Looking for color control? (A simple introduction to monitor calibration)

Color management, easily explained, is control over RGB values in different environments.

Counter the common perception, an RGB value of R:210 G:0 B:0 as an example, is not a specific color, but an RGB percentage of the color space you’ve chosen to work in.Color management usually starts with a calibrated monitor, the irony of this is that by then, you are often halfway through the production process.Color management is more than just to control color, it is to exploit the potential of your equipment.

In order to certify up to the industry standard it is necessary to have a monitor calibrator, such as the X-Rite i1Publish Pro 2, i1Display Pro, ColorMunki Photo or the new ColorMunki Smile.

Ok, so what does it mean that any given RGB value isn’t a specific color?

Well, if you have a look at the below picture you see four red squares. Depending on your monitor you should be able to see that these red squares are of slightly different reds, but they all have the same RGB values, R:210 G:0 B:0. If you don’t see too much of a difference try looking at your monitor from different angles.

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So, the colors you see on you monitor depends on to factors; the color space you’re editing your images in and the color space of your monitor.

The color space of which you edit you images in you get to set yourself, the color space of your monitor however, is fixed. Most monitors such as an iMac, Laptops and cheap monitors can only display the sRGB color space or slightly more, and this is exactly why it’s important to invest in a high quality monitor such as an Eizo CG series or a NEC Reference which can display almost the full Adobe RGB color space.


When calibrating your monitor, what are you actually doing?

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Your monitor is not accurate. It receives RGB values from you computer and displays them. If you are sending an RGB value of, lets say R:210 G:0 B:0 you know its red but how red it is depends on the working color space and how accurate your monitor is. So, if your sending an RGB value of R:210 G:0 B:0 but your monitor is showing this as R:200 G:0 B:0 you’re seeing your images with other colors than what actually exists.

When calibrating your monitor using a hardware calibrator such as the X-Rite ones mentioned in the into of this article, you’re actually measuring your monitors ability to display colors accurately, by displaying patches of colors that the calibrator records and then compares to the actual RGB values sent to the monitor. Based on this info the calibrators software creates an ICC profile which in the future will compensate for the monitors inability to show correct colors. Extremely easy explained, if your monitor shows the Red value of 210 as 200, then the ICC profile will “send” the red as 220, which then will equal to 210.


What are you calibrating for?

Before you start the calibration process ask yourself; Where do I want to display my images?? Depending on whether you want your images to shine on the web or on a printed media, there are guidelines to take into account. Before we go on, please let me say; there is no way you can make sure your images will look exactly the same on your own monitor and all monitors out there. To many factors plays a part, factors you can’t control. All you can do is make sure your monitors are accurate compared to the files your computer displays.

The settings Im about to give you, are noting more than a recommendation from where you can start from.

If you have a calibrated monitor, you should always take advantages of the dedicated software for that specific monitor. Ie. ColorNavigator for Eizo.

Luminance = 80 – 120 cd/m^2 (This setting defines the lightness of your monitor, and I would recommend you start with setting it to 120cd/m2)

Whitepoint = D65/6500 kelvin. (This is the color tint of white)

Gamma = 2.2 (This defines how dark grades over to light)

These settings will give you a good starting point for your first print. If your work is only displayed on the web then maybe you should consider upping your luminance to 140, or even 160cd/m2. Personally I keep it at 120.

Some calibrator softwares such as the i1Profiler from X-Rite gives you the ability to also specify the contrast ratio of your monitor. Even though most modern monitors can display a contrast ratio of as high as 800:1 and even higher, this is no good if your calibrating your  monitor for print work. A good printer such as the Canon Pixma Pro-1 or the Canon IPF8400 in combination with a high quality glossy paper can only produce a print with a contrast of as high as maybe 350:1. Based on this my recommendation is that you set your contrast to somewhere around 300:1 when calibrating for print work.

And by the way, if your looking for high-end print paper, take a look at my previous post here.

Even though you cant make sure all your prints look perfect in any given light source, or on all the millions of millions of monitors out there, you can make sure that what you see on your monitor is what actually exists in your computer file/image. If you do not already own a calibrator I would suggest you get one. Monitor calibration should be done at least every 200 hours of use/monitor up time. All X-Rite softwares will let you set a reminder for when its time for a recalibration.

Which calibrator is right for you??

If you don’t care about options and rules and technical stuff, then you should get the ColorMunki Smile. This nice little unit will do it all for you, no questions asked.

If you want options, being able to control luminance, whitepoint and contrast then you should get the i1Display Pro. This little piece of hardware is probably the best value for money available when it comes to monitor calibration. It also calibrates your projector if you own one and uses the i1Profiles, the same software as the  i1Publish Pro 2the most advanced solution X-Rite offers. You should get this if in addition to calibrating your monitor you would also like to be able to create custom paper profiles for print. This badboy (it’s really nice actially) calibrates all there is to calibrate. A more advanced review on this hardware to come at a later time.

Enjoy your accurate colors and feel free to ask me questions if you should have any.


Disclaimer: ISO 3664; Someone is bound to ask me why I do not recommend to calibrate to the iso 3664 standard. This is for printshops and advanced commercial printing. And does not fit that of the way any amateur and 99.9% of professional photographers display their images.

Follow-up queations from my latest webinar with X-Rite

On Thursday, December 13’th, I did a webinar with X-Rite about novice colormanagement and how to print with control.

Here are a few of the follow-up questions we received after the webinar:

Q: I’ve bought colormonkey photo and created a profile for my Canon Pixma 5150 and GP-501 paper. Unfortunatly, even if I calibrated my screen and created the paper, I still have color shifts. Any suggestion ?

A: Even though the Colormunki is a great tool for calibrating your monitor and printer there are a few limitations. I feel bound to inform you that the Canon Pixma 5150, is not really a photo printer you can expect to deliver the same results as of a dedicated photo printer such as the Pixma Pro-1. With a limited ink set, you will not get the same gamut and some colore might not be possible to produce. Try different types of paper, such as the Canon Pro Platinum and see what results that would give you.

Q: Is the Colormunki Photo less accurate than the devices that can be used with the i1Profiler software?

A: The hardware it self is extremely accurate, but there are limitations to the software that comes with the Colormunki Photo, i.e. less color patches and control over the profile building with more. If your serious about creating paper profiles, then you should consider hardware such as the i1Basic 2, i1Photo 2 or i1Publish.

Q: When calibrating our monitor using the i1Profiler software, should we use automatic display control for all monitors?

A: You can use automatic display control with most Apple monitors, iMacs and Macbook’s.
Some dedicated desktop monitors also support this feature. In any case, set it to “on” and if its not supported by your monitor you’ll be notified, and will have to adjust brightness, contrast and white balance manually.

Make sure that if you own a Hardware calibrated monitor such as the Eizo CG series or NEC Spectraview, you should use the dedicated software that came with your monitor.

Q: Hi do you have to set your monitor back to the original setting [ mac cinama ] before you start to profile ???

A: No you do not. Apple displays do not have the option to change anything other than the brightness. This will be adjusted correctly once the calibration process starts.
If you own a “PC” monitor with the option of changing brightness, contrast etc, then I would advice you to go into the menu of your monitor and reset it to its factory default setting.

Q: In Martin Evenings LightRoom 4 book print resolution is (by Jeff Schewe) recommended to upsample to 360 if native is less than this and otherwise upsample to 720 if 360 < native < 720 – and lieave it if native > 720. Do You agree on this ??

A: Yes I do. As long as you’re printing on an Epson Printer.
If you own a Canon printer there are other number to consider: 300, 600 & 1200.

Q: Is the Icc profile the same for PCs & Mac?

A: When creating a custom print profile, it will work on both PC and Mac.

Q: is there a difference in profiling a monitor for b/w image processing vs color?

A: When calibrating your monitor, all RGB values are “corrected”. If your are to show a grey of 128, 128, 128 and your monitor shows 134, 128, 128, this will be corrected.
So no, there is no difference in calibrating your monitor for B/W work vs Color.
(PS: most monitors today are 8 bit, which gives you 256 levels of gray from white to black. Still, some high-end monitors can offer 10 bit, which will give you 1024 levels of gray.)

Q: Please repeat what you were saying about plastic paper.

A: What I was saying was that there are several kinds of paper, and that more photographers should try 3’rd party papers such as Canson-Infinity, which offers “real” paper, with greater dMax and bigger gamut. Even though its the coating that comes in contact with the inc, the paper itself sets the feeling you want for your print.

If you attendet the webinar and still have unanswered questions, by all means feel free to contact me. Actually, that goes even for those of you who didnt attend the webinar:)


Canson Infinity, she’s French and fooled me into love again…

Whenever you hear talk about print quality, its almost always related to the printer and the image itself. Well, high quality printing absolutely has a lot to do with the printer in use, and whether the image file is of good quality, but what is at least as important is the media your printing to. The characteristics of the paper can help you set the right feeling you want for your image. The paper also has a color gamut to relate to, and in most cases the bigger the better(more on this later).

Through out my photographic carrier, I’ve used several different kinds of printers and I’ve been in close contact with the three major brands, HP, Epson and Canon (My current line of printers are the Pixma Pro-1 and the iPF 8400, both from Canon, I also have access to the iPF 6450 and 9400). In the beginning I mostly used paper made by the printer manufacturer of the current printer I was using + a lot of Ilford paper. Most of the prints I made was on coated plastic “paper” and it really didn’t matter too much if I used Ilford or any other media. In the end it all looked the same, and that’s not too far from the truth! Since then Ilford introduced their Gold Fibre Slik, and we started to see a great improvement in our prints. I was happy with this paper for quite some time, but moved on to Harman by Hahnemuehle’s Baryta paper, a paper I liked quite a lot.

But then, almost a year ago, I was introduced to Canson by Christian Moen, Canson’s Norwegian representative. He gave me a pack of 25 cut sheets of their Baryta paper which I tested and was quite happy with. Then what happened was that I was about to sell 10 BW prints in the size 40x50cm (15,7″x19,6″), and since I was all out of the paper I was used to and trusted I decided to give Canson a chance and went with this new(to me anyways) baryta paper of theirs. My client was really happy and of course so was I. This was the first time I got my eyes up for Canson, and pretty much the beginning of a new and great collaboration between Canson, Christian Moen and myself.

A few weeks ago Christian came to my studio bearing gifts. (Read that post here)


This has given me the opportunity to do more than just print a couple of images and make a comment based on my personal opinion. The paper I was given has been tested extensively both visually and measured by a high-end device, a i1Publish Pro 2 by X-Rite. So far I have only had the time to test a few of the papers and I started with the following papers:

They are all great papers but the two who has surprised and impressed me the most are the Baryta and the Rag Photographique.

Let me start by talking briefly about the Rag Photographique. A paper available in both 210 gsm and 310 gsm. I’ve only tested the 210 gsm paper, and the only negative note I have is that I wish I’ve had the time to test the 310 gsm one too. Canson describe this paper like this:

Rag Photographique is a 100% cotton museum grade white Fine Art and photo paper. The exceptional smooth white tone is achieved during manufacturing by introducing natural minerals to the process. It has been developed to address the need for continued longevity requirements in the Digital Fine Art market. Rag Photographique offers a unique extra smooth surface with a sensual feel. It also provides one of the highest achievable Dmax currently available on the market, making it ideal for fine art photography as well as fine art printmaking.

Product Features & Benefits

• 100% Rag
• Compatible with pigmented and dye inks
• Dries instantly
• Water resistant
• No Optical Brightening Agents to ensure consistency of shades for generations
• Designed to meet galleries and museum longevity requirement sand respect the ISO 9706 standard:
– Internally buffered to resist gas fading and maximise the conservation of your prints
– Acid Free certified to avoid paper degradation

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This paper is probably one of the best matte papers I’ver printed on. Its smooth and holds the ink in an amazing way.

Ok, ok, over to what Ive been dying to tell you all about; Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique 310 gsm. Holy smokes what a paper!!! Please let me start by saying; this is THE paper on the market! This is the most awesome paper I’ve ever printet on… Did I say ever???

The tonality is remarkable, a Dmax of almost 2,7(on a Canon printer!) is nothing short of incredible. The texture of the paper is, well its there but not too much. Its not as glossy as Harman’s Baryta, and not as white (NO OBA!!). Compared to Hahnemuhle’s Baryta it’s more neutral, not as bright and not as glossy. The texture is smoother then the one on Hahnemuhles. Hahnemuhles also looks to have a little magenta cast in its paper, this again makes Canson look a bit greenish when compared side by side. Well, its not. No green cast what so ever says my spectrophotometer! This is really not a technical paper on paper (!) so all I can say is try it, you’ll love it!

Canson describe this awesome paper like this:

Baryta Photographique is a true Baryta paper developed for inkjet technology. It consists of an alpha-cellulose, acid-free pure white paper with the same barium sulphate coating as for traditional silver halide and a premium inkjet colour receiver layer. Baryta Photographique offers the look and aesthetic of the original darkroom baryta print and complies with the ISO 9706 standard for maximum longevity.
This museum grade photo paper shows excellent black density and great image sharpness, making it ideal for black and white photography.

Product Features and Benefits
• Optimised for pigmented inks
• Dries instantly
• Water-resistant
• Respects the ISO 9706 standard to guarantee maximum conservation of your prints:
– Internally buffered to resist gas fading and maximise the conservation of your prints
– Acid-free paper to avoid paper degradation.

Baryta 2296

Just in case you didn’t get it the first time; this is the most superb media ever!

After switching to Canon printers I’ve grown more fond of printing on matt media as well. The hassle of having to switch to matt black and throwing money out the window is gone, this and the fact that I’ve found a matt paper I really really like is like having found love all over again. This as you now understand was not a technical paper, but an article straight from the heart! (A technical paper will follow, where I also will include info on a third paper that have caught my eye, but which I haven’t had time to test thoroughly enough yet; Canson Platine Fibre Rag!)

Canson History:

Canson Infinity papers are manufactured by the world’s leading Fine Art Paper Mills, Canson and Arches, located in France. Canson was founded in 1557 and its illustrious history includes the prestigious appointment to Manufacture Royale in 1784 by Louis XVI and the invention of the Hot Air Balloon, made with Canson paper in 1782.
Canson is at the origin of many other inventions such as tracing paper, pulp dyes paper, fine textured vellum paper, nanking paper, and paper making techniques such as the continuous paper machine, paper sizing directly in the tank…
In 1865, Canson was granted a patent for a system that simplified the photo printing process and improved the quality of black tones whilst making it less expensive. This invention was rewarded at the International Photography Exhibition of 1892.

97 years later, back in 1989, began on an Arches watercolour paper at Nash Editions in Los Angeles. These pioneers of digital print reproduction selected this quality, as the world’s most celebrated artists had done for five hundred years before them.

The Arches Mill was founded in 1492 and through the years, the history of Arches has been closely linked to the history of France. Many literary milestones and works of art have been entrusted to Arches’ exquisite papers, such as Beaumarchais’ “The Complete Works of Voltaire” and Napoleon’s “The Description of Egypt”.

The unique qualities of these two premier paper mills and their products have been embraced by artists such as Picasso, Chagal, Warhol, Ingres, Miro and Alechinsky.They remain the standard for today’s artists.

Yeah, its not like they started last year…!

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