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12-16-2006, 10:16 AM   #1
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Color Profile

Regarding printers, what is a color profile, why is it used, and should the average photography hobbyist even care?

I shoot my K100D exclusively in RAW and use an Expodisc almost 100% of the time to attempt to get that perfect white balance.

I have a little Epson R200 6 ink printer that seems to do a wonderful job for me. I always try to get a little bit more information about my equipment.

Thanks......

Lucky Sky

12-16-2006, 02:10 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lucky Sky Quote
Regarding printers, what is a color profile, why is it used, and should the average photography hobbyist even care?
In general, you should care. Color (or ICC) profiles are used to map color space between devices. For monitors, color profile (generated by a monitor calibrator) maps RGB levels to actual screen colors since each monitor presents colors in a bit different way. For printers, each combination of ink and paper requires different color profile to map RGB screen colors to CMYK output (or often these days CcMmYK -- that is, six inks with added light cyan and light magenta).

Theoretically, all PC monitors should conform to sRGB standard and digital camera set to sRGB should display image properly. Often not the case, so you need calibration, eyeballing it with Adobe Gamma (in your control panel) or using colorimeters. In both cases the output is ICC profile specific to your monitor.

Also, if you are using manufacturer's paper and select proper paper type before printing you may not need to know about ICC profiles, but you are using them indirectly anyway: paper setting in you printer preferences panel in fact selects appropriate ICC profile! You can even find ICC files installed on your system with your printer software (on Windows XP it is in C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\SPOOL\DRIVERS\COLOR).

But if you try printing on 3rd party papers colors may look off. In that case you need different ICC profile. If paper is not Epson, then you will need to download ICC profile for particular Epson ink from paper manufacturer's site. I use ILFORD with HP Vivera inks and only ICC profiles provided by ILFORD are producing acceptable results. Download one as if you are going to print on ILFORD paper from Profile Downloads to get an idea how the whole thing works.

If you are interested to learn more about gamut and rendering intents (perceptual and relative colorimetric being of primary importance), print permanence, ink types, paper and coating types, fading, gassing, bronzing, metamerism, differential fading, mounting and framing and similar advanced topics, I would recommend you to consider the book "Mastering Digital Printing, 2nd ed" by Harald Johnson.
12-16-2006, 04:14 PM   #3
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If your happy w/ what your printing now (colors on screen look like the print ect) I'd pretend you never heard the word "profile"
Other than that a printer profile is basically a "map" of the color values that your printer can reproduce. Your image can be transposed onto this map and the unprintable colors be "translated" (by various means) to fit. A profile is really only valid for 1 type of printer, paper, and ink. Changing any of these results in a need for a new profile.
Good reference source if you want to jump down that rabbit hole:
Dry Creek Photo
12-17-2006, 06:00 AM   #4
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Thank You

To I. Glisin and Jeffkrol-

Thanks to both of you for that excellent information.

It just so happens that I've always been careful about using Epson paper with that Epson printer, and of course have always selected the exact type of paper within the setup panel.

Amazing what a low end printer will do when the correct paper is used.

Lucky Sky

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