If you’re a professional, or an enthusiastic amateur in any visual field, whether photography, video, graphic design or digital art, it’s your job to make sure that your work goes out into the world looking like you intended it to look.
But despite all of the fine tuning you might have been doing on your trusty computer, you may be missing a crucial step, and losing a ton of control over your output. If you haven’t calibrated your monitor and the printer you use for your artwork to make it match the global standard, you’re rolling the dice on what your art buyers, customers or fans are seeing when they look at your finished work. But there is an easy solution.
My favorite calibration tool is the X-Rite Color Munki Photo Color Management Solution. It’s just as easy to use as it is effective. The bad news is that these things cost $450, that’s halfway to a good camera lens, and a purchase that many people won’t be able to justify. But, I don’t think you should buy one. I think this is one of the perfect examples of equipment that is far better rented than bought. For $37 plus shipping you can rent one of these systems for three days from Borrow Lenses and calibrate to your heart’s content.
I recently purchased a new iMac Retina 5K, and decided to rent a Color Munki to get this monitor in-line with the rest of my equipment as well as to update the color profiles of my other displays and my printer, all of which need recalibration over time. I thought I’d share a behind the scenes look at the steps it takes to calibrate your equipment with this great piece of tech.
Here’s the kit as it comes from Borrow Lenses. The shipping box is used for the round trip. so you’ll want to hang onto it. They also provide a return shipping label, so it’s just a matter of re-boxing and adhering the return label when you’re ready to send the gear back.
Included in the pelican case you’ll find:
- Color Munki Photo
- USB Cable
- Weighted Strap with Pouch
- A Flash Drive with Color Munki Software
The first thing you’ll want to do is to install the software on any computers you want to calibrate. While the kit comes with software on a thumb drive, I prefer to go to the manufacturer’s website to download the latest version to guarantee that I’m up to date.
When you launch the software, you’ll have options to profile your Display, your Printer, or to match the two. Since I have 4 displays I want to calibrate, I like to start by calibrating all of the displays, then I move on to the printer.
Select the type of display you’d like to calibrate, then if you want to have more control over your calibration you can chose the advanced tab to select the white point and luminance. Otherwise, you can choose easy to go with the default settings. I recommend sticking with the defaults unless you have very consistent ambient lighting where you view your displays and prints. If this is the case, you should choose the option to let ColorMunki automatically determine the optimum luminance based on the ambient lighting conditions.
You’ll now be guided by the softare through the steps to calibrate the device and prepare it for the monitor calibration.
When your device is ready to calibrate your monitor, you’ll be prompted to place the Color Munki into its monitor holder bag, and aim it at the marked box on your screen.
To calibrate your display, the software will display a series of color patches which the tool will read to determine the gamut and color response of your display. The process takes around 5 minutes and is completely automated.
Upon completion, you’ll have the opportunity to name and save your profile. I always name my profiles with the date in reverse order, the name of the display and the calibration tool I used. This makes it easy to keep track of the calibration history of this machine.
After saving your profile, you’ll have the opportunity to see a before and after version of your newly calibrated display. If there is a big change, pat yourself on the back, you just upped your game.
You’re now finished with the first display profile. If you’ve got other displays it is now time to repeat the process. I have a couple of laptops and a second workstation, so the monitor calibration continues. If you have multiple displays connected to a single machine, you can calibrate each monitor independently by moving the software dialogue window to the screen you want to calibrate.
To profile your printer, you’ll use the same software, but will be lead through a new series of steps. To begin, you’ll choose to create a new profile, select the printer you’d like to profile from the dropdown menu, and enter the name of the paper you’d like to use in building the profile. You’ll create a separate profile for each paper type you regularly use. I’ll be making one for Epson Cold Press Bright, my favorite for crisp black and white art prints, and for Epson Ultra Premium Photo Lustre, my choice for color prints.
You’ll be prompted to print a Color Test Chart using the paper for which you’d like to build a custom profile. Once the chart is finished and dried, you will use the Color Munki to measure the chart and build a profile.
The software now guides you thorough the process of measuring your Color Test Chart with the Color Munki. It’s super simple once you get the hang of it. After you’ve measured the first chart, the program will create a second chart which you will print, allow to dry and measure in the same way. This second chart fine tunes the readings and will result in a beautiful custom profile that perfectly matches your display. Repeat the process for any papers you like to use in your artwork. Save your profile, then make sure to set your print options in your output programs such as Photoshop to use this profile when printing.
That’s it! You now have your systems calibrated and you can be confident that the work you see on your computer and printer will translate well on professional devices around the world. Good work!
Please feel free to drop a line in the comments below if you have any questions or comments.