Calibration and Fine Art Printing / by Alain Zarinelli

Love that Colormunki Photo calibration tool - amazingly accurate! I'm recalibrating my main monitor and my Cintiq every time before I print stuff (target 65 cd/m2 for Fine Art Printing), and then “reset” afterward for "normal use" (target 120-130 cd/m2), which is also the ‘calibration’ I use to post-process social media photos. Prints are viewed in reflected light, as opposed to the backlit-objects we see on our monitors. Therefore, when post-processing photographs for print, monitor and paper need to be matched as closely as possible when it comes to black point, whitepoint, color space, and color relationship. When printing, colors that are 'out of gamut' (i.e. that can be reproduced by a properly calibrated screen within a chosen ‘color space,’ but cannot be accurately matched by the ink-mixture within the printer) must be handled, and - photographic prints being viewed in reflected light - the light quality (daylight, tungsten, fluorescent, etc...) has to be accounted for. This is why a photo post-processed for print looks very different on a monitor than one post-processed for social media/computer use...

In my workflow, when I post-process for print, I prepare the photo ‘at a high level’ in my raw converter (Capture One Pro), then raw-convert ("develop") into a 16-bit, (Epson-recommended) 360 ppi, PSD (I used to use uncompressed TIFF, before Capture One Pro started supporting the PSD format…) and 'loaded' into Photoshop. Here, I use layers to create a photo that will look good when printed (hence the different monitor calibration.) When satisfied, I save the file, with all layers intact as a PSD (photoshop format) in my "Masters” folder.

I then 'flatten' the image for faster further processing, and crop it to the exact size I want to print (13x19, 17x22, etc.,) set the photoshop proofing profile to the paper I want to use and tweak the contrast, color balance, etc. in new layers. Finally, I will 'output' sharpen the photograph for inkjet printing using PhotoKit Sharpener 2 (aside of Greg Benz’ Lumenzia, which I use to create luminosity masks when needed, this is the only plug-in I use for my Fine Art/Landscape printing) at the size I plan to, and then save this file in my "Print Ready" folder - with the dimensions and paper type etc. appended to the filename. I then flatten the image and save it in a temporary print folder, before closing Photoshop.

Next step is to start my RIP (raster imaging program) ‘ImagePrint,’ and load the print-ready photo. After aligning it correctly on the paper, etc. I pick the correct paper profile and resolution, and finally choose the quality of light the photograph will be displayed in - usually 'daylight,' but, based upon client needs, sometimes "tungsten' or 'fluorescent' instead...

Then it's sent to the printer. I used to print a small version (8.5x11) before to make sure the print came out as I intended before potentially “wasting” a larger sheet, but (since I started using the RIP as opposed to using the Epson drivers and profiles,) I have become confident enough in my estimation between monitor displayed photo and print to know with 99.5% accuracy how the print will come out; I still do a test print at times, if the photo has difficult to match shadow areas, e.g.

For social media stuff, I used to recalibrate the monitor from scratch, but I have found it to be both accurate enough (after all, the vast majority of ‘regular folks’ use non-calibrated monitors when viewing your social media work anyhow…) and easier to use the same approx. 65 cd/m2 calibration, and just increase the monitor brightness to approx. 120 cd/m2. I use the OS-level controls for this, and then check with my Sekonic light meter (http://amzn.to/2sY80ss) to make sure the monitor is in the correct range.

And that is why fine art prints are not "cheap." :O)