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Author Topic: ICC profiles for metal prints  (Read 6717 times)
wmchauncey
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« on: July 14, 2013, 08:53:54 AM »
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Alright, I'm a new user to this forum with a thick skin, decent photographer and CS6 user, just starting to have prints (metal) made for personal use and I have a problem.
I can't seem to find ICC Profiles from anyone that coughs out metal prints, a process that has been around several years, using ChromaLux substrate for the most part...why no available profiles?     Shocked

Having small sample images made is one option but that relies on my 70y/o eyes, sometimes unreliable at best.
Or I could have profiles generated using color specific test images by someone like the digital dog.  Is there another option that I'm overlooking?     Undecided
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« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2013, 11:22:29 AM »
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Did you ask your lab for a profile? Or you are doing the printing yourself?
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Andrew Rodney
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« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2013, 11:35:49 AM »
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WHCC
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wmchauncey
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« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2013, 01:53:30 PM »
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I just checked WHCC's site and could find no mention that they have metal prints let alone profiles.
Andrew, I did contact the more popular labs without any luck, all they say is that profiles are not yet available.
 
Based on nothing besides knowledgeable and congenial customer service, I'm looking hard at these folks...http://www.fullcolor.com/metal_products/
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« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2013, 01:55:36 PM »
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I just checked WHCC's site and could find no mention that they have metal prints let alone profiles.
Andrew, I did contact the more popular labs without any luck, all they say is that profiles are not yet available.

Can't help then. IF you are using an outside service, you pretty much need to get the profile from them. I've built profiles for this process, it's totally doable. As to why they can't or are dragging their feet, can't say.
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Andrew Rodney
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« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2013, 08:23:02 AM »
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The profiles are going to vary from vendor to vendor so you'll want to use the profile for the actual vendor you're going to be using. They may be reluctant to give out these profiles because so many lab customers incorrectly use them for color space conversion prior to delivery to the lab. That's a bad habit they're trying to break. They need to update their profiles regularly and thus, need to handle all conversions in house.

Can we assume you're intending to use the profiles just for soft proofing, and not for color space conversion? Can I assume you're talking about metal dye sublimation printing, and not UV Curable printing on metal? Communicating these things accurately will help your chances of getting profiles from your vendor.

Simply asking "Can you give me your metal profile" requires that they engage in a lengthy conversation with you about why you want their profiles. Asking "I'd like to be able to soft proof my files for your dye sublimation on metal process that I plan on delivering as AdobeRGB files. Would you be willing to give me your current ICC profile for that process so that I might use it only for soft proofing purposes?" communicates far more and would allow them reply quickly without hesitation.

I'm working with several inkset manufacturers and XRite to try and improve the methodology and overcome some common problems that are unique to these process. Let's just say that as things are now, excellent profiles for this can be really tricky to make so they may be hesitant to release their profiles for two reasons: 1) They don't feel 100% confident in their current profiles or 2) They've invested heavily in really good calibration and profiling and don't want their profiles to get into their competitor's hands.
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digitaldog
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« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2013, 08:27:20 AM »
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They need to update their profiles regularly and thus, need to handle all conversions in house.

Too bad they can't just deal with process control! Then the same profiles could be used day in and day out.
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Andrew Rodney
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« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2013, 08:53:23 AM »
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I'm working with several inkset manufacturers and XRite to try and improve the methodology and overcome some common problems that are unique to these process. Let's just say that as things are now, excellent profiles for this can be really tricky to make
What problems are you seeing with this process ?
From what I've seen the inks are very non-linear in output.
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wmchauncey
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« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2013, 09:11:57 AM »
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Scott, I would be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about the printing process as a whole and the vendors I'm looking at use metal dye sub process on ChromaLuxe sheets.
The conversations have been referencing ICC Profiles for the soft-proofing process...all claim that they do not exist.  That makes no sense at all to this printing ignorant consumer.

I've read the printer profile software/equipment reviews on this site produced by Andrew Rodney and, with no disrespect meant, while they are not inexpensive, they do seem pretty user friendly.
They all use the same substrate with four finishes, could you elaborate as to why these profiles would be so difficult to cough out?
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« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2013, 10:21:19 AM »
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Scott, I would be the first to admit that I know next to nothing about the printing process as a whole and the vendors I'm looking at use metal dye sub process on ChromaLuxe sheets.
The conversations have been referencing ICC Profiles for the soft-proofing process...all claim that they do not exist.  That makes no sense at all to this printing ignorant consumer.

Providing an ICC profile that you can only soft proof with is a half baked CMS if I can be that kind!

You need the profile to soft proof and convert the image on your end. You need to see and control the rendering intent and soft proof to look as you desire and that conversion has to be maintained value for value when fed to the output system. To send a profile for soft proofing then just demand sRGB or something other than the color space you just used is waste of time IMHO.

Making the profiles is no big deal. If someone like a lab provides a profile to their customers, they may have to pay a fee to the company who's software built the profile. It's not that expensive in the grand scheme of things.

Process control is far more important and depending on the process and workflow more difficult. I can't understand why this would be an issue but I don't know anything about this process other than I've measured them. If a lab can keep an E6 lab in line, like the old days, I can't understand why they can't nail a partial or fully digital process. If one can keep a analog or digital press in a tight process control, I can't imagine a reason why this process wouldn't be as tight or tighter.

I don't see why a good lab can't supply good profiles to use as designed and have a path for people who don't care: Just send sRGB. But providing a profile and demanding sRGB is a sure sign to forget this lab's idea of color management.
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Andrew Rodney
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« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2013, 11:47:04 AM »
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Too bad they can't just deal with process control! Then the same profiles could be used day in and day out.

The old concept that photo labs could make a set of profiles and use them indefinitely has proven to be much more complicated than that. Chemistry, media, inkset, printers, the profiling software, the calibration methodology and the workflow software all change as time goes on and any of these things can require new profiles so as to maintain consistency across a big lab with lots of devices. Color Management in a big lab is like a living, breathing being that needs attention on a fairly regular basis.

I've seen this a  lot with dye sublimation. A lab starts off with the profile from the ink manufacturer. After a while they see problems with it and try to make their own. After a while they see problems with that and seek making a better one, etc. It's not as easy as aqueous inkjet profiling and softproofing often doesn't reflect the final output. You can't make these profiles remotely because they might look perfectly fine in PS, and have great gamut renderings but make surprisingly horrible prints. You've got to make prints to evaluate profiles for sublimation processes. It's a weird beast, at least with some inksets.

So when I say they need to update their profiles I mean to say that as the years go by they need to update profiles for a variety of reasons even if they have perfect process control, and customers having older profiles could be problematic.
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wmchauncey
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« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2013, 11:58:19 AM »
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In light of your response Scott, it sounds as if the dye-sub process itself is the stumbling block in the process and that even if I had profiles created today,
 they may/may not be satisfactory tomorrow.
This would indicate that my only alternative is a small scale test shot of every large print that I would want produced, then rely on my aged eyes.
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digitaldog
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« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2013, 11:58:30 AM »
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The old concept that photo labs could make a set of profiles and use them indefinitely has proven to be much more complicated than that. Chemistry, media, inkset, printers, the profiling software, the calibration methodology and the workflow software all change as time goes on and any of these things can require new profiles so as to maintain consistency across a big lab with lots of devices.

Or controlling that process prior to the creation of the new profile (to fix the other problem). Process control is about trending too. It's why I hit the roof with X-rite when the color engine changed between dot releases and don't tell anyone you are well aware of. Some of us trend to the degree that an alteration in the profile creation software would pop notifiers that tell someone, stop and find out what's going wrong and fix it. We aim to the profile, not the other way. The profile IS the reference which the process control has to aim to.
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Andrew Rodney
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« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2013, 11:59:27 AM »
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What problems are you seeing with this process ?
From what I've seen the inks are very non-linear in output.

1) Yes, they can be super non-linear and too screwy for the profile to clean up. The linearization built into printer drivers aren't optimal for sublimation so using a RIP to make custom linearization is a good idea.
2) There can be be weird measurement issues, particularly with some inksets and substrates. This can cause profiles that seem perfectly fine but print surprisingly terrible. Some materials are more conducive to the measurement process.
3) Lots of sublimation processes have very colorful blacks which profiling software will try to correct which results in very light, disappointing blacks.
4) Different substrates (IE metal or ceramic for example) can look different enough that they need different profiles.

Without saying too much, because of these and other little issues, most inkset manufacturers have been making profiles with older profile making software that allows them to edit the profiles. This is an unfortunate situation to have to be in, but because sublimation is so weird it's really required for many (but not all) sublimation setups. Involving the profile making developer in this dialog may eventually make this process easier. Here's to hoping!
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Scott Martin
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« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2013, 12:07:01 PM »
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Or controlling that process prior to the creation of the new profile (to fix the other problem). Process control is about trending too.

I get it - I teach process control every week. What I'm saying is that eventually the inkset will be discontinued and the lab will be forced to upgrade and make new profiles. Or their printer will die and they might be forced to use another inkset with their new printer. Or they'll upgrade the profile making software and want to make new profiles lab-wide for consistency. Nothing lasts forever is my point, even with perfect process control.

The profile IS the reference which the process control has to aim to.

I like what you're saying here. Still, look at the perceptual rendering (which is king in labs) from PMP, MP and i1P. The profile making software has changed over the years and we're seeing better prints than ever because of it. The profile making technology has to evolve as well - and they need to keep us informed along the way (as you're pointing out)!
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digitaldog
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« Reply #15 on: July 15, 2013, 12:13:18 PM »
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Still, look at the perceptual rendering (which is king in labs) from PMP, MP and i1P. The profile making software has changed over the years and we're seeing better prints than ever because of it. The profile making technology has to evolve as well - and they need to keep us informed along the way (as you're pointing out)!

And if you are aware of the changes and want them, it's quite easy to use the same measured data you used as your process control reference, rebuild the profile with the new engine, then build a new aim using the new table for all new trending and referencing. Kind of why a standardized RGB  target would be more useful than engineering instrument communications protocol <g>. It is when we don't know or are not told but find out doing more process control work this pisses me off. The people making the solutions don't know enough about the tools they build to know they are causing you grief. Anyway, that's water under the bridge. I've built a few profiles for this metal process, I've as yet not heard back there were any issues. It could be a huge nightmare to control and I should be happy all I have to worry about in terms of PC is analog and digital presses.
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Andrew Rodney
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« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2013, 12:14:22 PM »
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In light of your response Scott, it sounds as if the dye-sub process itself is the stumbling block in the process and that even if I had profiles created today, they may/may not be satisfactory tomorrow.

A bunch of profiles for sublimation processes don't even soft proof correctly today. Your lab saying the profiles don't exist is simply wrong but perhaps they're saying that because they don't want to get into a conversation about how complicated all of this is with sublimation, or provide excuses as to why their profiles don't soft proof correctly.  

I would make some test prints - reference evaluation prints - choose your lab based on the best output and proceed without soft proofing. Simulating the rich blacks and dynamic range of this process on matte displays is problematic anyway. Heck, if you manage to find a place that gives you a profile that soft proofs correctly on a glass surfaced display that can simulate the rich blacks then that's fantastic but until then my recommendation is to keep it simple and proceed without soft proofing.
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Scott Martin
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« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2013, 12:21:06 PM »
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It is when we don't know or are not told but find out doing more process control work this pisses me off.

I agree! And cheers to you for pointing that out on the last beta cycle.

I've built a few profiles for this metal process, I've as yet not heard back there were any issues.

You should contact them right away then. I've made enough across a lot of different manufacturer's inksets to know that you can't make these profiles remotely and expect them to work without testing. You've got to be onsite and test with real world prints because they can print totally different than how they soft proof. Epson's new Surecolor FJ (dye sublimation) printers use a RIP and are fairly easy to profile, while Artanium inks in an Epson without a RIP is super difficult for example.
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tho_mas
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« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2013, 06:11:00 PM »
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Providing an ICC profile that you can only soft proof with is a half baked CMS if I can be that kind!

You need the profile to soft proof and convert the image on your end. You need to see and control the rendering intent and soft proof to look as you desire and that conversion has to be maintained value for value when fed to the output system. To send a profile for soft proofing then just demand sRGB or something other than the color space you just used is waste of time IMHO.
ever printed on metall or metallic paper? I did ...

Nowadays there are softwares that can only softproof with "paper simulation" enabled (Lightroom for instance). Now, metallic paper and/or metall is a surface that simply is not reasonably measurable with current standards and devices. You end up with a "paper white" that is bluer than blue. When you use a UV cut filter the resulting data doesn't make any sense either. Therefore a serious printing service would ask for the original file (in whatever color space... doesn't have to be sRGB, of course) and adjust the file "by eye" (or with their self-baked settings) to make a good print.

I've printed on Kodak Endura Metallic. My Lab (they make professional digital and analogue prints for commercial clients as well as for quite a few artists) first didn't want to give the profile to me. Maybe because they feared I could complain about the final print (they know I am very nitpicking about my prints). Finally they gave me the profile and a piece of paper and I calibrated my display to match the "paper white" visually in my viewing booth. The display was calibrated to... I don't remember exactly... something like 50cd/m2 and 7200K or so ... I've softproofed without "paper simulation" (since the display already matched "paper white"). The prints even from the first output looked really great.

So maybe the said lab doesn't offer a profile as there simply is no profile for metallic prints that works "as supposed to" ...

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Scott Martin
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« Reply #19 on: July 15, 2013, 06:33:01 PM »
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I've printed on Kodak Endura Metallic.

Kodak Metallic profiles very easily - a UV filter helps in fact - and the profiles soft proof perfectly. Profiling a sublimation process on metal is a completely different ball game.
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