Because Jill uses such a wide variety of color in her work, and because the subtle tones are an inherent part of her art, we knew we needed to get the color exactly right.
This was not easy, to say the least. We were starting with the right equipment: a Canon ipf6350 printer and a good quality monitor (an Apple 27 inch Cinema Display). But the first few prints were dreadful. Too bright. Too dark. Sometimes too bright and too dark.
Needless to say, this was discouraging (and expensive, since we were using paper and ink at a furious rate). The printer, which we use all the time for our own work, is capable of just about anything. It can handle rolls or single sheets up to 24 inches wide, and uses 12 different inks to achieve just about any color imaginable. So, the problem was definitely between the chair and the keyboard, as they say.
After an embarrassingly long time, we realized we needed to stop guess-timating colors and brightness values, and take a positive step to get things sorted out. We hauled out our dusty colorimeter, a Color Munki from X-Rite. We love this little thing, but we have to admit using it as a bit of a hassle.
The Color Munki (or any other good colorimeter) is vital, because it helps match what shows on the monitor with what comes out of the printer.
First, you calibrate your monitor by hanging the Color Munki on the front, so that it looks a bit like a big black clam hanging onto the screen for dear life. With the Color Munki on the screen, the software flashes a series of colors for a few minutes. The Color Munki thinks about what it saw, then adjusts your monitor so that it’s color is accurate.
The next step is key. You can take the software to the next level by printing patterns on whatever sort of media – paper, canvas, etc. – you plan to use. Just as the Color Munki analyzed what it saw on the screen, it looks at the colors that come from the printer. After the first test print, the Color Munki ponders a bit, then gives you another test print to run through the printer for more fine-tuning. Once the Color Munki has analyzed that second print, it creates a custom profile to match your monitor to the colors that will come out of your printer.
This all takes a while, but it’s much less frustrating – and cheaper – than making print after print, hoping you nail the color in one of them.