monitor vs printer color space and soft-proofing accuracy

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by test1, Apr 9, 2009.

  1. Hi,
    the deeper I dive into color management the more I realise how much is there to learn. Another day I was playing with soft-proofing in Photoshop, and tried different output profiles. My monitor (Iiyama CRT) is calibrated with i1display. Output profiles of interest were: 1) custom made ICC for Frontier 570 from local pro-lab; 2) Canon 9500 + Ilford Fibre Silk; 3) Epson 1900 + Ilford Fibre Silk; 4) Epson R800 and Ilford Smooth Glossy (three last profiles downloaded from Ilford website). One of the photos that I've used for tests was some of my real images, not a test target (jpeg version at but I've used PSD source in ProPhoto color space for actual tests). Another one was a color real image with a lot of saturated red tones.
    What I've noticed is that Epson R800 soft-proof showed significantly lift in dark areas and reduced highlights; with Frontier profile effect was similar but as big as with R800. Tne Epson 1900 profile resulted in look more close to original tonality (i.e. what I saw when soft-proof was turned off); and finally Canon 9500 was even better and quite close to reproducing most of original tonality. All that for B/W image. For color image differences were less noticible between profiles. I thought: "right, looks like I shouldn't bother buying anything less than Canon 9500, and until then just bring photos to Frontier lab".
    Then I've stumbled upon few 3D ICC comparisson tools and decided to evaluate profiles that I've used. It was interesting to see that Epson R800 color space wasn't much smaller than Canon 9500, it was just different. Curiously, Canon 9500 had biggest overlapping with monitor and Adobe RGB gamuts. This is probably reason why in soft-proofs Canon 9500 was showing closest similarity to original images.
    Now the game became more interesting, lets compare printer profiles with monitor profiles, including my current Iiyama CRT and two Eizo monitors (CE210W and S2231W) that I'm looking at as possible purchase in the future. One thing I've noticed that my monitor is quite good in terms of color space size (slightly more than that of CE210W). All monitors covered more or significantly more than printers in some parts of spectrum. However even wide-gamut S2231W did not extend enough to cover yellow-red part of Epson printer profiles. My understanding is that such difference in gamut between monitors and printers (not bigger, but covering different areas of spectrum) is part of the answer why with some printers difference from monitor image was bigger than with other - monitor just couldn't reproduce some colors from printer color space. Another though is that Epson R800 is probably not inferior to Frontier and could sometimes give better results depending on the image.
    I'm confused: if dealing with an image that has colors not reproducible on the monitor (and I have examples of such images where colors lie beyond gamut of explored monitors and Adobe RGB) but supposedly in the spectrum reproducible by printers (e.g. yellow-red zone), how can monitors be used for accurate soft-proofing when they don't cover desired part of the color gamut for target printer and source image? Isn't it then just hit-or-miss game and ultimately test prints are still necessary at least for some if not for many photos, like printing those test stripes back in darkroom days? Surely absolute match is never possible, but is soft-proof close enough to justify time (tuning image on the monitor just to notice on the print that tuning need to be done in different direction) and expenses (colorimeters, spectrometers, wide-gamut monitors) for doing it?
    P.S.: Photography is just my hobby, so budget for it has quite low limits, that's why I'm trying to determine which expenses are justified for me and which are not.
  2. short answer;
    1_get a better epson printer like a 2880 or 3800
    2_get a better monitor like a NEC2690wuxi (forget about Eizo quality / price)
    And all you will see on monitor will be printable on your printer, and all you will see on your monitor will be better than what a external lab can give you. With a real good monitor, calibrated with a need for test print anymore. I just color corrected and enhanced 65 16x20 for a artist photographer..i made 0 test print, 2 reprint..and 65 16x20 that i and the artist really like. Thats why a color managed workflow is important; what you see is what you get.
  3. Ted Dillard's Andrew Rodney's book "Color Management for Photographers" is a good place to start.
  4. Patrick, Ellis, thank you for quick replies.
    I've tried to download profile for NEC2690 and compare it with printer profiles. Looks aproximately similar difference as I saw with Eizo wide-gamut monitors - printers have noticible part in yellow-red area which is beyond gamut of the monitor (both NEC2690 and Eizo S2231). If so, then how either of this monitors supposed to accurately soft-proof for target printer when some colors of that printer cannot be reproduced on the monitor? And Eizo S2231 is within my budget (as is CE210W), while NEC 2690 is almost certainly not.
    I understand basics of color management to extend as what profiles are, how they're important and how conversion happens. The confusion is about using monitors to try to simulate printer's output in the area beyond monitor gamut. I trust inkjet printers (and even frontier) can reproduce wonderful photos, but it's still dark to me how one could accurately judge something that supposedly can't be seen.
    Since even wide-gamut monitors don't cover some part of the printers output, I'm thinking if I'd be not better off with smaller gamut but hardware calibration capable monitors (like Eizo CE210W with their ColorNavigator) due to convinience with no need to fiddle with monitor controls. That's the origin of questions in this thread.
  5. It's true that if you use ProPhoto (as I do) it's difficult if not impossible to find a monitor that can display all the available colors. So yes it's kind of like 'blind editing'.
    BUT it's unlikely that it would look bad in a print unless you over did some edits. I sometimes run a 4x6 test in low quality to verify the printed colors, but they've always looked good.
    When I was choosing a printer I took a hard look at the Epson 1900. Acoording to a couple of reviews it has the widest gamut of any consumer ink jet, and its ability to eliminate gloss differential is impressive. But i ended up going for a lower gamut model (2880) because of its superior B&W.
    IMPORTANT: The Epson print preview window doesn't like the ProPhoto colors and will give a weird look, but it will print fine...from 'blind editing' to a 'blind preview'!...
  6. "If so, then how either of this monitors supposed to accurately soft-proof for target printer when some colors of that printer cannot be reproduced on the monitor?"

    They're not. Soft proofing does not replace hard proofing. Soft proofing does not replace hard proofing. Say it with me. ;)

    Soft proofing augments hard proofing, and allows you to make fewer hard proofs, but it is not a replacement for a hard proof. Even assuming someone came out with a monitor tomorrow that reproduced the entire gamut of your printer, you'd still have significant differences due to the realities of additive/subtractive color and transmissive/reflective media.
  7. true Colin,
    A soft proof cannot replace a hard proof. Specially in certain color spaces.

    Also depends what you are doing with the file or files. Patrick, a pro, does retouching and wants to make sure he is seeing what he expects on screen(and client), and proofs a few and retouches the rest and confirms in softproofing. Silly to hard proof all of those files.
    Then you have a picture you want to make a nice archival print of, which many photographers or enthusiasts do. They want to have a color managed system, and often find it hard to justify the price for the right tool to get this done correctly (no matter how your numbers stack or who elses ICC profile you are using).

    here is a short list for a hobby shooter I hope can be helpful:
    Make your own ICC printer profile, or have someone custom make it. "Off the shelf" profiles are often great in one respect missed in another. A custom made one will be able to address your concerns(for the most part). Custom can use 700 or more swatches. Ask, and ask for corrections.
    Get a very good screen, the best you can afford.
    Get a decent printer that fits the output size of what you will likely print MOST of.
    As you noticed, ESPON is not the only, nor best printer available. Be open to other brands Like Canon, and HP. all 3 are different, but they all can make a super print. Also consider what media you like most. Glossy or matte, and pick the printer that bests the charactoristic you are looking for. Saturated colors, deep blacks etc.
    You would make good use of a Colormunki ...I never used this, but it does sound like others are happy with it, and it does calibrate your screen as well as the output.

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