If you desire good colour management from your printer, you need to start with printer calibration. When we talk about printers, we mean inkjet, solvent, UV, toner or liquid ink based print devices or print engines – basically, the vast majority of printing machines! Colour management 101 (our stock in trade) dictates that we should pay very close attention to printer calibration.
So - what is it, and why should you care?
Calibration is best described as the process of bringing a colour device (printer, scanner, monitor) into an optimal, quantifiable, repeatable state.
- Optimal: The best result obtained or obtainable under specific conditions.
- Quantifiable: Capable of being measured, which means it then should be–
Printer calibration could involve getting the printer could conform to an established industry standard (such as ISO 12647-2 for print) or a manufacturing standard/guidelines or even your own specification.
Printer calibration enables you to keep track of "device drift”. Over time, even with consistent use of the same consumables (ink, toner, paper), your printer will suffer from device drift. We calibrate to make the printer behave consistently and bring it back into a repeatable state. This enables colour management to remain valid and accurate.
Printer calibration is best thought of as the first step of the colour management process. The second would be printer profiling or print ICC profiling.
Printer profiling is sometimes called characterisation - the process of recording a device’s behavior into a profile. It is simply a record or map of how the device produces colour - what it is capable of producing. This record (referred to as an ICC profile) will show you the device’s gamut (i.e. what colours it can and cannot print), reflected by the calibration process.
Printer calibration can be likened to having your car ‘dyno’ tuned for optimal performance.
Printer profiling can be likened to getting a report of your car’s ‘dyno’ tuned results - power output, torque, and so on.
Print calibration is like money in the bank - when you find your print colour has drifted, print re-calibration, back to the same targets, will enable your existing print ICC profile to be valid again - i.e. your colour will be back to where it should be!
How often should you re-calibrate? That can depend on your print device and it is well worth taking the time to set up process controls to monitor and gauge device stability. Sometimes though, a certain amount of drift or instability may need to be accepted.
A small note: Some print devices cannot be calibrated - for example if the device is a non Postscript printer and/or does not have a ‘RIP’ that usually includes some calibration tools.
Colour Graphic Services can help you to do all this and more! Contact us to learn more about our cost-effective, stress-free solutions at firstname.lastname@example.org or +61 (0)400 123 398