Printer Profiles – The Digital Photography Workflow Handbook

Printer Profiles

Once you have set up your Photoshop CMS settings and calibrated and profiled your monitor, it’s time to look for profiles for your printers and papers. You will need a separate profile for each combination of printer, printer driver settings, paper, and ink. Assuming you use just one printer (an Epson R2400, for example) and that you only use standard Epson inks, you will still need a separate ICC profile for each type of paper and for each quality or resolution setting you make.

There are several ways to obtain a profile for your printer+ink+paper set:

  1. The profile is included with the printer’s software or can be downloaded from the printer manufacturer’s website.

    These profiles only cover the original maker’s inks and some proprietary paper types. These “canned profiles” are often quite good and can deliver quality prints, depending on the manufacturer, the printer, and the available printer model variants. The printer manufacturer’s own profiles – at least those for the fine art printers mentioned in Printer Speed – will give you about 95 percent print quality compared with what you could achieve using a custom profile.

  2. Third-party paper manufacturers often provide profiles for their papers and better-known high-end printers.[52] It usually takes a few months after the release of a new printer model before profiles are uploaded to the paper manufacturer’s website.

  3. Some suppliers of third-party inks provide profiles for their inks when used with popular papers and well-established printers. For example, Lyson [118] offers profiles for several Epson and HP printers for their inks and their papers.

  4. There are various companies selling profiles for different printers and inks.

  5. There are several online services available that create custom profiles if you follow these steps:

    1. Download a print target from the service’s website.

    2. Print the target using your specific printer, ink, paper, and printer settings, and send the print to the service provider by regular mail.

    3. The provider evaluates your target print, generates the profile, and emails it to you.

    4. Install the profile.

    These types of services cost between $30 and $80 for an RGB profile.[53] Discounts are often available for multiple orders. This is a great way to get hold of custom profiles, and it avoids the expense of buying your own profiling equipment while ensuring that your profile is produced by experienced personnel. Some companies restrict their services to specific printers or manufacturers.

  6. Build your own custom profile.

    The next section describes how to do this.

Profiling Your Printer

Profiling a printer involves the following basic steps:

  1. Select an appropriate, provided target (containing color patches with known color values), and print it using the printer, paper, and ink you want to profile.

    Use the same printer settings for resolution, paper type, etc. that you want to profile, but don’t make any print or Photoshop color corrections at this point. We recommend that you save these settings using a descriptive name.

    Most printer profiling packages offer several different print targets. The more color fields a target provides, the more precise your profile will be. However, this also involves more effort. Some profiling devices (such as DTP-41, DTP-70, or i1iO by X-Rite [52]) can read printed targets automatically, but these are usually prohibitively expensive for most photographers.

    A standard spectrophotometer and ruler (like those provided with the i1XTrme kit by X-Rite) is usually sufficient for producing satisfactory results.

  2. Let your print dry for between one and 24 hours.

  3. Evaluate the print’s colors and use your profiling software to create an ICC profile. Most profiling software installs new profiles automatically, but you might have to install manually (Installing and Uninstalling Profiles).

There are several ways to evaluate the colors in your target print:

  1. Spectrophotometer

    This is the most accurate method, but a good photospectrometer costs between $800 and $1000. We recommend the Eye-One Photo kit or the Color Munki kit by X-Rite, and we also achieved good results using the $550 Datacolor Spider3Print SR ([48]).

  2. Dedicated chart reader

    A chart reader is a small, dedicated scanner that reads the patches in a target print (like the one in the PrintFIX kit by Datacolor [48]).[54] A chart reader is much cheaper than a spectrophotometer, but is much less accurate.

  3. Standard flatbed scanner for acquiring the patch values

    This is probably the cheapest way to scan a chart. The accuracy of this method depends very much on the color quality of the scanner. The scanner itself needs to be profiled too, and profiling packages (such as MonacoEZcolor) scan a scanner target together with the printed target and internally profile the scanner first. This “profile-enabled scanner” then interprets the color values of the target chart’s patches.

    This is less expensive but also less accurate than method A. Its accuracy can be compared to that of canned printer profiles and is a cheap source of profiles if you are using a third-party ink or paper set that has no generic profile.

  4. Send your a print of a specified target to a profiling service. Make sure you follow the instructions at the service provider’s website accurately.

    This is a reliable way to get high-quality profiles produced by experienced personnel. Processing usually takes two to three days plus mail turnaround, time and the cost per profile is usually between $35 and $80.

You can also optimize your profile with a profile editor, which is often included with profiling hardware (such as X-Rite Eye-One Proof[55] and Profile Maker Pro, or DoctorPro by Datacolor). Only edit profiles once you know what you are doing.



[52] For examples, see Hahnemuehle [128], Moab [131], or Tetenal [136]. You will find more manufacturers of fine art papers in Inks and Inkjet Papers. Most of them provide ICC profiles for some or all of their papers and several high-end HP, Epson, and Canon printers at their websites.

[53] CMYK profiles (often used for press work) are more expensive. Photographers who print using inkjet, LightJet, or direct photo printers rarely use CMYK profiles.

[54] We recommend that you spend a little extra on the PrintFIX PRO version, which includes a spectrocolorimeter and produces much better profiles.

[55] As of version 3.3, all Eye-One packages include the Eye-One Match software which you can use to edit profiles.