On Colour Management | How Hatter Editions Gets Your Prints Looking Their Best
How Does Hatter Editions Get Your Prints So Accurate in Terms of Colour & Tonality?
In a nutshell for those of you in a rush; A heaped tablespoon of hard work, a large pinch of dedication to the client and the end product, and lashing of technical know-how. This recipe results in prints that stand out from the crowd.
If you would like to find how just how much hard work, dedication & technical know-how goes into your prints then please read on!
We are going to look at few things we do in detail. They are:
- Monitor Calibration
- ICC Profiles
- Glossary of a few terms used and useful terms
Lets get to it.
So, where to start?
At the beginning probably. Calibrating our monitors. At Hatter Editions we calibrate our monitors once a week. This makes sure there is consistency in the work we see and do.
Why calibrate a monitor?
Doing this gives your monitor a standard- making sure what you see is both balanced and consistent with a common standard IE colours are correct on screen and when printed.
How does it do this?
By using a spectrometer (A tool to measure the monitors spectra IE light, intensity and colour) and specialist software that takes all the information on the spectra of the monitor and then it calculates the data with algorithms to give your monitor an ICC profile (more in ICC profiles later). This then produces your baseline, a standard of which to work from.
Do I need to calibrate my monitor?
Ideally all monitors would be calibrated. But we don't live in a perfect world. If you can not calibrate yours for what ever reason then do not worry at all. At Hatter Editions we manually check every files that comes through, making any subtle corrections on our calibrated monitor!
What does ICC even stand for?
ICC stands for International Colour Consortium (You can read who the consortium is and what they're about here). But, in short, they are a group of industry professional that in 90's got together in order to create a system/ workflow that would standardise colour from input through to output (from capture to print/ display) and who are still going strong today- making their works flows and standards tighter; In fact they are meeting at Westminster University in April 2023 (at the time of writing next month) and I would to go and hear Sophie Triantaphilidou giver her talk on 'Bridging the gap between image quality and image aesthetics' .
So when I say that Hatter Editions works to a ICC standard or workflow, what I mean is; We work within the parameters and guidelines that have been laid out by the major players in the industry (Kodak, Onyx, X-rite et al) in order to be colour or spectrally accurate as possible from digitising your work through to printing your work.
That's good to know, but what actually is an ICC profile?
Ok, so an ICC profile is small file containing the colour data of certain device. As mentioned above it could be a monitor, a printer, a camera, scanner or even a projector.
How are ICC Profiles made?
At Hatter Editions we make ICC profiles using tools called spectrometers. We use two different spectrometers- one for printer profiling and another for monitor profiling. We take samples, in print they're called colour patches, and measure them using the spectrometer. As mentioned above a clever piece of software then takes that data and give us the colour profile. When calibrating a scanner we have, in the past, used two methods an IT8 Target, which is a calibrated target to specific set of colours. But now we use a thing called a colour passport (I think that name is proprietary, its a small set of colour patches that you scan or take a photograph of under the same lighting as the shot your about to take) this allows us to make colour profiles for our camera and scanner with the same software and hardware!
Each profile made is very specific. An example would be, my monitor profile is for my monitor at the studio- I have exactly the same monitor at home but due to different lighting conditions and requirements, the profiles are slightly different. Even more specific example would be this- Every ICC print profile made is so unique that you can find another printer with the same paper, of the same batch, same printer, same batch of inks etc. and they would still get a different ICC profile. In most cases it would be marginal, but when you need the best in quality its better to work with a custom made colour profile like we make.
How do I use an ICC Profile?
So if you are thinking of having a crack at getting a file colour manged at home ready for us to print then excellent! Id recommend profiling your monitor first. Secondly you will then edit your image to match the gamut, contrast and tonality of the ICC profile. This is know as 'softproofing' or see how our printer, ink, paper combo is going to look once printed. We print off a very wide gamut printer and it is capable of rendering a magnificent latitude of colours, transitions, tones and hues.
How do Hatter Editions use an ICC Profile?
So, we calibrate the monitor, print and measure our patches as outlined above. Do all the fancy behind the scenes jiggery pokery with the algorithms and the data etc. But what sets us apart from the rest (other than less that a handful of other print makers I know of in the UK- You know who you are! (: ) is that every single last file that lands with us we manually check, we check again and we check once more. We softproof it, even if you have your end, we will then make any subtle adjustments where we feel necessary and if any major adjustments are needed then we will be in touch and we can talk you through- at this point its probably wise to order a hardproof.
After giving your work all the pre-press love it deservers, we then tell our printer to print the work and along with the image data is also sent the colour data of that particular paper- The printer then uses its own algorithms, which thankfully we've all ready standardised with those colour patches mentioned above (see its all coming together), to turn your RGB pixels into prefect CMYK (LK, LLK, LC, LM, V, O, G... yep that's right that many inks and two different blacks, one for matt paper and one for gloss paper!) prints.
In terms of our image capture, similar story- we pop the little colour patch in the scene or on the scanner. Standardise the lighting, sensor, lens combo- apply the ICC in post and then we know were going to capture the full gamut of any original you need us to reproduce; and reproduce we do, with the utter most fidelity!
A conclusion or run down of our ICC workflow and how this is how we make your prints top notch.
So we calibrate all of our monitors at least once a week. We print and hand measure 969 colour patches for single printer, ink, paper combination- This includes 240 shades of grey and desaturated colours for more fidelity and information to be reproduced in the shadow areas and in Black and White/ monotone prints. We take colour measurements before reproducing your work to standardise our equipment, thus including an extra step in our process. We then have a post-press step of looking at your work under a calibrated light source, which allows us to know that your work has successfully been colour managed from start to finish... Thus also allowing us to know, you'll be satisfied with your print.
We use a few techniques along the way that are also part of the process, but more importantly allow for a better print quality. Some of these techniques are not commonly used by most print makers (again to the hadful of printe makers out there that do use these techniques all the time- again you know who you are!) as they DRINK the ink- which when you are after large profit margins and quantity over quality matters then that is fine. But at Hatter Editions we thrive on quality, wanting to bring you the best in class of giclée inkjet printing.
What are these techniques you speak of?
When making printer profiles and printing your work, uses only the highest resolution of print output. This means that colours, transitions, hues etc are so much more accurate and the printer is able to reproduce a wider gamut because of it. If your having anything with a gloss finish (satin, pearl, gloss etc.) then we print with a technique called black enhance overcoat- This has a dual benefit: it gives a higher DMax, meaning more variations in colour and their tonal and hue transitions are available to print, especially in the darker end of scale- shadow detail anyone!- and secondly it stops metamerism (click here for a solid description on what it is), which is basically two colours looking the same under one light then putting under another light and they look totally different.
If you would like to know anymore about how we do what we do then please get in touch here
A Glossary of some of the terms used and some useful terms:
Complete range. Example in printer terms, colour gamut- the range of reproducible colours and variants of said colour.
To carefully assess, set or adjust something. In our case we are carefully setting and adjusting our colour spaces of various devices in order to create a standard or baseline.
A colour space is a specific organisation of colours or a range of colours on a spectrum that can interpreted or visualised on a physical plane- like a print or monitor. Common examples of photographic colour spaces are sRGB, Adobe RGB, ProPhoto.
Red, Green, Blue. This is known as an additive colour space, you start with black and add more RGB to eventually get white. Devices include monitors, sensors (camera and scanner) and projectors.
Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black). This is know as a subtractive colour space. You start with white (paper white or DMin) and the more you add the darker or further away from Dmin you get.
A colour space that uses co-ordinates and an axis to describe a particular set of colours L- Light or luminosity, A*- Green & Red, B*- Yellow & Blue. When we use a spectrometer it reads data in L*A*B* and converts it into an RGB or CMYK colour space. It is designed to approximate the human vison unlike RGB or CMYK which is bound by various factors.
DMin & DMax-
DMin is 'Density Minimum' or paper white. This is your papers white point and is the brightest part of any image. DMax is the opposite and is 'Density Maximum' this is the ink and papers black point. The darkest part of your image. This can be used in reference to monitors as well as traditional photographic techniques. Example DMin on a negative is your clearest point, which will be your darkest point in positive (Scan or print) and your DMax is your the darkest part of your film, which will be your lightest point (usually sky) in positive.
reference to the whitest point of a substrate IE Paper white, but also it can reference the colour of the light, the colour temperature (Kelvin) changes the white point.
Kelvin (k)/ Colour Temperature-
This is how 'warm' or 'cool' a light is. For all purposes in ICC we either use D50 or D65 meaning daylight 5000k or daylight 6500k
I think that covers it- If you need any clarifications on words then just give me a shout!