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Author Topic: Paper Manufacturer vs Buying Custom vs Making Own Profiles  (Read 8904 times)
BigBadWolfie
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« on: June 10, 2012, 04:06:29 AM »
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I'm new to color management and printing. I have an i1 Display Pro which I used to calibrate and profile my monitor with BasicColor (I'm using the trial and I'm considering buying it -- any reason not to?). I have a Canon Pro9500mkII printer and have been printing with different papers trying to find the one I like.

One issue I have come across is that softproofing in LR4 generally gives a pretty accurate result but I'm having trouble getting my softproof version to look the way I want it to be. Currently, I'm using profiles from the paper manufacturer and I'm wondering if I will get better prints buying custom profiles from say Chromix or making my own profiles.

So I guess my two main questions are

1) Will custom profiles improve my prints in my situation?

2) How much of an investment do I need to make to have the right gear and software to create my own profiles that can rival the quality of profiles I would get from Chromix?
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2012, 05:20:51 AM »
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No simple right answer to this question.

It depends on the quality of the manufacturers profiles.
Many (perhaps most) manufacturers make excellent profiles but this observation does not hold universally.

If you happen to know upfront what papers you want to use then at least someone on the forum will usually know whether the manufacturers profile is any good.
I would investigate this option in some depth prior to looking at custom profiles.

If one is particularly fond of a paper that doesn't have a good canned profile then getting a profile done by a third party may be a very cost effective solution.

Doing ones own profiles is possible but takes some investment.
However, doing profiles for others may be a way to defray expenses.

Good luck and good printing.

Regards

Tony Jay
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BigBadWolfie
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« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2012, 06:20:50 AM »
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Thanks Tony.  If it helps, I've been looking at Ilford Pearl and Red River papers for 4x6 and 5x7 prints and I'm trying to pick the right Hahnemuhle paper for my bigger prints. I'll mostly print out landscape shots and personal/family snapshots/photos.
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digitaldog
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« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2012, 10:44:17 AM »
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2) How much of an investment do I need to make to have the right gear and software to create my own profiles that can rival the quality of profiles I would get from Chromix?

You’ll have to purchase either an iSis (big bucks) or find a used Spectrolino. I believe CHROMIX would use one or the other. Then you’d probably need i1Profiler or comparable. IOW, it would cost a lot! Not that you need to spend that kind of money to make a good profile. And then the question would be, do they offer an iteration pass (2nd output of targets and measurements) as part of the service. That can make a visual difference depending on what targets are used. That would warrant the use of i1Profiler which has such capabilities.

I find that after printing a 1700 odd patch, building a profile and then optimizing that with 2500 patch gray target, I can see a slight but useful benefit in gray balance on the ink jet printers I’ve tested.
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Andrew Rodney
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Mark Paulson
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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2012, 11:31:37 AM »
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1) Will custom profiles improve my prints in my situation?

Maybe, but you are likely the only one who will notice. Most people are fine with Wal-Mart type prints. Undecided

Quote
2) How much of an investment do I need to make to have the right gear and software to create my own profiles that can rival the quality of profiles I would get from Chromix?

Unless you like geeking out don't go down that rabbit hole. I figure my profiling including hardware and time I've put in only cost me about $1,500 each and I still think I'm a novice. I sure wouldn't offer custom profiles for sale as another user suggested. A good custom profile will be a lot more cost effective, but again you will probably be the only one who will notice..

I use BasicColor, but mainly because I use their Discus. It is a good package, but I think some of the others are just as good.

Good luck
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PeterAit
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« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2012, 12:00:26 PM »
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Manufacturer's profiles are, with rare exception, excellent. Not being able to get your soft proof the way you want it could mean that the selected printer/paper simply cannot do what you want. It could also mean that your Photoshop/LR skills are not quite up to the task (as I know from personal experience). Looking for a fix to less-than-perfect prints by buying more gadgets and software and 20 kinds of paper is exactly the wrong approach, IMO (given that you have decent equipment to start with and color management is set up). What I did, and what I recommend, is to settle on one or two papers and then get busy taking photographs and making prints and reading tutorials and asking for advice and throw out dozen if not hundreds of prints. In a few weeks You'll really have learned your camera,software, paper, and printer. Then you'll be ready for some fine-tuning with different papers, etc.

Ands recall that the soft proof NEVER looks jut like the final print - the old reflected versus transmitted light problem. One of the most valuable things you'll learn from this exercise to recognize how the soft proof needs to look to get the print you want.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2012, 06:02:37 PM »
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I agree with the other posts.
By way of explanation I don't feel it is worth doing one's own profiles unless they were good enough for general consumption, since the whole exercise would otherwise be a waste of time.

Regards Jay
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2012, 08:38:35 PM »
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Chromix.com does a great job. I also recommend http://www.booksmartstudio.com asa media vendor and source of profiles.
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BigBadWolfie
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« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2012, 10:07:09 PM »
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Thanks for the replies. So I guess I should concentrate on asking whether custom profiles are worth getting over the profiles you get from the paper manufacturer then. Anyone have any experience to share, especially pertaining to Ilford, RedRiver, Canson, and Hahnemuhle papers? Custom profiles vs paper manufacturer's?
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pfigen
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« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2012, 01:23:01 AM »
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Well, I've been making my own custom profiles for twelve or thirteen years now, maybe more, I really can't remember, so I'm probably biased in favor of custom. But in every instance where I've compared my own to those coming from a manufacturer, there's really been no contest. The custom profiles win out by everything from a little to a lot. But as has been pointed out in this thread, the hardware and software makes a huge difference and if you don't have the best out there, you may end up spinning your wheels. For me, it's a value added part of my business to be able to provide the best quality color from inkjet to offset, and the investment, even though there might not be a direct payback, allows me to do things few others can. Another problem, of course, is that there's a bit of a learning curve to figure it all out, and while X-Rite has certainly done a lot to try and make it a push-button operation, it's really more complicated than that.
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eronald
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« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2012, 06:31:00 AM »
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One issue I have come across is that softproofing in LR4 generally gives a pretty accurate result but I'm having trouble getting my softproof version to look the way I want it to be. Currently, I'm using profiles from the paper manufacturer and I'm wondering if I will get better prints buying custom profiles from say Chromix or making my own profiles.


Could you explain?
If I understand rightly, the print does look like the screen?

Edmund
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Edmund Ronald, Ph.D. 
Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2012, 08:02:19 AM »
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Thanks for the replies. So I guess I should concentrate on asking whether custom profiles are worth getting over the profiles you get from the paper manufacturer then. Anyone have any experience to share, especially pertaining to Ilford, RedRiver, Canson, and Hahnemuhle papers? Custom profiles vs paper manufacturer's?
  The Ilford Gold Fiber Silk profile for the Epson 3880 was pretty bad (tested about 18 months ago and I don't know if it has been replaced since then) as the colors were really not on and washed out.  I have tested several Canson and Hahnemuhle profiles for the papers that I print on and they are pretty darn good.  I started doing my own profiles about two years ago for two reasons:  1) I was interested in color science and the technology behind the profiling process and 2) to see if I could get better results.  I went the way of the geek and learned how to use ArgyllCMS (a free color management system but quite involved) with a i1pro.  I've found that my profiles were better than the manufacturers' sometimes quite dramatic (Ilford) and sometimes very subtle (Hahnemuhle).  Whether my profiles are better than those done with the new X-Rite software I can't say as I don't plan on incurring the expense or time to do that type of testing.

Alan
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BigBadWolfie
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« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2012, 09:05:08 AM »
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It could also mean that your Photoshop/LR skills are not quite up to the task
Actually, I think this is it. I've played around more and have gotten better results. I'm still finding that it's easier getting a good print out of RedRiver papers than Ilford Pearls. Could it be that I simply don't like the Ilford Pearls or could it be that the Ilford profiles aren't that great? The prints from RedRiver paper seems a lot more contrasty and blacks are more black. On screen, I feel I've done a pretty good job of matching my softproof version with the original version and the print looks pretty close to what I see on screen, only its slightly less saturated and brighter on print.
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Mark Paulson
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« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2012, 09:09:36 AM »
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I agree with the other posts.
By way of explanation I don't feel it is worth doing one's own profiles unless they were good enough for general consumption, since the whole exercise would otherwise be a waste of time.

Regards Jay

While in every case I think my profiles using while using Monaco are better that anything I compared to "canned" profiles, sometimes quite dramatic. I personally would not sell any of them. I compare my profiles to factory profiles and test prints, but do not do any of the extensive testing that some of the other professionals on this forum do. I am fortunate to be near Scott Martin's shop (onsight) and I can tell you that I have seen stacks of hundreds of test prints he has made teaking settings for his profiling service for his clients. I can tell you that I sure have not gone to that trouble nor do I want to invest that time. While I enjoy geeking out on the color thing, tell a beginner that he can recoupe his investment selling profiles is a little unrealalistic in my opinion.

The main issue, I still think, is that the average person/client will not care unless you are able to show the dramatic difference on a "Big Box Print" vs a custom profiled print.  I have a friend who has won many contest in a small town and I have offered to print some of his images. His response has been "Costco is good enough." He doesn't even know what  f-stop means. Kind of opened my eyes up.
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Evanford
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« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2012, 11:31:38 AM »
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Wolfie,

You sound like you in the same boat as me as a knowledgeable but picky consumer rather than a professional.  Here is my experience with my Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mk II.   I tried my make my own profiles with a couple of different consumer level printer profiling solutions over the years.  The results were mixed.  The profiles I created were okay, but often i found they were slightly off (green tint, magenta tint, too contrasty,  whatever)  It wasn't anything that the average person would notice, but I certainly did.  Making the problem more difficult,  I do not have the color evaluation skills to really make these tiny color judgements.  Sometimes I would use a profile for months thinking it was good only to find it has a slight tint to it when compared to something better.   If this describes you as well, I do not recommend making your own profiles.   The pros are using equipment which costs 1000's of dollars instead of a couple of hundred and they know what they are doing.   Buy an inexpensive consumer level spectrometer package like the Color Munki if you want to learn and play around with making your own profiles, but don't expect professional level results.

You have a pigment based printer which the paper manufacturers may have made better base profiles than for my 9000 MK II. I suggest buying some sample packs from various paper manufacturers and downloading their profiles.  Sounds like you have already done this.  Compare the results to Canon's own papers and supplied profiles.  You can try one of the custom profile makers,  but I have found them to be hit or miss just like the canned profiles.  MadMan Chan used to make excellent profiles but no longer offers the service.  I can't vouch for Chromix.  Personally I have custom profiles made for Ilford Classic Gloss and Pearl papers, but also use canned profiles for Canon Platinum Pro and Red River papers.

So to answer your questions: 

1) Custom profiles can make a difference if you find a really good service.  It can also be no better than canned profiles or do-it-yourself depending on the service.

2)  The time and expense to make really good quality profiles yourself is significant.

Good luck and have fun.

Evan
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eronald
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« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2012, 01:01:25 PM »
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If your printer is out of spec then a custom profile is a necessity even with vendor papers. If your printer is in spec then it is a luxury.

Edmund

Wolfie,

You sound like you in the same boat as me as a knowledgeable but picky consumer rather than a professional.  Here is my experience with my Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mk II.   I tried my make my own profiles with a couple of different consumer level printer profiling solutions over the years.  The results were mixed.  The profiles I created were okay, but often i found they were slightly off (green tint, magenta tint, too contrasty,  whatever)  It wasn't anything that the average person would notice, but I certainly did.  Making the problem more difficult,  I do not have the color evaluation skills to really make these tiny color judgements.  Sometimes I would use a profile for months thinking it was good only to find it has a slight tint to it when compared to something better.   If this describes you as well, I do not recommend making your own profiles.   The pros are using equipment which costs 1000's of dollars instead of a couple of hundred and they know what they are doing.   Buy an inexpensive consumer level spectrometer package like the Color Munki if you want to learn and play around with making your own profiles, but don't expect professional level results.

You have a pigment based printer which the paper manufacturers may have made better base profiles than for my 9000 MK II. I suggest buying some sample packs from various paper manufacturers and downloading their profiles.  Sounds like you have already done this.  Compare the results to Canon's own papers and supplied profiles.  You can try one of the custom profile makers,  but I have found them to be hit or miss just like the canned profiles.  MadMan Chan used to make excellent profiles but no longer offers the service.  I can't vouch for Chromix.  Personally I have custom profiles made for Ilford Classic Gloss and Pearl papers, but also use canned profiles for Canon Platinum Pro and Red River papers.

So to answer your questions: 

1) Custom profiles can make a difference if you find a really good service.  It can also be no better than canned profiles or do-it-yourself depending on the service.

2)  The time and expense to make really good quality profiles yourself is significant.

Good luck and have fun.

Evan
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Edmund Ronald, Ph.D. 
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« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2012, 01:41:03 PM »
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In general, I have to fall in the camp that manufacturer profiles are pretty darn good.  They spend a lot of time making a great paper capable of great quality.  They don't want to sandbag all that investment with poor profiles. 

For me, the reason to do my own profiles revolves around wanting to print on unusual surfaces with unusual preparations.

I have not doubt that someone who is very skilled with digital printing-making can take a printed image with an 'A' grade and make it an 'A+,' but until you are consistently getting that grade 'A' print, I think you would be getting ahead of yourself to try to go that last 2-4% in quality improvement.  Start learning digital print-making with manufacturer profiles.

On a side note, one of the most instructive experiences for me was to try to duplicate an antique books endsheets on a watercolor paper (not inkjet watercolor, just watercolor).  What I quickly understood was that the color gamut was so narrow that the task was impossible.  With our modern inkjet papers they all have such good color gamut (relatively speaking) that it is hard to reliably see the difference between two sets of parameters or papers.  With my project, the difference was so dramatic that I came to better understand the whole process. 
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BigBadWolfie
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« Reply #17 on: June 12, 2012, 05:47:58 AM »
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How can you tell if you have a good profile? Is it the similarity between what you see when softproofing on your screen and the print?
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2012, 05:57:31 AM »
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Not necessarily.

Regards

Tony Jay
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Alan Goldhammer
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« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2012, 07:42:05 AM »
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How can you tell if you have a good profile? Is it the similarity between what you see when softproofing on your screen and the print?
THIS may help.  Jack Flesher does a nice job of pointing out the important things and his image (taken from some of Bill Atkinson's work) is useful.
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