Printer Profiling

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Today’s Question: How do you profile your printers?

Tim’s Quick Answer: When I need a custom printer profile I use the ColorMunki Photo package from X-Rite (http://timgrey.me/munkiphoto), which enables you to calibrate and profile monitor displays and digital projectors, as well as create custom profiles for printers (or more specifically, a profile for a particular printer, ink, and paper combination). That said, I don’t need to generate custom printer profiles all that often.

More Detail: This was actually a follow-up question of sorts. The question from Friday asked about both display calibration and printer profiling, but for some reason I overlooked the question about printer profiling.

Quite often I find that it is not necessary to build a custom profile. That certainly wasn’t the case until relatively recently. But now I find that most printer profiles are very accurate, to the point that I’m able to use “generic” profiles for most prints.

To clarify, a printer profile is actually a profile for a specific printer, ink, and paper combination. The profiles included with your printer software will generally support most of the papers that are available from the manufacturer of your printer. For third-party papers, you can generally download profiles from that paper manufacturer’s website (at least for most of the popular models of printers).

I have found most of these profiles to be very accurate, enabling the production of high quality prints that match what I see on my display. In cases where a profile is not available, or I find that a profile isn’t accurate enough to produce an optimal print, I will generate a custom profile using the ColorMunki Photo package.

There are, of course, some other solutions for generating printer profiles, but I’ve found the ColorMunki Photo package from X-Rite to be the best solution for my needs.

The process of creating a printer profile, by the way, is relatively straightforward. You print a target image that includes a number of color swatches, and then use a special device (a spectrophotometer) to measure the color value that was actually produced for each swatch. Those values are compared to what was expected, and a profile is created as a result.