Colormunki Photo: Monitor and Printer Calibration

 My Colormunki Photo arrived a few days ago, putting an end to my six month struggle to make an acceptible ink jet print.  While it has an avante garde look and feel, the device is works well and is relatively easy to use.  Below is the picture that first had me struggling with qaulity. 

GE Light Fixture, Chain of Rocks Bridge, 2005
Nikon D100, Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8 AF D

When I started, the yellow was actually purple, contrast too high and the print much too dark.  Over a period of about three weeks, I discovered the following problems on my system that were adding multiple corrections to images being output to the printer:

  • Even though I disabled it from the Start menu, after upgrading to Photoshop CS4, Adobe Gamma was running in the background due to a registry setting.  I used RegCure from Pareto Logic to uncover and delete the registry setting. 
  • The Microsoft Photo Pro utility sets a default print profile.  Output is pretty good if you don’t use color management, but double corrects if you do.  I removed this profile.
  • An update to my graphics card drivers enabled Nvidia default monitor settings that were being used instead of the calibration profile.

After the system clean up, I ran through calibration several times with my old Pantone Colorvision Spyder I and was able to print closer to the screen colors, but prints were still too saturated, dark and with blocked midtones and shadows.  The original Spyder was great in its day, but was not designed for Vista or LCD monitirs with adjustable brightness.  Enter the ColorMunki… 

My first round of prints with after ColorMunki calibration of the monitor and Epson Stylus Photo 2200 for Ilford Galerie Smooth Glossy paper showed marked improvement, but the prints were still too dark and showed a peculiar reduction in gamut.  A warning sign during monitor calibration was the fact even with the brightness turned all the way down, the ColorMunki was not "happy".  Initially I dismissed this as a minor problem, having read accounts about similar problems with medium grade monitors, like Apple Cinemotion and the new iMacs displays.  I am using a 20" Acer Ferrari that uses the same panel technology as the Eizo Flexscan, but with obviously inferior backlight and supporting electronics.  Still, the image is very nice and settings fully adjustable.  

After sleeping on the problem and a mild case of sticker shock shopping for an Eizo Color Edge monitor, a critical point struck me.  The ColorMunki measures ambient light near the monitor as part of the initial calibration.  I tried again during the day with Window light and Solux desk lamp on, which doubled the ambient light.  My brightness is perfect now at 27 (out of 100) and prints are now very close to the monitor. 

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