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Colour calibration and ICC files


mbird

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Hi All

Right, I'm sure this one is going to get terribly technical and very messy, but here goes.

As I am spending more time tweaking and cropping pics (thanks to Lightroom being very quick to do the simple stuff), I am noticing more and more that what is shown on the screen is not what comes out of the printer. I also tend to order most of my prints and enlargements online from Photobox.com, and the results from them, whilst miles better than my own A4 inkjet, still are not as shown on the screen.

Now I realise that the way the colours are produced on the screen are completely different from those from a printer, and that there are different "colour spaces" whatever the hell they are! I also know of ICC files but do not know what the hell they do, or where you stick them on the PC.

Can some clever person give me an idiots guide :bow:bow (Paul, Bruce, consider yourselves being looked at hopefully.... :mrgreen: )

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Hi Mark. To get printed output that matches what you see on your screen you need to hardware profile your monitor, AND use a printing company that uses the same colour space as you (I'd suggest Adobe RGB) without applying automatic "improvements" (or do your own printing on a profiled printer).

I posted something on this a while ago at http://www.thenorfolkbroads.net/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=80&t=3707&p=39785&hilit=gretag#p39747 - I hope that helps to get you started. If not come back and I'll see if I can help. cheersbar

Bruce

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Hmmm

Right, I knw this would confuse me :) . When in Lightroom, a photo has been tweaked to where I am happy with it. If I go to the print module and print it to a file as a jpeg at 300ppi, with Adobe RGB colour profile, the resulting jpeg looks much different with regard to colour tone, particularly in the yellows. The only other progiles I have in there are sRGB or ProPhotoRGB. Which would be best to use then do you think? Also, should I be using perceptual or relative rendering intent (neither of which mean anything at all to me!)

Also, when selecting to print to my printer, there are only two options in there for the profile, managed by printer, or Epson IJ (which is the one that came with the printer anyway), so I would assume changing to either of these would have no discernable difference.

Sorry for all the questions, but I took a photo I was really happy with on Sunday am shown below. On the screen I thought it looked good, but when I printed to my Epson inkjet on photo paper the result was flat and dull. I sent it to Photobox for printing, and the result was much better, but still nowhere near as good as the screen image. I think this is partly because my screen is set up to suit my CAD for my day job, and only uses the default ICC profile that came with the driver, so there is no benchmark to work from, but there seem to be so many different options I don't really know where to start!

post-264-136713492054_thumb.jpg

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I think this is the most frustrating part of workflow.

I admit I had differences Mark but this was cured when I calibrated my monitor following Bruce's advice on the thread he listed above.

I was getting an on screen image I was happy with and sending for output only to be disappointed at the result. It became clear that whatever the on screen image if the screen was not calibrated then the output would clearly differ. Of course if your monitor is calibrated ignore the above but it could be one reason.

Bit of reading material, there may be something here that assists.

http://www.nikonians.org/html/resources ... ex-68.html

http://www.adobe.com/digitalimag/adobergb.html

http://www.computer-darkroom.com/lr_col ... colour.htm

http://livedocs.adobe.com/en_US/Lightro ... 8917D.html

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Thanks Perry

Reading through the link Brice put up, I noticed further down you had opted for the Spyder 2. I now think my biggest problem, as you rightly say, is my monitor not being calibrated. How are you getting on with the Spyder 2, would you recommend it? Warehouse Express have them at about £64 at the moment, whereas the Spyder 3 is more than double that.

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Mark, I've set out parts of your post below with my comments. You may need to get yourself a glass of something strong ... cheers

When in Lightroom, a photo has been tweaked to where I am happy with it. If I go to the print module and print it to a file as a jpeg at 300ppi, with Adobe RGB colour profile, the resulting jpeg looks much different with regard to colour tone, particularly in the yellows.

This is a bit tricky ... To produce an RGB JPEG, you don't need to go to the print module in Lightroom - you can stay in develop and go to "file/export". I suspect you may be doing that from the print module, because the same file menu option appears, which means the print module bit may be a red herring. However, if you were trying to create a JPEG through the print module the problem may be that Lightroom is exporting the file through the printer's colour profile.

However, if you have used file/export, the next question is what software you are using to view the exported image to reach the conclusion that it looks different, has different yellows etc. Presumably this is not Lightroom, because you would need to import the exported image back into the catalogue to view it in Lightroom,which would be a faff. However, I've just tried that, and it looks identical despite having exported with Adobe RGB from what was a Pro Photo RGB file. SO - I guess you're looking at it with another piece of software following export. If Photoshop, it should look pretty much the same as in Lightroom provided you have got Photoshop set up properly; if something like a Windows viewer programme, the colour will be all over the shop because it isn't colour managed software (as Lightroom and Photoshop are).

The only other profiles I have in there are sRGB or ProPhotoRGB. Which would be best to use then do you think?

sRGB for web or screen output - and for Photobox prints and some other commercial mass market printing (see below)

ProPhotoRGB for use in Lightroom and Photoshop

Adobe RGB to export files for most print usage (and for stock libraries etc.)

Also, should I be using perceptual or relative rendering intent (neither of which mean anything at all to me!)

Perceptual. Don't worry about why!

Also, when selecting to print to my printer, there are only two options in there for the profile, managed by printer, or Epson IJ (which is the one that came with the printer anyway), so I would assume changing to either of these would have no discernable difference.

Look on the Epson website to see if you can download a profile for for your specific printer for the paper you are using. Once that is installed, it should appear in your list of profiles available for printing. Basically, each printer and paper combination needs its own ICC profile. An ICC profile is a small piece of code which tells the computer how to manage colour and contrast when talking to a specific hardware device. So for example, a monitor ICC profile tells the computer that when outputting a signal to that specific monitor, it needs to make a set of adjustments to make the colour and contrast accurate on screen. That ICC profile, to be accurate, needs to be generated by a hardware calibrator - see my previous post on the old thread and the contributions on this one (a cheap one should be fine - as Perry says, they all do basically the same thing). A printer profile from the Epson website will make a reasonable stab at telling Lightroom or Photoshop how to output ink to that specific combination of paper and printer to produce accurate colour, but the problem is that each sample of a printer is slightly (sometimes radically) different - which is why the counsel of perfection is to have a profile custom made from your printer (you can buy printer calibrators, or some that do monitors and printers. I had mine made by a third party, since I only use a couple of papers and it was cheaper to outsource the profiling than buy a device.

Sorry for all the questions, but I took a photo I was really happy with on Sunday am shown below.

Great shot Mark - I love it., Really nice tonality as well, and an ideal image to show up colour calibration weaknesses!

On the screen I thought it looked good, but when I printed to my Epson inkjet on photo paper the result was flat and dull.

This is because either the monitor calibration or the printer/paper combo calibration, or almost certainly both, are up the chute! The first step is to calibrate your monitor. Until you do that you have no real idea what the image looks like in terms of colour or contrast, and later stages downstream of that will only make the problem worse. Calibrating the monitor won't have any adverse effect on your CAD system. You then need a reasonable printer profile, as mentioned above, and the out of the box generic one for the printer (i.e. not taking the type of paper into account) won't be good enough.

I sent it to Photobox for printing, and the result was much better, but still nowhere near as good as the screen image.

I've looked at the Photobox site, and the technical info is not easy to find. However, it is here: http://photobox-en.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/photobox_en.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=98&p_created=1127386411&p_sid=s1pZw6sj&p_accessibility=&p_redirect=&p_lva=&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPTEmcF9zb3J0X2J5PSZwX2dyaWRzb3J0PSZwX3Jvd19jbnQ9MTIyLDEyMiZwX3Byb2RzPSZwX2NhdHM9OTY4JnBfcHY9JnBfY3Y9MS45NjgmcF9wYWdlPTE*&p_li=&p_topview=1

As you can see, unusually Photobox say that you should send sRGB files rather than RGB. It also gives you a link to a profile to download for soft proofing. This is basically loading the images into Photoshop using that profile in an environment which replicates the way it will look when printed using that profile. I have used Photobox before, and have found that the images need to be brightened considerably to look right in the print. The problem with soft proofing is that you need to judge changes by eye, which can be a pain (and impossible without a calibrated monitor). I have set up a Photoshop action which applies a standard curve.

I prefer to use a printing company which reads the colour profile in the file rather than stripping it out, as Photobox does. Bear in mind that Photobox is a mass market printer, aimed at people who don't care about colour management, and want their prints, canvases, T-shirts and mugs to look bright and punchy straight out of the camera. But they are good value, and if you get the colour management right they give you a nice product. However, for serious work, big prints for the wall and clients, I would either print my own work or have LightJet prints made (I have always used these people following a recommendation from Joe Cornish, and having seen some prints they made for him - http://www.digitalab.co.uk/prints_digital_files.html).

With any third party printing, you need to check their website carefully to see exactly what you should be sending: resolution (some want 300, some 245 or something different); colour profiles (do they strip them out or use them, is it RGB or sRGB, do they have an unusual downloadable profile for soft proofing?); and with LightJets such as Digital Lab, with some sizes of print the laser can up-res the file losslessly, so you have some calculations to do for that (fantastic quality though).

I hope that helps. As I said in that old post - you did ask! cheersbar

Bruce

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Bruce,

As always, your knowledge, but more so your willingness to share that knowledge are amazing. Thank you for taking the time to explain things so thoroughly :bow:bow .

I have now purchased a Spyder 2 express and calibrated the monitor. To my surprise, the corrected screen image has much more vibrant colours. The main problem I have I think it with brightness, as the screen, being back-lit or course, shows the photos as being much brighter than the printed result. I have manually adjusted the brightness on my monitor so the photo of the cloisters above now looks similar on the screen to the printed version I received from Photobox. I'll try a few like that and see if the photos I receive are more like I expected (I did recalibrate the monitor after adjusting the brightness, but the way).

The software I am using to view the jpegs is generic Windows Photo Gallery that is part of Vista. I didn't realise the software used could actually affect the way the jpeg was displayed, I thought a jpeg was a jpeg and it would look the same in any software, but having reimported a jpeg back into Lightroom, I can now see how wrong I was. The version viewed from windows is markedly different in tone but also in clarity, looking almost blurred in some areas.

I will make sure I export to jpeg from the develop module in sRGB for Photobox and see how I get on, but I may also try sending one where you suggest just to have a bench mark comparison. Photobox are cheap and convenient (and quick) but if there is something I really do want to get just right, I am happy to pay a bit more for a better end result.

Again, many thanks for your time and effort, Bruce, I really do appreciate it. cheersbar

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Hi Bruce

Just as an update, Photobox have sent me the calibration print (shown below). I have then downloaded the jpg of this same print and opened it in Lightroom. There was a considerable difference, so I fiddled with the brightness and contrast until I was happy the screen image and hard copy were similar. The contrast had to reduce to 35%, with brightness at 70% (both were factory set to near 100%) in order to get the images the same, so it's no wonder my prints were rather dark!

I'll now run the monitor calibration again to get the colour balance right and I should be about there I reckon. No more disappointing prints!

Many thanks for your help, I think we've sorted it! :bow:bow:clap:dancecheersbar

post-264-136713492427_thumb.jpg

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See how you get on Mark, but the likelihood is that the re-calibration will put the monitor profile back to the way it should be (i.e correct), and you'll be chasing your tail. In any case, the monitor profile should not be adjusted to suit a printer profile - it's the other way round, so that you start with a correct monitor profile and then correct the images in your imaging software so that they look right.

I'd start with a correct monitor profile, load the downloaded image into Photoshop using sRGB (because that is what Photobox recommend for printing), then load their printer profile using soft proofing (see below), and see what changes you have to make to contrast and brightness (and possibly saturation and colour balance) to make the on-screen image look like the print (which you need to be looking at alongside the screen, but in fairly neutral light - i.e. not a tungsten bulb, for obvious reasons). Identify what steps you took (e.g contrast -35, brightness + 70) and set up an action, calling it Photobox. Then you can apply the action to each image that you want to send off to Photobox to automate everything in future.

Have a look at this article re soft proofing: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/soft-proofing.shtml

Lightroom unfortunately doesn't do soft proofing (yet), but once you have the approximate changes after the soft proof in Photoshop, you could set up a Lightroom preset to apply those changes - it's much easier for workflow to stay in LR if you can. if you haven't worked out presets yet, find out how to use them - they save a lot of time.

Bruce

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Golly,

I knew I would end up getting involved in this topic at some point. As you can see from all the posts...its a huge subject area and there is probably no one correct answer.

When I started to change my own colour profiles it ended up very messy indeed...largely because one component, somewhere in the whole process, didnt recognise I had profiled.

I became so frustrated with the whole concept of colour profiling, I decided the best way was to keep it simple. I use a superb Eizo monitor screen, which is key to the result because when I am making image adjustments I am comparing what I see on the PC...if its not right there, then every stage afterwards is not going to make it any better. Its calibrated using spider 2 and I have stuck with sRGB throughout the whole process. Its been a great starting point.

My photos are largely for weddings. So photobox, tescos and Jessops are out the window. I Use Dunns prophoto for all the finished album work as the quality is second to none, and you could also try Peak imaging, One Vision and Redwood (all can be tracked down on the web). Eventually you will find a combination that works well for you, however, you could spend the rest of your life trying to find it by tweaking every stage of the digital process.

Once you have found an acceptable combinaation...stick with it and forget about it...which allows you more time to go and take great pictures!!!

yours photographically

adam...

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I've obviously got involved in a huge subject here, which I'm afraid I still don't fully understand.

As being no more than a keen amateur, I think I have come across a bit of a compromise to keep things simple (sorry Bruce, you're gonns hate this :lol: )

1. Ordered a calibration print from Photobox.

2. Adjusted my screen brightness and contrast to try to match as closely as possible the screen verions of the calibration print with the hard copy.

3. Run the Spyder2 Calibration software to get the colours right.

Doing the above sequence, I am now seeing on the screen what I am received as hard copy. My biggest problem wasn't with colour tint or anything like that, it was just that the photos were so much darker than the images on screen. The Spyder2 software says that you should reset the contrast and brightness to factory default, but on my monitor default is 90% for both brightness and contrast, so it's no wonder the prints looked darker than the screen images! The Spyder2 software doesn't seem to adjust the brightness at all, just the colour temp, so I think I will just try a few test shots and then get them printed and see what happens!

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