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Profiling… Just About Everything!

December 10, 2012

Profiling printers isn’t just for the Fine Art or Prepress printers.  I’ve had a lot of fun over the years with a “try it and see” method of profiling pretty unconventional output devices.

Xerox-Phaser-8560-N-MainThe first time I got my eyes opened to what you can get away with was a photographer printing his promotional mailers with one of the “solid ink” Xerox printers, the Tektronix models.  I used them a lot, even printed the first versions of my first book with one and loved the print quality…  but it never occurred to me that they’d profile well.

He used a basic CMYK profiling tool and produced prints that were far beyond what I imagined the printer could do – almost photo-quality, but certainly giving any offset process a run for it’s money.

Since then, I’ve profiled not only the Phaser solid ink printers but literally hundreds of laser printers of every description.  One of the comments I love is, “It’s the office laser and the color from it is crap…  but what can you expect?”  If left to it’s own drivers, most laser printers are simply horrible color.  Profiled, they can print quite well.  In some cases, remarkably well.  Many, many designers put together layouts and print them out on the office laser to present, with apologies for color, to their clients. Imagine if the colors were reproduced faithfully?

Screen shot 2012-12-23 at 5.43.51 AM

Speaking of apologies for color, did you know most projectors can be profiled?  How many times have you seen a presentation where the speaker is constantly saying “…well, this color is obviously wrong, but…” ?

Using the i1 Pro system I can actually place the device in the path of the projector and it will measure the color, just as if it was sitting on a display. The better the performance of the projector, the better the result.  If you’re running a premium quality projector without a good profile, you’re getting about 50% out of what the thing can do.

Screen shot 2012-12-23 at 5.50.29 AMProbably the funniest (from a Color Geek standpoint, mind you) profiling project has been the Rimage Everest CD/DVD thermal printers I profiled recently.  It really was just a, “Hey, I wonder if these things can be profiled…” idea, at the start.  We began by simply running the PDI target to see how bad it was printing with the standard drivers and it showed several characteristics that gave us some hope, and some flaws that looked like simple (and common) profiling issues.

In this case, the challenge was printing the target image on the CD.  I took the basic i1 RGB page and fit it to a couple of CD templates, and then fabricated a little bracket device so I could read the patches without missing the mark.  Once I tried that, and got some promising results with the RGB workflow that’s common with these printers I built some CMYK targets and tried a true CMYK workflow.  The result was a surprisingly accurate print.  What started as almost a little geek joke ended up saving the staff a huge amount of work.

Got an unusual printer challenge?  Don’t sell it short…  bring it on!

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