Example, Setting Up Your Best Color Workflow

I spent part of the morning consulting with a client on color management issues. He has a very nice studio setup, running a couple of Mac desktops, a wide-gamut monitor which he calibrates with a ColorMunki, and a good 17″ inkjet printer. He uses the factory ICC profiles while printing, but has also created custom paper profiles using the ColorMunki.

Good shutters over the windows, air conditioning, and Solux daylight desk lamp for print viewing; the room is painted neutral off-white.

He’s capturing images using a Canon 5D MKII, RAW files, and editing in Pro Photo RGB, 16 bit.

His monitor is calibrated to 5500k, at about 100 cd/m2. While this may look a bit dim and yellow to most, he finds he gets a pretty good screen to print match with this setup. Others might use 6500k.

The first thing I did when I arrived was to ask him to print a grey step wedge target. The print was near-perfect, with all the steps distinct from one another, good ink density, etc. No color cast.

We compared his prints to screen, and viewing prints with his Solux desk lamp there is a near-perfect match.

However, there was one thing that we worked on that will help him – not so obvious, but important. He has a ceiling light that uses everyday incandescent bulbs. There are four bulb sockets in this fixture, and two have bulbs in them. Household bulbs like this run a color temperature 2700-3300k, much warmer than his screen or Solux light.

These bulbs are bright enough and warm enough to influence his color vision while editing (they cast light on the display), and of course while viewing the prints. My general rule of thumb is that a light that’s a problem is at least 30-40% the brightness of the computer display.

The Solux viewing light is across the room, so it’s a bit inconvenient to reach over and turn it on – the result is that sometimes he’s looking at his (gorgeous) prints in the warm color temp lighting conditions. I have another client who has issues with window light – because the daylight is reflected through the window from a green-colored wall outside!

The conclusion is that you may be thinking that you’ve done it all just right, and that one small thing that you are totally accustomed to may still intrude into your workflow – an unshaded window, an expired printer driver, uncalibrated monitor – they might not be obvious, but they have real impact on quality control. So, go take a close look – you might find something that makes your work easier – and improves your images!

We have a new workshop coming up:

Getting the Most out of your Desktop Inkjet Printer – David Saffir instructor Wednesday, December 15th – 6:30pm to 9:30pm SCV Center for Photography – follow for details

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