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Product Review – i1Photo Pro: Part I From X-Rite

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X-Rite has release four new color management solutions. i1Basic Pro, i1Photo Pro, i1Publish Pro, and i1Publish. The first three are spectrophotometer based units for high end profiling, quality verification, and spot color management. The last is a software and target suite for graphic art professionals to organize their prepress workflows. The unit I will be reviewing is the i1Photo Pro which handles monitor, printer, camera, and projector profiling for the RGB world. The i1Publish Pro does all this but allows you to work with CMYK workspace as well.

The difference between the i1Photo Pro and i1Basic Pro is that the i1Photo Pro does projector and camera profiling and also comes with the ColorChecker Classic mini and the ColorChecker Proof. The basic only does printer quality control where as the photo pro does full RGB profiling. In this first part I will look at the monitor and printer profiling

 i1Photo Pro The i1Photo Pro comes with the i1Pro spectrophotometer, i1Profiler profiling software, PANTONE color manager software, ColorChecker Profiling software, ColorChecker Proof target, and introductory ColorChecker Classic Target (mini). It also comes with the i1 Pro Spectrophotometer, a calibration plate, USB Cable, monitor holder, positioning target, scanning ruler, the light measurement head, and a case to keep it all in. This gives you everything that you need to get started with full scale profiling.

The i1Photo Pro is designed for photo professionals to manage their RGB workflow from camera to display and projector to print. i1Photo Pro is designed to provide high quality color results that especially target highlight and shadow details and deliver greater color accuracy for more neutral grays and natural skin tones. With i1Photo Pro you can create custom profiles for cameras, monitors, digital projectors and RGB printers, ensuring color accuracy from capture to output.

When working with the i1Profiler software you can profile CRTs, LCDs, and laptop displays. There are two modes available to you. The first is basic mode which will give you a quick accurate profile based on the defaults for your type of display. Advanced gives you much more control and will let you choose all your settings and really drill down for a much more accurate profile.

After installing the software, the first thing that you will want to do is to profile your monitor. What this does is to take a reading of how your monitor displays specific colors and compare them to what the actual color should be.

 i1Photo Pro

First, you want to make sure your monitor has been on for at least 30 minutes to make sure that the colors are stable. Once it is, you will want to plug in the i1 Pro Spectrophotometer in to a USB port and then start up the i1Profiler software.

When the software starts up you will choose the mode and then display profiling. Also note that there is context sensitive help available as well as videos that you can watch to help you understand what the options are that are available to you.

While choosing basic mode may be the best place to start for those new to profiling, or for basic needs, it is the advanced mode gives you more options and control over your color profiles. Keep in mind that it also requires more knowledge and experience to do it well, where easy mode makes most of the choices for you.

The first choice you have is the white point. The choice of white point will be dependent on where and in what industry that you work. For photographers and graphics designers it is the CIE Illuminant D65 option, for prepress it is D50 as well several others for various situations. Again you have a lot of ability to choose your options.

Next you have the luminance values. Luminance is a measurement of the overall brightness of your display. This should be chosen to give you comfortable viewing in your standard working conditions. For most LCD’s, this will be a value of 120.

 i1Photo Pro

Now you need to calibrate your device. You take the white tile calibration plate and place your spectrophotometer on it and press calibrate. You have one of two options for measurement. You can let the software work with the display to automatically set the brightness and contrast controls, or you can manually set them yourself. When you press the start measurement button, the software will walk you through the remainder of the process. You then save the ICC profile, it is installed on your system and you’re done.

Now that you have your monitor calibrated, it is time to calibrate the printer. Calibrating your printer ensures that what you see on the screen gets printed on the paper. While there are a lot variables that can go into calibrating a printer – especially when using i1Profiler program, it all revolves around several basic steps.

One thing to keep in mind is that you will need to perform a profile once for each printer/paper/ink combination. For most people, the ink will not change as long as you use the same brand. The printer may if you have multiple printers, but it will be the papers that will change the most. There is most certainly a difference between Epson Premium Glossy vs. Epson Glossy vs. Epson Semi Glossy. But there is also a difference between Epson Glossy vs. Canon Glossy vs. Kodak Glossy. So you will need to create a profile for each.

 i1Photo Pro

The first thing that you do is to generate a test chart. This chart will be tied to a type of printer (RGB, CMYK, CMYK+) and a measuring device – in this case the i1Pro. You first select the number of patches you want to generate. The number of test patches can range from 400 to 6000. The more patches the more accurate your readings will be, but that also means the more paper that you will print, the more ink that you will use, as well as more time you will spend with measurements. You will get around 405 patches per sheet for letter size paper. Then you will need to save your test chart for use and print your chart to the target printer.

Once you print your test sheet, you will need to leave them dry. How long, that depends on your environmental conditions, the type of ink, the type of paper etc. Ideally maybe 24 hours, realistically, you might get away with 60 minutes.

Once you are ready, you then need to calibrate your spectrophotometer with the white tile provided. Next you put your dry, printed test chart into the i1Ruler Board and place the i1Ruler over top. Position your spectrophotometer on the first column of the first row, and when prompted, scan the row. The software will prompt you when you have a clean read and you can move to the next row, if not, you will be prompted to rescan the same row again. Once all of the rows from all pages are complete, you are done with profiling, and you will want to save the profile with a meaningful name that includes the printer name and model, paper type, and perhaps ink information.

 i1Photo Pro

Now how do you use this profile? Well for printing say in Adobe Photoshop, in your printer dialog, you would select the Color Management and let Photoshop handle color management. Then in your printer profile drop down, you choose the appropriate profile for the media that you are using. In Photoshop you can even use the proof setup functionality to soft proof your image before you ever print it

Next time I will look at the remaining features of the i1Photo Pro which include the ability to profile the projector that you use to display your images to your clients, the ColorChecker Camera calibration system, and the PANTONE Color Manager.

While at $1399 USD, this may be out of the range for the average consumer; for those I would recommend the ColorMunki, but for the professional, or someone who is trying to become professional especially for those who are printing their own prints the i1Photo Pro is very worth it over the long term and will earn its keep over and over again so I highly recommend the i1Photo Pro.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.