Creating Your Digital Darkroom

Calibrating your monitor

To calibrate your monitor and create a monitor profile you have two options, the accurate way or the not so accurate way. Avoid the not so accurate subjective method such as Adobe Gamma. This system lulls you into a false sense of security. The best method is to use a software and hardware package that will automate the process of calibrating and profiling your monitor. In today’s digital darkroom, even brand new monitors need calibration on a regular basis. Creating an accurate monitor profile is an essential component if you want your monitor to match your final printed piece. For most people, I’d highly recommend the Colorvision SpyderPRO for $329. It takes all of five minutes to calibrate your monitor. The end result is a useable print on the first try nearly every time. Once the software does it’s thing, it then creates an ICC profile for your monitor, which it then sets as your default profile in your Display settings – and you are done! Seriously it’s that simple. I’ve already saved two to three times as much in paper and ink since getting the SpyderPRO.

Choosing a printer

There are a lot of printers to choose from in the marketplace, but after a lot of research and spending time working with the printers, I narrowed it down to two printers under the $1,000 price range – the Epson Stylus 1280 and the Epson Stylus 2200. I really love the dynamic prints which the Stylus 1280 produces, but ultimately I would choose the Epson 2200 for one main reason: the 2200 uses the pigment-based Ultrachrome inks which are archival. The dye-based inks in the Stylus 1280 will not give you anywhere near the same print life as the 2200 (up to 100 years), but the colors will be a little punchier (as is the nature of a dye-based ink).

Ultimately, the printer you choose will depend on your needs. If I wanted to make prints to give to others, then the Epson Stylus 2200 would be the way to go. For the professional, I would choose the all-new Epson Stylus 4000 ($2599). This new printer from Epson prints up to 17”x22” prints utilizing the Ultrachome ink set, and because of it’s larger ink capacity, your cost-per-square-foot will be less. As far as getting consistent results from your printer (if you’ve calibrated your monitor of course) you simply need to select a correct paper profile in the Print Preview window in the Epson driver – and print!

The Final Step – using RIP software

Many Epson users are quite keen on using Imageprint RIP software. Imageprint is the first visual RIP engineered for the photographic imaging market. The revolutionary Color Management System is built around image content not page content. You set the attributes for every image on the page. Color correction, size, crop marks, step/repeat, rotate and alignment are all within your control. It’s no problem to place images with different file formats on the same page. You can even assign unique printing conditions to each image. The $675 Lite version of their software may cause a few people to hold back on this investment but if you want to close the gap between what you assume an inkjet print should look like versus a traditional print – ImagePrint is just as much of a must-have. If you’re even thinking of hanging prints on a wall – or selling them – this is an investment you need to make. It’s also a must-have for anyone who wants to make neutral black and white prints. You can find out more info at: www.colorbytesoftware.com

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