Monitor Calibration & Profiles

File Type and Resolution

Files should be in the RGB space at a minimum of 150 ppi at final size.
We accept TIFF, JPEG, PSD, PDF, AI, and INDD files.

How and Why to Calibrate

What Display Calibration is:

There are four processes that come together into what we call “calibration.” First is hardware adjustments that adjust settings to get as close as possible to the proper white-point color temperature, black point densities, and contrast mapping. 

The second step is called “characterization.” This occurs through a system where software presents colors on screen, and a device measures that color and reports back to the software.  The software then calculates how far off the color was compared to what it should have been. These errors are mapped in the software for reference during the third step: the profiling phase.

A profile is a file that contains data such as the devices maximum limits for color saturation (gamut),  white point color balance and brightness, maximum black, etc. It also contains data representing the errors/inaccuracies of the display for colors, their various densities, and for contrast. This profile is used by color management software that might want to know what your display renders so it can compare to what an image file actually contains. 

The fourth step is the Look Up Table, or LUT for short. This LUT is much like the color profile created in step three, but it loads into your graphics card while your computer is booting so that the card can attempt to do the opposite of the displays errors, effectively cancelling them out.  To simplify it;  if your display is x amount too yellow, the card will remove that same amount of yellow to compensate.  

The system does not read every color your card and display can render, just a very small portion of very specific colors.  The remaining billions of colors are mathematically “guessed” by firmware or software.  This guessing leads to errors, but hopefully these errors are closer to accurate than no calibration at all.

 

Why Calibrate your Display?

First, let me say: there is no easy button to get the best quality print.  If  you are expecting display calibration and profiles to give you a short-cut to the best print, you have been misled.  Calibration puts things in a state of repeatable accuracy.  Soft-proofing profiles create a margin of predictability.

Profiling gets you the most predictable output, not necessarily the best output.  It’s not much different than using the “auto” mode on your camera. It makes things quick and easy, but as you grow as a photographic artist, you discover how that easy button limits your control and you eventually embrace the harder method of manual mode. Your goal becomes getting the best image capture, not the easiest. 

Monitor calibration is meant to make your display as honest as possible without introducing profile-related errors such as banding, into the file. An honest display is much like using better lenses: fewer errors to contaminate the resulting file.

No display is going to be 100% honest (accurate) even after calibration and profiling.  The display is your window to seeing what the file actually looks like, so if the hardware is lying to you, how can  you trust it to evaluate what the file actually looks like? 

The only way to see with 100% accuracy what a file will look like when printed on a specific paper using a specific device is to actually print it on said paper and device!  Artist Proofs are a long-standing tradition in fine-art print-making that allow the artists and their print-maker to see with complete clarity what the start of an edition will look like prior to investing resources into the full run. 

Any other method of previewing or proofing is a facsimile and is always open to errors. 

There are many variables that can adversely affect the honesty of your display.  This partial list includes the most common:

  • Hardware limitations – if it can’t produce a color, you can’t view it.
  • Software Limitations – there is plenty cheap/bad software out there – especially so-called “photo viewers” that come built-in with your computer’s operating system.
  • Proper settings used for calibration and profiling.
  • Display capabilities and working space mis-match. Again, if your display can’t render a color in your working space – it’s lying to you.
  • Changes in the condition of the hardware over time – aging, abuse, change of settings, etc.

There are things that affect your perception of color and density that have nothing to do with your display calibration such as:

  • Room lighting.
  • Sunlight spilling in.
  • Wall, blind/drape, and floor colors in the room.
  • What you just ate and how long since you ate.
  • Caffeine, artificial sweeteners, medications, etc.
  • What you are wearing.
  • Your mood.
  • Even the kind of music you listen to as this affects your mood.
  • The color temp and quality of the lighting you use to compare the print to the monitor.

 

So with all of this working against us, why even bother?  In our opinion it comes down to getting as honest a view as possible on the contents of your file so you are not adding inaccuracies as you make adjustments.

Think of it like this: If you are shooting arrows at a target that is not actually where your eyes tell you it is, you will never hit it.  Making adjustments based on an inaccurate monitor means your file will contain errors. 

It’s also our opinion that a file should first be optimized for the sake of the perfect file, then second, a copy of the file adjusted for print.  During an artist’s life-time any given file will likely be printed on a variety of media. One would like to assume that the paper you start an edition with is the paper it will be printed on in the future – but time and technology have a way of changing things when we least expect it. Then there is the human tendency to chase the latest shiny object that promises to wow us visually while increasing print sales. 

Having a file optimized for it’s own best characteristics better positions the artists to accommodate the inevitable unknowns without limiting the file’s potential by the corrections applied for how it was printed in the past.

We believe It’s better to go to a new copy of the master file and adjust accordingly, than to modify a file that was previously compensating for inaccuracies of a different device. 

 

Quality, time, and money.

You will get more of all three if your system is properly calibrated. You will need to start with your display system in a state of excellent calibration, and a set of our output profiles. These are available here:

Without great calibration, predictable results between your system and our calibrated printers will be very challenging. With proper calibration and the correct color management setup, you should see on your monitor, a reasonable approximation of our output from your file.

Begin with a calibration system in your studio.
Accuracy begins with the state of calibration of your computer, its monitor, and the neutrality of your viewing environment. An inaccurate or improper calibration of your monitor will yield inaccurate, inconsistent and unreliable results. We recommend the use of the X-Rite i1 Display Pro:

Monitors :

Think about buying the best display you can afford. Your monitor is your representative to the contents of your file. Higher gamut and accuracy in your display, combined with proper display calibration/profiling means greater predictability in your final product. Stick with a good name in displays such as Eizo, NEC or Barco and look at spending at least $500 for a good display. Technology is changing constantly so be sure to do your research in color management forums on the internet before buying. Shy away from used displays since the expected professional life span of the display is around 30 – 40 months. As displays age, their available colors (gamut) and their contrast-range can diminish below professionally acceptable levels.

And please: no mobile devices or tablets for critical color evaluation. They do not translate well for print.

Your Viewing Environment:

Daylight balanced illumination is a must. Bulbs that spec to 5000 Kelvin with a color rendering index (CRI) of 98 or better. Either florescent or tungsten bulbs can be used, but not just any daylight bulbs will do. For florescent, look into GE Chroma 50 and Solex for tungsten bulbs.

Your walls should be a neutral color, as should as much of the remaining environment as possible. It’s a great idea to wear neutral clothing. I know this sounds a bit much, but pro lab techs have known for years how clothing can affect your color perception.

Always, always check with your lab for the proper color space for your files.

You have probably heard Joe “The Guru Photographer” tell you to always do things such and such way, and maybe Jane “The Photoshop Queen” tells you something similar or totally different. Those two while knowledgeable, have always done it the way their labs tell them to, but they may be using different labs who then have differing criteria for workflow. It’s no wonder so many people are confused at what to do, then baffled when their prints don’t meet expectation.

Neither Jane, nor Joe knows what YOUR print-maker expects in the way of color space. Just like Joe and Jane, every lab has their own opinions of what is the “best” way to produce your work. There is nothing wrong with that, we are just different. Since there is no official standard, we all get to pick and choose. But sometimes, the equipment we use dictates the choice. Some labs insist on forcing their clients’ files through profiles. That means your files are being profiled without your permission and you may be completely unaware that it is even happening.

We want you to have a choice. While profiles can improve predictability, and consistency between multiple types of printing equipment, they always alter pixels values and can damage the integrity of a file by causing banding and other artifacts, so we leave it up to you to decide if you want to force your file through a profile.

So here are the working color spaces we recommend when working with us. These working spaces most closely match the output devices ability to create color, and thus yield greater predictability – i.e. a closer approximation to your calibrated display:

 GicleeLarge Format Photo or Metal PrintsMini-Prints and Proofs
Recommended Working Color SpaceAdobe 1998Adobe 1998 or sRGBsRGB
  • If Light Jet output is your goal, we suggest a working space of sRGB or Adobe 1998 and converting to our output profile.
  • If you are submitting for Giclee, we suggest Adobe 1998 and no profiles.
  • Our Fuji Frontier is designed to work in the sRGB space and should not need profiles. Acceptable results can be obtained using Adobe 1988 with some experimentation.

 

Install proofing profiles

Download and install our color output profiles:

With the .icc/.icm profiles downloaded and when required, un-zipped, moving them to the folders below will make them available to photoshop and other color management aware applications. Most applications see them right away, but some may require a restart before they are available.

Mac OS X: \Library\ColorSync\Profiles

Win 7, Vista & XP: \Windows\system32\spool\drivers\color ( or right-click on the .icc/.icm file and select “install profile” )

 

Soft-proofing settings:

If you are adjusting your file based on what you see on your monitor, it is critical that your display be properly calibrated and you use the correct soft-proof settings for how you will be submitting your file.

If you are sending in the working space (i.e.Adobe1998 or sRGB):

 

 

 

If you will be converting your file to our output profile prior to submission: ( edit>convert to profile)

 

Have a question?

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