A few posts back I went through my process using Canon Print Studio Pro showing how I get great prints and I still think it’s a great system however since sharing it, things have changed … and definitely for the better!
Before I explain what I’m doing now let me just get a couple of things out in the open…
- I am a BenQ Ambassador and BenQ do compensate me financially for being so. However, before I was a BenQ Ambassador I was already using their monitors and was super happy; this is why I can talk with confidence about their quality and happily recommend them (having using other Monitor brands in the past). My main monitor is the BenQ Sw320 and the second display I use is the BenQ SW271.
- I’m not on the payroll for X-Rite or ColorConfidence, nor am I an Ambassador. Apart from the i1 Studio that I’ll explain about in this post, any X-Rite device I have, I have purchased with my own money.
Ok so now all the cards are on the deck, let me explain the process I’m now using for getting what I can happily and confidently say are superb quality prints.
Shortly after doing a webinar for ColorConfidence and BenQ, I was asked if I would like to try out the X-Rite i1 Studio; a device that is used for calibrating monitors and other input and output devices such as projectors and scanners, as well as being able to profile papers. I’ll be honest that at first I thought it was a little overkill and I was happy with the prints I was now getting so why over complicate things but finally relented and said I’d take a look.
So, ColorConfidence sent me a new i1Studio and having set it up and now using it, I absolutely LOVE IT! I thought I was getting great prints before but now I know I am so let me explain…
Canon Print Studio Pro
A great piece of software however the fact that there is the option to create a Pattern Print where the software produces thumbnails of your picture with varying levels of colour, contrast and brightness, I felt made printing a little hit and miss. Sure a great concept and very much like the days of printing test / proof sheets but personally I just wanted to know that when I pressed print, having calibrated my monitor and using the correct paper profiles, then what I got was exactly what I wanted with no compromise, which in turn means no money wasted.
X-Rite i1 Studio
So what’s so good about the i1 Studio?
Well first off it does a great job of correctly calibrating your monitor…period! I’ll cover that in a moment, but the real clincher for me is that it can create profiles for the paper you use. Now you might be thinking why not just install the ICC profiles that the paper manufacturers make available? and the simple answer here (as I have quickly learned) is that no printer is the same and produces the same results. My printer at the moment is a Canon PIXMA Pro-10s and this printer will produce slightly different results to any other Canon PIXMA Pro-10s and that’s just a given. It’s kind of like cars … if you’ve driven say a BMW 5 series then go drive another of the same make and model, it will feel a little different … it’s the same with printers. So, although a great idea to use the available profiles, nothing beats creating your own profiles using your own printer on the exact paper you’ll be using. Does that make sense? Sure there are places you can send away test sheets for companies to create individual profiles for you but here I’m talking about taking 100% control of your own work and whenever you want instead of having to wait for something to be sent back to you.
Calibrating Monitors with i1 Studio
Now I use BenQ monitors as I’ve explained already and previously I said that I use BenQ’s Palette Master Element Software to calibrate them however that too has changed. Now that I’m using the i1 Studio, I’m using the x-Rite Software to calibrate the monitor. Couple of reasons for this being it makes sense to use the specific software created for the specific hardware and secondly, the BenQ Monitors I use have something called ADC (Automatic Display Control) whereby calibration software can dive deep into the workings of the monitor and when calibrating adjust things like Brightness, Contrast and RGB values giving the best possible result.
Once the i1 Studio software has been installed, when you start it up, from the Home Page you have a number of options. I’ll cover the paper profiling one in a short while but we’ll start with the Monitor / Display Calibration so that’s what I click on…
If you have more than one display connected, here you can choose which one you want to calibrate.
As for the settings, there’s a couple of defaults you can choose from (Photo or Video) and everything step by step is explained in the left hand side of the screen. As I generally edit in low light with black out blinds in my office I choose the Custom option so that I can choose a lower Luminance value for my display (low light means I don’t need to have the monitor quite so bright); a Luminance value of 90 is definitely the sweet spot for me but it’ll obviously vary for you.
There’s also the option for Flare Correct but this is generally if you have a monitor with a screen that reflects a lot; an example I guess would be something like the new iMac screens but as my BenQ doesn’t reflect much light at all I don’t tick this option.
The next screen is where you the plug in the i1 Studio and get it to calibrate itself. This is simply done by rotating he dial on the device to the position shown in the step by step below.
You’ll see that here is where I choose the Automatic Display Control (ADC) option and then ready click Calibrate.
Once the i1 Studio has calibrated itself, you then are instructed to rotate the dial on the device to its original position and doing so brings up the screen below…
Clicking the Start Measurement Process button then prompts you to position the i1 Studio correctly on your monitor. This is made easy by using the provided case with the weighted strap as below.
Note: Before putting into position slide the cover over on the i1 Studio so that the device can operate and take readings.
All you need do then is follow a few on screen prompts and then let the software and the i1 Studio work their magic. Now what I will add here is that when I am calibrating my monitor / display (I do this once each week and also before I do any printing) I make sure that the lighting in my office is as it would be when I’m editing. This might not be necessary as the where the i1 Studio meets the screen is extremely close so the chance of any light spilling into the gap and affecting the reading is highly unlikely, but I just want to make sure the results I get are as a good as they possibly can be.
Once the calibration process is complete (can take a while) all that you need do then is to name the profile and click Save Profile and that you done … your monitor / display is now calibrated.
Profiling Papers for the BEST Prints Possible
Now that you’ve calibrated your display we want to do some printing and so the next step is to create profiles for the paper you’re going to be using.
When it comes to creating profiles, all you need do is create them once for the each of the papers you use so that you then have an ICC Profile to choose later on which tells your printer and software exactly what it needs to do to produce the best most accurate prints.
So back on the Home Screen, choose Color Print in the Printer Calibration section (on the left)…
On the next screen here is where you have a number of options.
Firstly from the top menu choose your printer. Next choose the paper size. For this I use A4 sizes of the paper, set the measurement to mm and then add a brief description of the paper; in this example you can see I’m profiling some Canon Luster paper.
I then tick the Data Save Workflow checkbox and click to Create Session. This means I can (if ever I wanted to) recall all the steps at a later date if for some reason I wanted to profile the same paper again but without going through these first few steps.
When I choose this option I then just need to save the session in a folder by giving it a suitable name and clicking Save.
You then click to Print out the Test Chart and give it time to dry (I tend to leave it roughly 30 minutes or so).
Then as before when we calibrated the screen, now we need to get the i1 Studio to calibrate itself by rotating the dial and clicking Calibrate. This only takes a moment but ensure the i1 Studio is zero’d out and will give the best results.
Once calibrated and we have followed the on screen instructions to rotate the dial on the i1 Studio back to it’s original position, we then use it to scan the paper and do this by placing the Test Chart print on a flat surface length ways with the printed numbers for each row on the left.
Position the i1 Studio to the far left of each row in turn so that the oblong marker is just outside of the first patch and on an area of paper that has no print. Then when ready press and hold down the button on the other side of the i1 Studio and slowly drag the device along the length of a strip to the far end and just off onto a piece of the paper where there is no print. The device will indicate all is well by sounding a beep when you start and it sees the first patch and then when you release on the far end.
The software also shows that the device is reading correctly by scoring through each line of patches as you work your way along…
Once you have printed and scanned this first Test Chart, the software can see how the colours are first being read. Now it needs to create a second Test Chart based on the results of the first scan so that a profile can be created that instructs the printer with what it needs to do when printing based on what the colours appear like and what they should look like on that paper from that printer…make sense?
So the next step is to print out the second Test Chart that the software has now created…
Then once the print has been allowed to dry (30 minutes or so) it’s the same process as before to scan this second Test Chart making sure to go from left to right as shown below…
When you finish scanning the second Test Chart with the i1 Studio the software then asks you to name the ICC Profile you are creating for this particular paper; you can see below that I’ve named it: Canon_Pro_Luster_GLYN.icm
I like to keep the profiles descriptive like this along with my name at the end so that I know it’s one I created as opposed to a profile I downloaded from the paper manufacturer; it also makes the profile easy to locate later.
Clicking Save Profile makes the software work its magic generating the ICC Profile…
After a few moments the ICC Profile has been created so just click OK and you’re all done.
Printing from Lightroom
The ICC Profile that’s been created for that particular paper and printer is now available to be used so I’m going to dive into Lightroom.
Once I’ve cropped and sized the image I want to print I then first of all dive into Soft Proofing by pressing S when in the Develop Module. I have a video below that shows how to use the Soft Proofing process in Lightroom but to be honest I’m finding now that I don’t use because this profile creation is giving me exactly the results I want. Just be mindful when / if you watch the video that I no longer download the profiles from the labs or paper manufacturers; just look at how I use the profiles when Soft Proofing.
The next thing is to dive into Lightroom’s Print Module and tell Lightroom your paper size and what size you want the print to be, and that’s all pretty much self explanatory.
The bit I want to mention about though is where we use the ICC Profile we’ve just created so in the bottom right of the screen click to choose the profile so to load it in we first need to choose the OTHER option. Actually before doing that, Quit and Re Start Lightroom otherwise it won’t show up.
Clicking on OTHER then opens up a folder where all your ICC Profiles are stored so you just need to scroll until you find the one you just created. Then simply choose it by ticking the checkbox on the left hand side and click OK.
This then takes you back into the main Lightroom workspace where all you need do is make sure the profile is being used in the Color Management section.
Perceptual or Relative?
My other preference here is to use the Relative option for the Intent and add +15 of Brightness; Colour and Contrast is ALWAYS spot on but I find adding this amount of Brightness brings the print more in line with exactly what I see on my screen.
If you’re unsure about the Perceptual or Relative thing here’s a brief description of what each means / does:
Aims to preserve the visual relationship between colour so it’s perceived as natural to the human eye, even though the colour values themselves may change. This intent is suitable for photographic images with out-of-gamut colours.
Compares the white of the source colour space to that of the destination colour space and shifts all colour accordingly. Out-of-gamut colors are shifted to the closest reproducible colour in the destination colour space. Relative colorimetric preserves more of the original colours in an image than Perceptual.
So hopefully you can see that although there’s quite a few steps involved, it is really intuitive and the software guides you through the process. You only need to profile a paper type once so long as you’re using that profile with the same printer; obviously if you have another printer then for best results you’d want to scan new Test Sheets, but the process is really simple.
I’ll admit that I was sceptical as to whether the results I would get would really be worth the potential investment of the i1 Studio but hand on heart I am totally sold on it. For years I have struggled with printing and wasted more money than I dare think about which is why for the past few years I’ve outsourced to a printing lab. However, I have always had to compromise with the results I got back for one reason or another; I was never 100% completely and utterly happy. Now though I genuinely am. I know I can confidently load my printer with paper, press Print and what comes out is near perfect as I could wish for, and I genuinely mean that.
Anyway I hope in some way this helps to answer any questions you may have (if not then please make use of the comments section below) but I also hope it encourages you to take control of your own printing because nothing beats seeing your own pictures through the entire process from concept to print. Of course there are cost implications to consider but if you can justify it, I highly recommend it.
Catch you next time,
Check out the i1 Studio – CLICK HERE