Colour management is a very complex topic, but it doesn’t have to be. Here we will try and arm you with simple, easy to understand information to help you print consistent results with us here at Fitzgerald Photo Imaging.
Understanding Colour Management
The first thing to understand about colour management is that it’s not a remedy for all colour problems. Printing technology although close has not quite caught up to the level to which current cameras, and displays are able to capture and display. Meaning there are some colours that printers and papers are unable to print, these are also known as ‘out of gamut colours'. As a result you will still run into problems with colour, but good colour management and a calibrated display will give you the tools to anticipate and help solve those problems where possible.
Below you will find the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about colour calibration and printing. If there is a question we have not covered please contact us and we will do our best to give you all the information you need.
Why do my prints look different to my computer display?
If you have printed anything before, you may have noticed a difference between what is displayed on your screen and the printed result. The cause of this is most likely an inconsistency between screen and printer profiles (how each device interprets colour) What most people don’t realise is that if your computer display is not rendering colour accurately, printing colour accurately is like shooting at a moving target with a blindfold on. To fix this you will need to ensure that your monitor is correctly calibrated.
Why do my prints look flat and unsaturated?
A lot of displays on the market today are not designed to generate accurate colour, contrast and saturation. In-fact some displays often add contrast and saturation to make your images “pop”, and although your images look great on screen it is often an untrue representation. Unfortunately even calibrating such a display will never produce accurate results.
WARNING: It’s important to note as mentioned above that not all displays are recommended for photo editing. Low-end displays are often unreliable even after calibration. We have found that the results from Ezio displays and other simular colour accurate displays are by far the most reliable, and we highly recommend that if you are serious about colour accuracy, you invest in such a display for your digital workflow. If you are like many of our clients using an Imac, laptop, or a simular shiny displays, we recommend that you use an external monitor such as an Ezio. (As these types of displays are not designed for critical colour workflows.)
What is a colour profile?
A colour profile is a means of interpreting colour. Simply put a colour profile is like a filter in which all the colours on your display run through to correct any inaccurate colour or brightness rendering.
What is a colour space?
A colour space, by definition is an abstract mathematical model describing the way colours can be represented. However for us individuals without a PHD in colour, a very rudimentary way to describe a colour space is to think about visible colour as a supermarket and a colour space as the shopping cart that colour fits into. If a supermarket represents all the colours that are visible with the human eye, the bigger the trolley you have the more colour you can fit in it. However each trolley (colour space) handles differently from the other. For example the way in which the ‘Adobe RGB 1998’ trolley represents a particular colour value is different to that of the smaller ‘sRGB’ colour space trolley.
What is your recommended colour space?
There is some argument in the colour world to which is the best colour space to edit and print your images in. However we recommend that you capture, edit and send your images to print in the Adobe RGB 1998 colour space. Although this is not the largest colour space available we have found that it is the closest representation of printable colour in the vast majority of output devices. No doubt as technology improves other colour spaces may prove better but for now Adobe RGB 1998 is our recommendation.
Changing colour spaces throughout your editing process will effect how colours are displayed and printed. We recommend that you stick with the same colour space all the way through your workflow. N.B. We do NOT change your colour space in any way. If you have no colour space embedded in your images, the results when printing are unpredictable. This is why it is important to set your working space in your editing software such as Photoshop. If you wish to check your settings in Photoshop they can be found in the Photoshop menu bar > edit > colour settings.
How do I ensure my display is accurate?
To achieve a consistent result you will need to calibrate your monitor using a piece of equipment known as a display profiler every few weeks. (Simply adjusting by eye is not accurate enough.) This device is placed onto your display, takes measurements and compares them to international standard colour values.
It then creates a display profile that is specific to your display, correcting the colour so that it renders the correct result. We recommend that you use the highest quality, profiling device you can afford. We use X-rite calibration tools, and have found for most of our clients the i1 display pro to be the easiest to use and most accurate tool available in its price range. ($300-$400)
What targets do I set my monitor to?
It’s important that if you are printing with us that your display is calibrated to the same settings that we use here. There are several targets that you will need to meet to ensure that your display is as close to ours as possible.
They are as follows:
White Point: D65 (6500K)
Luminance: 90 cd/m2
If you set your calibration parameters to these settings and your calibration is successful you should see accurate results when printing with us.
What is the optimum environment for editing my images?
The environment in which your display is viewed is very important to maintain colour fidelity. There is an increase in colour and density inaccuracy if your viewing environment is:
Too bright or too dark.
Your display has direct light hitting it.
If you have bright colours in the room (e.g. a red wall).
Changing lighting conditions (i.e. Strong sunshine through the window).
Your display does not have a hood.
Ideally your editing environment should:
Have an ambient luminance of 30-40 cd/m2 lit by an indirect 5500K-6500K light source, with a hood on your display to minimise flare; bright coloured walls in the room should be changed to something more neutral; and changing lighting conditions from windows etc. should be avoided or minimised.
The ideal digital workflow checklist
Below you will find a checklist of the ideal workflow for best results when you sending your files to print with us.
Set up your workstation in a controlled environment as above.
Calibrate your display to Fitzies target parameters.
Set your Photoshop RGB working space to Adobe RGB 1998.
Shoot RAW files in camera for best reproduction.
Convert your images out in Adobe RGB 1998 colour space.
Save images sized correctly; ensuring that the Adobe RGB 1998 colour profile is embedded.
Upload files or deliver images on USB or CD for printing.
Recalibrate your display regularly.