This Month's Feature Article:
by CHROMiX's Patrick Herold
Two of the most popular articles we have written recently have been ColorNews Issue 24 -How Do I Get My Printer To Match My Screen, and ColorNews Issue #31 - My Printer Is Too Dark. Both of these articles deal with the issue of getting a printer's output to match what people are seeing on their display. To this day I am still referring people to these articles frequently because people continue to struggle with this issue.
With the proliferation of these new, brighter LCD displays, a lot of innocent consumers are suddenly finding that what worked on their old CRT isn't getting the results they expect. Nothing seems to look right, or their prints are come out "dark" by comparison with the screen. You can find yourself in this situation even if you are using good profiles, and following good procedures for using your profiles.
Assuming that your printer profiles are accurate, the easiest solution would lie in adjusting the monitor for color, and particularly for brightness. Numbers are thrown around in various internet forums. "If your prints are too dark, calibrate your monitor to 120." This advice might work for one person and not for another.
Can't somebody come up with a simple way to get a printer and monitor to match? Without having to coordinate 5 different pieces of software? Without having to read a book on the subject? Or glean info from 10 different internet sites?
Well, what you want is perfectly understandable but unfortunately impossible. You see, printers and monitors are very different devices and reproduce colors in different ways. Each has its own gamut and some colors reproducible on one device are not reproducible on the other and vise-versa.
Yeah, yeah. I suppose so. But I'm not looking for scientific accuracy, I'm just looking for them to, you know, look the same. I know I used to be able to match things pretty well, so I know that such a thing is possible.
Of course! Anything is possible. All you need is a 16-color Pantone press, and a $25,000 Spectroradiometer and a......
In reality..... Yes, it is possible. Considering that the canned profiles from printer manufacturers are getting better these days, the display is often the weak link. And to make a solution that is a simple, all-in-one software product, and to have it actually work - it would require a display manufacturer to come up with it.
About Eizo EasyPIX
Eizo has a new software program called EasyPIX. This walks you through a simple procedure which is sort of a software version of the "white paper test" that we referred to in our articles. It is a very simple, 1 or 2-page procedure. It does not involve plugging in any numbers, your eyes are the final determiner of what looks right, and the hardware device makes sure that the scaling of color is done properly. You end up with an ICC-profiled monitor that produces accurate color and should match your prints very closely. Also, since the best conditions for matching prints is often too dark for regular internet surfing and other uses, the software has two other modes which can be switched to very easily: "Photo Viewing Mode" and "Web Viewing Mode".
This software is able to give Joe Photographer just what he needs: A simple product that is easy to use, works well, and does not cost too much. In order for this to work, you have to have some kind of human observer going through the white paper test.
In order for this to work well, you need it to interface seamlessly with an LCD monitor with built-in graphics capabilities so that any reduction in brightness will not result in color banding. In order for this to be easy, nobody should have to fiddle with OSB buttons on the front of the monitor to try to change RGB sliders or contrast or brightness. The EasyPIX does all this, and the cost including the colorimeter is less than $200.
How it works
When the program opens, click on the "Adjust your monitor" button. You have a choice between 3 purposes for adjusting your monitor:
This is for getting your monitor to look like something else, presumably a print.
In this mode, you are given a representation of a white piece of paper on the screen. Compare this screen image with a blank, white, piece of your actual printing paper. Click on the color-wheel to change the tint of the screen. Keep experimenting as needed until you get the screen image of the paper to match the color of your real paper. Do the same with the brightness slider. Adjust the brightness of the screen paper up or down until it matches the brightness of your sheet of paper. This can be a little tricky since our eyes get confused trying to compare emissive light (from the display) with reflective light (from the paper).
Once you have the adjustment looking good, click Next to proceed to the Measurement step. Attach the Eizo EX-1 colorimeter to your display and click "Next" to start the measurement. The software presents 24 different colors to the screen where the EX-1 measures them. It's getting information on what colors the monitor is capable of displaying. When through, it will roll this information into a monitor profile.
In the final step, you will give your monitor "adjustment" a name. You might make one for matching prints and call it "for Print Proofing". You might make one for browsing through your images and call it "images optimized." You have the option of saving up to 3 different viewing purposes. Once saved, you can click on any of them when you open into the first screen, and it will instantly revert your monitor to the perfect settings you have saved for your purposes.
This is the option to choose if you want to look at your photos on your display, in all their glory. Here, you'll want to see everything about your images that your display can show: Bright and vivid colors, subtle gradations of shadow detail. You want the pictures to look bright, but not so bright that it makes it uncomfortable to view.
In this mode you are given the ability to adjust the brightness of the display. The color tint is set to 5500 K, a common color temperature for digital cameras.
General use such as Web browsing
Here is a third option for the situation where you are just doing everyday work on your computer, such as web browsing, word processing, looking at emails, etc. You don't always want to have your screen be so bright as when you're viewing photos. Highest brightness levels tend to shorten the lifespan of an LCD, so this general purpose mode is good for conserving lamp life and power.
In this mode you are given the ability to adjust the brightness of the display and the color tint is set to 6500 K.
You can use these 3 modes to customize your 3 favorite viewing conditions, and save them so you can choose any one of them when you first open the program. That makes it very easy to pop back and forth between different viewing modes at will.
Don't forget to tell them that this software makes a 4kb ICC version 2.2 matrix profile, using 24 colored patches. And the computer's graphics card look-up tables become flat-lined while the monitor's internal graphics handles the change in color. Automatic DDC capabilities handle the dimming of the backlight to reach the brightness aim.
What's the catch?
I'm sure you figured this out already, but the EasyPIX software only works with Eizo displays. All the recent CE and CG series displays work with this software as well as some of the less-expensive Flexscan models, including the new wide-gamut Flexscan S2242W mentioned earlier in this newsletter.
Thanks for reading,
Patrick Herold CHROMiX Tech Support / Lab Operations
To see Eizo's blurb about this: http://www.eizo.com/products/accessories/lcd/easypix/index.asp