Monitor Calibration

By William LaMartin, Editor, Tampa PC Users Group
lamartin@tampabay.rr.com


For several years, ever since purchasing an Epson Stylus Photo 2200 printer, I have never been sure that what is printed will appear the same as what I see on my computer monitor. This is not really a complaint about the printer; I have printed many stunning images using it. Yet I have also had to reprint images several times to get the proper degree of lightness and, more rarely, the correct color cast.

The most persistent problem has been that the printed images appear a good bit darker than what I see on my monitor from Photoshop. My solution to this has been to simply make the image about +25 brighter in Photoshop when I want to print it. Additionally, a small reduction of the saturation for red is often needed if I want the printed result to be the same as seen on the monitor.

Now, you might ask: How do you know that what you see on the monitor is correct? Good question, and that is where a monitor calibrator comes in. There are several such devices on the market. The one I chose is the one I was shown at North Tampa Photography, the huey by Pantone. It is a small USB device about 4 inches long and a little over one half-inch wide and about one-half inch thick. The cropped photo, Image A below, shows it dangling from the top of my monitor over the blue color portion of Image A during a calibration, with its progress display and cancel button to the left.

huey during calibration

It is quite simple to use. First, you install the software from a CD. (By the way, the huey pro is the same hardware item--it just has more advanced software.) Next, you run that software, where the first screen tells you to click the start button. After that you see the second screen, shown at the bottom left of this page, Image B, which tells you to attach the sensor, which has suction cups, to your monitor. Then you simply follow the on-screen instructions. A number of different colors will appear on screen under the device, as photographed above with a blue light on the screen.

huey on screen instructions

When the calibration is finished, you will be able to see the results of before and after and will also be given the opportunity to place the device in a cradle on your computer desk next to the monitor so that it can re-calibrate your monitor periodically as the room lighting changes.

So, how has this helped my photo-printing problem since I have done nothing to calibrate my printer?

The answer is that, in using a calibrated monitor, you know that what you saw yesterday and see today and will see tomorrow and also see under different room lighting conditions will be the same. That gives you a base from which to make further adjustments. Those adjustments and settings will be made in Photoshop and in the printer dialog settings when you actually print from Photoshop.

All modern photo printers should have an ICC profile for each paper. For example my Epson 2200 printer has a profile named SP2200 Premium Glossy_PK to use when printing using the Epson glossy paper, and it has similar profiles for each of the other papers. So, when printing my image from Photoshop, I select this profile in the print dialog, along with other settings, which I will omit here but which you can read about in the Matching Prints to Screen link and the huey & huey Pro User Guide link below.

This is supposed to give me a printed result that matches what I see on the monitor. But not quite. It seems that for many photos, I need to increase the brightness in Photoshop to get a printed result matching the monitor.

I purchased my huey locally at North Tampa Photography for $77. I have seen it on the web anywhere from $65 to $90. The huey pro costs around $30 or $40 more, and there is also an upgrade from Pantone from the huey to the huey pro. The Pantone site is http://www.pantone.com.

Color is a much more complicated subject than you might think. Just do a Google search for things like "monitor calibration" or "printer calibration".

The first three links below are articles by a professional photographer named Keith Cooper, whose knowledge about color far exceeds anything I could write. So, if you are interested in better printed photos, read his three articles.

If you are interested in purchasing a Pantone huey color meter, then read the pdf user guide at the link below. This document also has good information on printing from Photoshop, in its last section titled "Printing after the monitor is calibrated."

Review of huey: http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/reviews/pantone_huey.html

Review of huey Pro: http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/reviews/pantone_huey_pro.htm

Matching Prints to Screen: http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/article_pages/match_prints_to_screen.html

huey & huey Pro User Guide: http://www.pantone.com/downloads/products/pdfs/hueyhueyPROUserGuide.pdf

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