Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to Color Profile Your Monitor and Printer With ColorMunki

As a photographer I am constantly challenged by the colors on my screen not matching up with what I saw in the camera or not matching on the printer when I print out the production images. Today, I am reviewing the ColorMunki Photo monitor and print calibration system. The ColorMunki Photo system consists of a Swiss engineered spectrophotometer calibration device and software. The system is capable of calibrating your monitor, matching your monitor and printer and calibrating your projector. And it does all of them quite well.

I purchased my ColorMunki unit on Amazon and paid under $400 for it. After unpacking the unit you will need to calibrate the unit for the first time. The instruction book included with the unit is quite terse and not very helpful. Luckily for me the on-screen instructions and video helped decipher the steps.

The task of calibration is not quite a user friendly as I would want (or else I am a little more dense than normal users). It consists of following the directions on the screen while turning the big dial on the side of the unit. I had a harder time than usual because the dial was very hard to turn and I had to perform the steps several times before it took. There are instructions on the screen and they are color coded to walk you through the process. You would think I could handle it a lot easier than I did.

After you finish with the initial calibration of the unit you will see on your screen. Displayed is the main menu where you will have the choice of:

Match my printer to my display
Profile my display
Profile my printer

Profile your display

The first task I did was to profile my display. After pressing the button the program will guide you through the process. You will first place the ColorMunki unit in its pouch and hang the unit as shown on the front of your screen. The provided carrying pouch has some sand weighted handles that flip over the back of the LCD screen to expedite the process.

You then start the program and it rotates through several color screens to develop a monitor profile to be used on your monitor. You can use the ColorMunki Photo to calibrate multiple monitors that you own and each will have its own unique color profile. The profiling program takes your screen through a series of colors: red, blue, yellow and shades between black and white.

Match your monitor to your printer

Once the monitor calibration process finishes the program creates a monitor profile that you can save. You the can proceed to the next step in the process of matching your monitor to your printer.

You are first asked to print out a color chart on the printer that you will be using for printing. You should use the type of paper you will be printing (glossy, matt, fine art, etc.). You will perform this process for each type of paper you use.

The color charts consist of several rows with squares of color in each row. The color charts are then used by placing the unit on top of printout and sliding ColorMunki unit down each row of the chart until the screen instructions say to move to the next row.

This part was fairly tricky in that I had to perfect a smooth drag across the row of colors. I had to do the first rows about six times before it registered and I got better with each row until toward the end where I could get them in one pass.

After this printer profiling process you will get an.icc printer profile (used internally by your photo printing program like Photoshop during the printing process) that is unique to your monitor and to your printer using one type of paper. You will need to run the printer profiling process one time for each type of paper that you use.

The ColorMunki Photo is a powerful monitor and printer calibration system that results in finely tuned color profiles that match your monitor with your printer. For those that make a living from photography this will set you apart. Now, the only thing you have to do is to take pictures that are high quality, because this system will report true colors on both your screen and your printed output.

Examples of color corrected images can be seen on my web site at: Randy Jackson Images.

Randy Jackson is an experienced Arizona photographer. His photography is about nature and events such as public functions and sports. He writes about photography and technology on his blog and displays his work at a photography site. More information can be gleaned about Randy at his blog: Random Thoughts of a Photographer.

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