High quality profiles are the cornerstone of every successful color-managed workflow. If you’re ready to embark on this journey, consider creating or acquiring the highest quality and most accurate profiles for all of the devices in your workflow. Erica Aitken of Rods and Cones, a color management company, stresses the importance of accurate profiles. “The caliber of profiles can really influence the outcome in a color workflow. This is one of those times when you really do get what you pay for. Using professional hardware and software for profile creation lets you describe your printer’s behavior and ‘intent’ more thoroughly for a color management system. You might wish to set up your printer to reproduce the lower dynamic range and limited gamut of a printing press, render skin tones more evenly, or match Pantone colors as accurately as possible. Today, color management can get you very close to these goals, but it all comes back to the quality and accuracy of your printer profiles.”
There are two types of printer profiles, canned (or generic) and custom-built. The best printer profiles are custom-built for your printer, reflecting the inks and media you use. This results in a very accurate reflection of your printer’s output, because every batch of ink and batch of media are a little different. A custom-built profile takes into account all the differences and characteristics of your unique setup. However, you can expect reasonable results when using high-quality, generic profiles built for your printer model—profiles that are created with specific media and inks—for example, a generic profile built for an Epson inkjet printer, using Epson inks and an Epson paper stock.
Following are sources of good quality canned profiles for many popular printer models. They’re either free or can cost $25–$150 per profile, depending on the profiling equipment used and the level of support offered. Generally, little or no support is offered for generic profiles, and you’re back where you started if you require changes.
Sources for canned profiles
• Ship with printer, installed with printer driver
• Manufacturer’s website. Example: http://support.epson.com. Click on the printer model you own. The latest drivers and profiles for your printer will be available for download.
• Individual user sites. Example: http://homepage.mac.com/billatkinson. Computer scientist Bill Atkinson’s site features free, high-quality profiles for many Epson printers.
• www.inkjetmall.com. Click on Color Management, then Profile Libraries. Profiles are available for the listed printers, at different resolutions, for popular media and ink combinations. The profiles on this site are not cheap, but they are high quality.
• www.inkjetmall.com. Click on Profiles. Click the link to access generic profiles for many Epson inkjet printers.
Sources for custom-built printer profiles
There are several ways to acquire a custom-built profile for your printer, inks, and media.
1. Create your own profiles with a profiling kit that consists of appropriate hardware and software. This is a good option if you print with a variety of inks and papers. With a kit in-house, you can easily create new profiles that are a “snapshot” of the current printing conditions. Visit www.colorvision.com, www.gretagmacbeth.com, and www.xrite.com for product information.
2. Hire an on-site color management consultant to profile your printers, with all ink and paper combinations. Consultants can also troubleshoot color problems, set up a viable color-managed workflow, and advise you on purchase decisions. Visit the Color Management Group, a worldwide consortium of certified color consultants at www.colormanagement.com; click on Find a Color Management Consultant. Or go to www.apple.com and search for Apple Certified Pros in Color Management.
3. Hire a consultant to build a custom profile remotely. The process is straightforward and is a jumpstart to establishing a professional color workflow. To do this, you will download a digital target, a file that contains hundreds of color patches. You print the file on your printer, using a specified ink and paper combination. The printed targets are mailed to the consultant, who generates a high quality printer profile that’s custom-built for your printer.
With so many options, now is a good time to adopt a workflow that uses high quality printer profiles and enables you to achieve your color matching goals.