Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Color management - A marriage between your monitor and your printer

And 'huey PRO' is the priest!  :-)

If you do a lot of high quality photo printing at home, you're well aware that printer ink costs a small fortune.  Over the life of a printer, the cost of printer ink adds up to many times what you spent on the printer in the first place.  To replace all eight ink cartridges in my Canon Pro 9000 Mark II printer costs me $85 each time!  Yes, $85 each time!

So logic would follow that you want to get your photos out of your printer with the correct colors the first time so that you don't waste money re-printing photos that you've had to correct to get them to look right when printed.

Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it sounds.  I talk to people constantly who say to me, "My printer stinks....It never prints my pictures with the same colors as what I have on my screen".  Some of these people are using printers that cost $300 or more.  Trust me, the printers don't stink.

My answer to them is that 8 or 9 times out of 10, it's because the person is editing their photos on a computer monitor that isn't properly calibrated, or isn't calibrated at all.  They are then sending photos with dubious colors in them to a printer and expecting that their printed pictures come out "right".

The response I hear back is:  "I took my monitor out of the box from the factory, why isn't it calibrated properly from the factory"?  The answer is:  It just isn't.....and there are a variety of reasons why.

On top of not being calibrated properly from the factory, your perception of the colors on your monitor changes as the lighting changes is in your room throughout the day.  Sun pouring in the windows at one time, compact fluorescent or tungsten bulbs at night, etc.  Lighting is very dynamic.

So how does a person level the playing field when there's all this to consider to get proper colors?

Answer:  Calibrate your monitor so that you're displaying and editing colors based on a standard and accurate color calibration, and adjust the monitor throughout the day for changing light.

Sound hard?  It's not.  It's actually easy!  Simply purchase and install the huey PRO device from Pantone and away you go.  It really is that easy.  Go to the link above to see what Huey can do for you.

Once you install the software and plug in the device, it will step you through the process of calibrating your monitor.  It takes about five minutes.  Once done, the custom calibration is loaded automatically every time you boot up your computer.

What's even better is that you can set Huey to automatically monitor the light in your room and adjust the monitor settings based on what it's seeing throughout the day so that you're seeing accurate colors all the time.  Perfect!

After doing this with the initial version of Huey that came out years ago, my prints out of my printer are much closer to what I see on the screen because my monitor is displaying standardized colors and my printer is printing standardized colors.  No more was I saying, "'s still not right" and going back for another round of corrections and printing.  The prints I make after using Huey are very accurate.

Using Huey should get you much closer to your goals of accurate printing and I think you'll be pleased by using this device.  However, on top of using Huey to achieve proper monitor calibration there are other things that you can do to ensure even better color matching between your monitor and your printer.  You could inadvertently be doing some things wrong that you're not even aware of... 

Some of things to watch out for that could be causing color match problems from monitor to printer include the following:
  1. Make sure you're specifying the proper kind of paper that you're printing to in the printer dialog box for your printer.
  2. Make sure that you're having either Photoshop OR the printer managing color when you print, not both.  If you use them both to simultaneously manage color when printing then your colors will be far out of whack.  You have to explicitly turn one on and one off and then they should stay that way as your defaults.
  3. Make sure you're editing and printing in the same color space.
  4. Make sure that your printer head isn't clogged (it will be very obvious if it is).
  5. If possible, get a printer profile for the paper that you're printing to, and use it.  These can often be found on the paper manufacturer's web site.
My hints above are just the tip of the iceberg.  Sophisticated color management is the topic of many books and web sites, and I don't intend to echo those writings here.  Simply Google "printer color management" and you'll see many of the issues that people face and their solutions.

My point with this post is that there's a simple way to get much more accurate prints the first time without struggling, and that's to use huey PRO to calibrate your monitor.  If you have further issues after that then a little digging within Photoshop help, Google, and/or your printer manufacturer's web site should get you the rest of the way there.

I should note that there are significantly more sophisticated monitor calibration devices out there other than huey PRO, but they also cost a lot more.  My thought is that huey PRO is probably all that most advanced amateur photographers really need to get their color management and printing on track.

Enjoy making better prints!

1 comment:

  1. hi john. i previously used the original huey as well. very cost effective monitor management. i agree that there's no reason to spend more than 100 bucks on this if you're not a pro shooter.