Tuning Printer Profiles to Specific Display Conditions

The issue of adjusting images for a specific viewing condition came up recently, and I promised to put together a short article on the tools available in SpyderPrint, from Datacolor, to make such adjustments as simple as possible. Lets assume you have already built a custom SpyderPrint profile for your printer, inks, and paper of choice. Now you just want your images to look the same in your display location, as they do in your own studio. Here’s how to make that happen:

Begin by opening SpyderPrint, and choosing the option to Select an Existing Measurement File, instead of Printing and Measuring a Target.

The Select an Existing Measurement File Option

Next you will choose the Measurement File that matches your Printer, Paper, and Ink profile.

Your Printer, Ink, and Paper Profile, selected from the Popdown List

This will lead you to a Soft Proof Preview of your profile, using the SpyderProof test images.

SpyderProof Soft Proof View of your combination

Now you choose the Advanced Editing option from the bottom of the SpyderProof screen, to edit your profile.

The SpyderProof - Edit screen, including PreciseLight sliders

At the bottom of this screen you will see two sliders, one for adjusting the Brightness from Dim to Bright, defaulted to a center position, and another to adjust the Color Temperature from Warm to Cool, also defaulted to a central location. These are the sliders you will use to print test images for checking under varying display conditions. You can print multiple versions of the Brightness adjustment by making changes to the Brightness slider, selecting “Finished” after each setting, and printing a sample image from the SpyderProof – View screen. Return to the Edit screen, make another adjustment to the Brightness slider, and repeat. A neutral version, plus two warmer and two cooler versions should be sufficient for most uses. Be sure to label each image with the setting it represents. Below the SpyderProof test images are shown with a diagonal split between Warm and Cool, for comparison.

Warm Cool Diagonal Split Comparison

What might not be apparent here is that the upper left part of the test images is from the “Warm” setting, and the lower right from the “Cool” setting. These are inverse of the control names, as they are to compensate for warm or cool lighting; adding warmth to the image compensates for cooler lighting, and visa versa.

Next a similar set of test images can be printed for Bright and Dim conditions. And again, the image will be lighter, with more open shadows, for dimmer lighting, and darker, with denser shadows, for brighter lighting. Label each print in this set as well. These images don’t need to be large; its possible to print four of them on a letter size sheet to save paper and make the samples as portable and foolproof as possible.

Now you take the sample sets to any location where you are considering hanging your work, be that a gallery, a museum, a customer’s home, or a commercial location. Determine which of the brightness samples is best suited to the location, and which of the Color Temperature samples works best in this lighting, or which pair are closest, meaning a setting between the two would be ideal. Note down the selected settings. This can be repeated for multiple locations; in fact, if this is your standard printer, ink, and paper combination, this set of test samples will be the only ones you will ever need, unless you choose to mail a set to an associate at a remote location for determining the best choice of print settings for display there. If settings vary in a space that does not offer consistent lighting, you may need to determine which prints you will place where before assigning adjustments to images. Shooting a SpyderCube in the various locations can help assign color temperature numbers to the lighting conditions, if you want to get scientific about it.

Once you have made your selections, build a new version of your profile (none of the test prints created above automatically save a profile, so you won’t be flooded in test profiles) and use this new profile, the name of which should note the slider values it includes, for printing the work for that location. Repeating this process for another display location is extremely simple, and building a new profile version to match takes only a few seconds. The only time it is necessary to repeat the entire process described above is if you change printers, inks, or papers.

Credits: C. David Tobie, Copyright 2012. Website: CDTobie.com Return to Blog’s Main Page

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