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Thursday, 20 May 2010

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I've been saving up for an Epson 3880 in the believe that my hobby photography would profit from me actually finishing the product onto paper. There have been a large number of negative printing issues described here and in other forums. Then I read the article on the Luminous Landscape site describing the advantages of buying additional ImagePrint software for almost the same price as the printer, just to get the results right. This has completely put me off. My plan now is to buy a HD projector and an iPad. No ink usage for me. I'll "display" my pictures purely with light.

And Steve Jobs wonders why Adobe dumped him for MS? Apple just don't appear to be interested in serious graphics work, least on their i-macs.

Yes. That pastel colormunki profile looks just like the ones I was getting when I last tried, about 18 months ago, to get colors in prints to look right. Never made it past that point. Have only printed black and white since then.

Thank you!! I just got a 3880 and a Colormunki. My first profiles were junk, and I assumed the Colormunki wasn't up to the task. Turns out I missed the "Epson Color Controls" option. I just remade the profile and it is almost perfect. It looks at least as good as the Epson provided profile, and with only a 100 patches used.

I had used the Colormunki to linearize the Quadtone rip output, which worked very well. So I was confused as to how it could be so bad for color. Glad to find out it was user error (as most things seem to be).

Why is making reasonably accurate inkjet color prints so difficult? The question is rhetorical, I guess. I know that there are thousands of variables that affect printing.

I'm very happy with B&W images from the Epson R2400, but color is sometimes hit or miss, even though I stick with one paper. In fact, for color images I'm usually happier uploading my file to the local Costco for a 3 dollar 11x14.
I printed some really tough color negatives back in the (darkroom) day and always in less time than it takes to get a good inkjet.

The color issues really came to a head when teaching my students to print inkjets. Student's files shot with identical cameras, the same menu settings, same subject and lighting often yielded prints with terribly wide variations, almost like they were printed with different profiles.
I know several local photogs who spent big money for big printers who soon mothballed those printers.
This kind of stuff helps drive people away from traditional photos dislayed behind glass in a metal frame and to digital display. Things change.

A little cooperation between computer/software/printer manufacturers could not hurt.

Can you tell us what you use your R800. Is it just for proofs? Obvously, for prints intended for exhibition and permanance, you use the larger pigment printer.

Thanks, Ctein!! I just got my ColorMunki and I run Snow Leopard so I was not looking forward to tackling all of this and you solved it for me. Kowtow! Kowtow! 8-)"

I mentioned this after the last article: if this is as big a problem as it seems to be, why not start a letter/email campaign about it? Write Apple/Steve Jobs about it relentlessly. And I mean everyone who cares about it.

BTW, is this a problem for Epson/Canon/HP? Or any paper manufacturer who has to produce profiles?

Sadly as with most creative endeavours in life one can´t expect to master anything sitting down for a quick 2 hours every so often. I´ve been "lucky" I´ve been operated twice in five months so I´ve been stuck at home on my own with photoshop every weekday while my wife and kids are out at school and work. With nothing much else to do but read books on my Kindle work on photoshop and walk the dogs on crutches. So I´ve really had time to get into my whole digital workflow learning from my mistakes and been prepared to keep on experimenting. It´s been a whole load of trial and error and I´ve finally begun to find my prints acceptable. Now most errors are mine and just bad creative taste. But I still prefer the good old darkroom!
Nothing ever comes free!
Paul

Dear Mike Jones,

The iMac suits me quite well for serious graphic work. If it didn't, I would've gotten a Mac Pro, which is Apple's "official" professional desktop. I don't know what problems you're having with the iMac, but the mere fact that you're not finding it suitable for serious graphics work says nothing at all about Apple's commitment to the area.

In truth, over the years I have had to solve many more color management problems on Windows systems, because color management hasn't been as well or thoroughly integrated into the OS. (That may very well have changed with Windows 7; I haven't tried it out yet.) The reason this is making such waves is that none of us expect to have these kind of problems when we're working on a Mac.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

Wow, is this old news. Eric Chan from Adobe came up with a simple work flow solution some time ago. A quick search of Luminous Landscape's forums will come up with the topic. For what it's worth, CS5 no longer even has the "No Color Management" choice. Adobe will be offering an application that's sole purpose will be to print profile targets, until then, if you print them out from Photoshop, Eric's work flow is the way to go.

Dear Bill,

My Epson R2400 has been entirely reliable and consistent printing in both Mac and Windows environments. If you're seeing what you describe as "hit or miss" color, there are two possibilities. The unlikely one is that there is something mechanically wrong with your printer, such as a clogged nozzle. I'm presuming that nozzle checks always come up clean (or at least they do after you run a cleaning cycle). As a double-check, run a nozzle check before and after printing a photograph, if the photograph comes out looking funny. It will sometimes happen that a nozzle clogged after you've run the check (Murphy's Law!), and that can make you crazy if you think everything is perfect. I once spent an entire day and 20 sheets of paper chasing my tail trying to profile a printer because a jet clogged AFTER I ran the nozzle check but BEFORE the profiling test charts were completed. Now when doing a mission-critical operation like that, I run nozzle checks before and after.

More likely, you simply don't have a very good profile for the printer or are using the profiles incorrectly. In that situation, color prints may look very good for some combinations of colors and look really bad for others that are more problematic to output. Get yourself a good custom profile for the printer. I've been really happy with Cathy's Profiles - http://www.cathysprofiles.com - Cathy Stratton did all my profiling before I got the ColorMunki, and she's really good. Tell her I sent you (no, I don't get a kick back and no, you won't get a discount, but people like to know where referrals come from).


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

Dear Dennis,

These are problems that exist for any printer/paper combination you wish to use. They are not product-specific.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Ken,

I inherited the Epson R800 from Tee Corinne (see "Tee Corinne, Superstar of Lesbian Erotica" http://tinyurl.com/kwyfn); I'm charged with making any new color prints that are needed from her files. So I try to keep the printer tuned up and in proper working order. I use it mostly for proof sheets and banging out quick test prints, so it's nice to have it in reasonably close calibration with my other more professional printers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Steve and others using ColorMunki,

The most valuable feature in ColorMunki is the ability to optimize profiles. You should definitely be taking advantage of that! You'll end up with much, much better color. I have two standard images that I use for optimizing my profiles:

"Stream Bank near River Polly, Scotland" -- http://ctein.com/Scotland_Plate_01.jpg

and

"Grasses in Liquid Sky, St. Paul" -- http://ctein.com/contributor/Grasses_Liquid_Sky.jpg

I chose the former because it includes colors that appear in an awful lot of my photographs and the latter because the reflected sky includes lots of hues and shades that push outside the printer gamut. Optimizing my profiles with this photograph improved sky renditions noticeably with all my printers.

You, of course, should choose photographs appropriate for your work.

Rendering intent, of course, will also matter. Unless you KNOW that your photograph doesn't include any colors that fall outside the printer gamut, you should be using "perceptual" rendering. "Relative colorimetric" produces more accurate results for colors that fall within the printer gamut, but it takes colors that are outside the gamut and just slams them into the printable color space instead of merging them in smoothly.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

Hi Ctein--my sympathies Amigo! This is why I went to ImagePrint many years ago. Colorbyte's magic is simply bypassing every one elses mess and making beautiful prints like clockwork. To me, its worth the price to avoid such calibration headaches and I can spend my energy on making images.

Pete

If you don't mind the limited paper choices available, I must recommend Adorama's printing service. I stopped trying to print a while ago, due to the technical complexity involved. With Adorama, you upload your files, choose your size & paper, and they come in the mail inside a cardboard tube a week later.

Be sure to check the "color correct" box, and they'll give your file a once-over before printing. I have no complaints yet.

Oh, and they also have a dedicated B&W printer & real B&W paper. If you're lazy like me, Adoramapix works.

All this makes me want to just pay a lab (for want of a better word) to make my prints. After all, my slides and colour prints were all done by labs before I started using a digilump instead of a film SLR.

Ctein,

I distinguished the iMac just to cover myself and because that is what I have (running Vista). I was also exaggerating a little too- just to make the post topical. That said, Windows has largely caught up with the Mac, and Apple is clearly more concerned market share rather than niche markets. I prefer the printing interface in Windows, clunky as it is, and no I cannot get either to give me consistent colours or brightness levels.

I just dedicate an older G5 solely to running the Epson 9800. No point in "updating" this mission-critical subsystem that works. I prepare files on another computer and transfer to the G5 for printing.

Dear Dave,

Absolutely right! Old news and not worth writing about... aside from the following four minor points:

1) I'm in "features," not "news." It's only on very rare occasions that my columns will be about timely events. News is Mike's department, not mine.

2) Old news or new news, considering how extensive my photographic knowledge is, the odds are very good that something that's giving me problems will give 90% of TOP's readership even worse problems. That makes it worth writing about.

3) I know about Eric's workflow. It's OK if you're printing from Photoshop. ColorMunki doesn't use Photoshop; it prints directly from its own software. Which means at least I get to avoid that part of the hell. But it also makes that largely irrelevant to the columns I wrote.

4) Eric's workflow can't compensate for the other half of the problem-- that ICCv4 profiles break under OSX 10.6.1-10.6.3. If your profiling program is generating v4 profiles, the resulting profiles won't work right no matter how you generated the test targets.

Details, details, I shouldn't be wasting my time writing about this stuff, right?

Ah, but isn't that where the devil lies?


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
=====================================

It makes me sad to read posts by folks who have given up printing their own photographs due to the frustrations of color management and inkjet printing. You're really missing out on half the fun. There's nothing quite so satisfying as interpreting a really good image in Photoshop (or your software of choice), working your way through multiple proofing iterations, getting it just right, and ending up with a print that really nails your vision of the photograph. From interpretive image editing to choice of paper surface, the printing process is an indispensable part of the journey from your original insight to the final print.
I wholeheartedly subscribe to Richard Benson's assertion that photographers who hand their images to someone else for printing are abdicating part of their artistic responsibility.

Okay, so maybe my photographs don't qualify as "art", but still. I was always disappointed by the result when I had my slides printed by custom labs, no matter how detailed my instructions or how well I thought the printer understood what I wanted. Even as a clueless newbie my first digital prints were way better than what I was getting from a custom lab. Better yet, the learning curve never quite ends; I'm making much better prints now than I was even two years ago.

QT Luong has it exactly right. Once you have your workflow and color management nailed down tight...don't change anything. Sort of like the old days when engineers taped down the controls after everything was optimized to make sure no one screwed anything up.

Ctein, I depend on some software working properly for my own work - simulation stuff, not photography, but the same principle. And so my main machine at work I very specifically do not upgrade over time, just so that I know the system will work exactly as I need it to, always. I also have the system images and other stuff saved so I can recreate the environment whenever needed.

I do have other, newer, machines I also use, and they don't have any major issues (though there are some subtle numerical library differences), but I always make sure I have the one reference machine running.

So, why did you upgrade the OS when the system was working? And once it was clear there were some pretty profound problems, why didn't you downgrade it again? Especially as it's work-related, it'd be a good idea to get a second machine to run the newer system and try things out without touching the machine that Just Works.

Thank you X 1 million for this post. It is extremely comforting when someone with as much experience as yourself can't get something to work as it should "out of the box". This mimics my own struggle with color munki exactly... I almost gave up until I found the articles you mention. Sometimes you have to try a bunch of permutations before you get your printer right, it IS the hardest part of the modern digital game, at least imho.

I feel like less of a dunce tonight thanks to you. :)

TOP FTW

Ctein,

Any advice for those of us using 10.5?

Dear Mike Jones,

I'm sorry to hear you're having such problems on both sides of the tracks! I also have Vista running on my iMac (in Boot Camp and under Parallels) but I haven't attempted to load Windows-Photoshop into it and figure out how color management works in that flavor of Windows. Under older flavors of Windows, to get color management via Photoshop to behave properly, sometimes one had to go so far as to actually remove some factory-installed profiles; otherwise, turning off color management in the Windows printer control panel didn't actually turn it off, and you ended up with double-profiling. Stuff that would make you tear your hair out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear QT,

That was going to be my fallback position; buy a cheap older Mac and network it in to function solely as a print server. For this purpose I could've hauled out a previous version of Photoshop and I wouldn't need more than minimal amounts of RAM and hard drive, so it wouldn't be a very expensive option. In the future, it may become a necessary option! I have a strong suspicion that with the next generation of OS, factory support for the R800 (and quite possibly my Minolta scanner) is going to go away. But I'd like to avoid this for as long as possible; I don't really want one more computer to have to maintain.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Pete,

I've seen ImagePrint, and it rocks! The prints I've looked at are gorgeous and the Phatte Black option is just plain brilliant. It has two problems for me: the first is that they don't support the R800, which means I still have to address color management hell myself for that machine. The second is that it's not an inexpensive route to go, to say the least. For my two professional printers, I'd be out over $3000.

There is a free trial version which I haven't given a try, because I wouldn't like the answer I get. Either there wouldn't be enough of an improvement in print quality to justify it, in which case it's just wasted time. Or the print quality would be enough better that I'd feel I was selling myself short if I didn't spend $3000... which I really don't want to spend! I think this is a case where I'm going to let ignorance remain bliss and consider better to be the enemy of good [smile].

But this shouldn't stop readers from taking a look at this superb program. Pete wrote an excellent review of it on Lloyd Chamber's website: http://diglloyd.com/articles/GrabBag/myers-ImagePrint.html . Go check it out.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

My God, this makes me scared to change even one iota of my current set-up (which works, after much trial & error): iMac, Leopard (in summer, and i'll keep it there), printing via Lightroom (which also decides the resolution, an advise form Martin Evening), using colorsync for color prints with the profiles of the paper-manufacturer (Calumet - Brilliant ), and for b&w prints using Epson Color Controls (advanced black & white printing).
Above my computer desk I pinned two A4-sheets on the wall. They read (in large, bold type): 'leave well enough alone', and 'if it ain't broke don't fix it.' I know sometime in the future I will ignore these vows, much to my regret no doubt, but I try and postpone that decision as long as I can.
A last remark: when all this works in Leopard (10.5.8.) and gets awfully conflicted after an update to Snow Leopard, all other settings remaining equal, the update (Apple) is to blame, is it not?

Wishing each and everyone peace, especially on the printing front,

Hans

Interestingly, my prints out of Lightroom (using the latest version of Snow Leopard, with the new Epson drivers) are terrific. Photoshop: not so much. Now THAT drives me crazy.

"It makes me sad to read posts by folks who have given up printing their own photographs due to the frustrations of color management and inkjet printing. You're really missing out on half the fun."

We may be missing out on half the fun but we're also missing out on ALL the misery. It shouldn't have to be this hard. The whole point of Ctein's article is that if someone like him, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of photography, computers and digital imaging, is having a hard time getting all the various moving parts to play nicely with each other, what chance does Average Joe Photographer have?

Dear Geoff,

I disagree with that so much, and especially Benson's take on the matter, that I think I'll devote my entire next column to arguing the issue. (Don't you feel honored? No, no you don't have to thank me [grin].)

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Janne,

Relating to the first column, no option to downgrade. Our PC died and we replaced it with a new, much more powerful iMac. That comes with Snow Leopard and you can't wind back.

Relating to this column, the reason for not leaving the laptop at Tiger (10.4.11) was that increasing numbers of programs I use can't be updated unless I'm at least one OS version higher than that. Several things I wanted to do were being put off because the software to do them wouldn't run under Tiger. And coming up, Adobe CS5 won't run under Tiger. So I was really under pressure to get this to work right. The fallback was to do what QT suggested -- get an older, cheap machine to act as nothing but a print server. Not my preferred alternative.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear J,

Never ran 10.5, skipped it entirely. Sorry, ignorance prevails.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Hans,

The breaking of ICC version 4 profiles is definitely Apple's fault; that bug appeared in the OS patch up to 10.6.1. The other color management problems ... no, not really. The situation is very complicated. There's been lots of inappropriate three-way finger-pointing between Apple, Epson, and Adobe folk. Pay it no mind.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Don,

If your Lightroom prints are looking great and your Photoshop ones aren't, it's got to be a setting you're using in the print control panel in Photoshop. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what you've got set wrong! And, yes, it can drive you crazy finding what's been mis-set.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

"Dear Geoff, I disagree with that so much, and especially Benson's take on the matter, that I think I'll devote my entire next column to arguing the issue"

...Then I might have to write a column AGREEING with Geoff....

Maybe we should do a round-table discussion or some such.

Mike

Ctein,

My point was: if this is a problem, it must be a problem for the vendors as well since they have to generate profiles for the papers they sell, no? This all goes to: where can we apply pressure to make it better?

Ctein,
Your point about the proper profiles is well taken.
Call me an old crank, but after spending $800 for a printer + $120 in ink to fire it up, I feel a tad peevish that I now have to spend more money on software to get the printer to print a photo that looks right.
Costco Rules!
Bill

Dear Bill,

OK, I may have been a bit too delicate about this.

Unless there's something mechanically wrong with your printer that shows up in the nozzle check, it's 10:1 odds that you're screwing up. Not the printer. Not the software. You.

The reason I suggested getting a custom profile made was that would force you to learn how to properly configure your print controls (and a lot, maybe all the info on how to do that is on Cathy's website).

But, the canned profiles that Epson provides are decent. Not fabulous, true, but consistently acceptable. The fact that you're not getting reliable results leaves me reasonably convinced that the fault lies not in the stars, dear Brutus.

pax / Ctein

Ctein,

<<2) Old news or new news, considering how extensive my photographic knowledge is, the odds are very good that something that's giving me problems will give 90% of TOP's readership even worse problems. That makes it worth writing about.

3) I know about Eric's workflow. It's OK if you're printing from Photoshop. ColorMunki doesn't use Photoshop; it prints directly from its own software. Which means at least I get to avoid that part of the hell. But it also makes that largely irrelevant to the columns I wrote.

4) Eric's workflow can't compensate for the other half of the problem-- that ICCv4 profiles break under OSX 10.6.1-10.6.3. If your profiling program is generating v4 profiles, the resulting profiles won't work right no matter how you generated the test targets.>>

Well first, I consider you an outstanding photographer. I've purchased two of your dye transfer prints. But this is being made out to be some kind of screwed up mish mosh and it's not. First, the problem only affects people that make their own profiles. And of those people, it further affects only those that are making their profiles with something like the Color Munki which apparently has to print out the targets itself. Most other profiling packages will let you print the targets from Photoshop or Adobe's announced program that will also print out the targets when it becomes available. To be honest with you, considering the high quality of your work I'm a little surprised to hear that you're using an entry level product like the Color Munki anyway. As far as the Type 4 profiles, create your profiles as Type 2 and be done with it. There is no difference in quality of output between the two types.

This isn't hell. It's not a big deal. It doesn't affect most people doing their own printing and for those that it does, there's a simple, easy to understand fix.

" Old news or new news, considering how extensive my photographic knowledge is, the odds are very good that something that's giving me problems will give 90% of TOP's readership even worse problems. That makes it worth writing about."

Not giving me problems. But I'm so new I haven't even printed a picture yet. I am learning a lot about how to think through printing a picture. And THAT means I wouldn't try to print a lot of my "keepers" on my inkjet, because a lot of what my new photographer self thinks of as a keeper is likely hiding issues. So get a pro to do it first, and do some poking and thinking about the results.

It's not discouraging me from wanting prints tho. Quite the opposite. I can see how trying to make a picture that can print big enough to be artwork will push me to learn a bunch of other photography skills, even if I never do the printing myself.

I found that going from a G5 with OSX 10.4.11 to an Intel-based PowerMac with 10.6.3 caused dark prints with my R1800 until I changed the gamma setting on my display from the (new) default of 2.2 to 1.8 to match the old printer driver. The correct way is probably to update the printer driver and go to Snow Leopard's default of 2.2 but, as I am now getting good prints, I'm not going to mess with it anymore - at least for the time being.

Dear Wayne,

This might or might not be a problem, I need a little clarification. Are you saying that the prints don't match the monitor on your new computer or that the prints don't match ones made previously on your G5? The former is not a big deal, especially if you're running a non-calibrated monitor.

If your prints of the same photographs, printed the same way, using the same profiles, don't look essentially identical on the two computers, then something is going wrong. The first thing I would do would be to use ColorSync Utility to make sure that the profile you're using is a version 2, not version 4 profile. Assuming it is version 2, then there is some print control panel setting that you're doing differently on the new system. It doesn't mean you're doing it wrong now; you might've been doing it wrong on the old system. But more likely, especially with the disagreement with the monitor, something is not set right on your new system.

You can decide how much trouble you want to go to to fix it. On the one hand, it may be no big deal at all and better is the enemy of good. On the other hand, it might be degrading your prints enough that even though you think you're compensating for it you'll really kick yourself when you finally get it fixed.


~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
======================================

Good news,
It appears as though 10.6.4 finally supports ICC v4, now I have to change the colormunki back to v4 profiles and see if it works !

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