accurate color transitions from one to another are displayed. Lower bit depth and lower resolution can result in choppy transitions and blurry pixel definition.

My everyday monitor is set to 1920×1080, while the Eizo can display 2560×1440. With the increase of gamut and resolution images are sharper, colors are more vibrant and, most importantly, they’re truer to the file information.

Your monitor is your viewing glass into the actual file. It is the starting point for everything you print. If you have problems with color management and getting prints to look like they do on-screen, having a capable monitor that is profiled properly is step 1 of 3 on your color management to-do list; it is the foundation to it all. If you do not have step 1 down pat, the outcome may leave you scratching your head.

For more information about Eizo monitors, including prices and specifications, click here, or call a LexJet customer specialist at 800-453-9538.

Wildlife Photographer Applauds LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic as ‘Best of Both Worlds’

We appreciate all of the feedback we get from customers who try different products. LexJet uses these insights to continually develop new and improved products.

For example, we recently received a nice note from Brian Hampton, the nature and wildlife photographer who was featured in Vol. 4, No. 1 of LexJet’s In Focus newsletter for a 5 x 8 ft. print he produced on LexJet Sunset Photo eSatin 300g paper for a special exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. (The print showcased Brian’s image of a lioness that was the grand-prize winner in the Nature’s Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards.)  In the note Brian tells us why he is so impressed with LexJet’s new Sunset Photo Metallic paper.