Eye-One Pro

CIELAB. Photospectometer. Luminance. Spectral data. Delta E. They may sound like characters from Dungeons and Dragons, but they come from a world far more labyrinthine than that: colour management. Eye-One Pro is the top-end offering from Gretag-Macbeth. The Eye-one is a USB photospectometer – a device that scans colour and interprets the values mathematically. The Pro part of the package consists of a colour target, Eye-One Match colour-profile software, and a digital Pantone-library. The library is for use with the bundled Eye-One Share colour-management software, which is freeware. The package is aimed at graphics pros who live and die by colour accuracy. It promises colour accuracy on two levels: across localized workflows (monitor, scanner, digital camera and printer); and between designer and client. Colour basics
Colour accuracy from monitor to printer is ground zero for graphics pros. After all, what’s the use of slaving over a project only to discover that luscious on-screen colours print out as a muddy mess? The bundled Eye-One Match (EOM) software allows one to create colour profiles for peripherals. It has a wizard-based interface, and is suitable for use by colour-management rookies. The profiles should provide a description of each device’s range of reproducible colour, thus ensuring that colour is interpreted accurately across all devices. But I had real problems with the most important profiles – that for the monitor and printer. The monitor profile is created by sticking the Eye-One to the screen (using a supplied sucker-device). It then calibrates the monitor’s white point, contrast and brightness. I repeated the required process four times, creating a separate profile each time. When I switched through these in the Monitors control panel, there was a noticeable difference in the brightness from one to the next. The problem was that EOM wouldn’t allow me to make identical brightness adjustments with each new monitor profile. EOM should permit the user to adjust brightness to an optimum setting via the monitor’s controls. Brightness is increased or decreased until an on-screen arrow in EOM lines up with a marker that denotes the required setting. However, the moving arrow darts back and forth like a rabbit on Viagra. One of EOM’s wizard messages warns that this may be the case. Thanks. As for the printer profile – I spent many frustration-filled hours attempting to nail the bugger. This profile is created by first scanning the reflective colour-target using the Eye-One and a special ruler-on-wheels that lets it scan one row of coloured squares at a time. The target is based on the industry-standard IT8 colour-calibration chart, whose colours fall within most device-colour gamuts, and which are specified in terms of device-independent CIELAB colour. Also supplied as a TIFF file in EOM is an IT8 CMYK target, which must be printed and then scanned with the Eye-One. EOM’s powerful mathematics engine then analyses the two scanned charts and builds a printer profile. Profile query
However, each of my attempts to create this profile was met with an “invalid profile” warning, and a suggestion that I rescan the printed CMYK target. The problem, the message told me, was that the Delta E value between two scanned targets was too wide. Delta E is the generic name used to express the magnitude of the difference between all uniform colour-spaces. It is expressed as a single number. Colour reproduction is not considered accurate unless the Delta E value between two colours is two or less. Using different print settings each time, I reprinted the CMYK target 12 times, and scanned in each new output. Every attempt at a new printer profile resulted in the same message. The rub is, EOM lets you bypass the warning message and go on to save your flawed printer-profile in the ColorSync folder. In the end, I had to use one of the “invalid” profiles. Not exactly confidence inspiring. The best thing about Eye-One Pro is Eye-One Share (EOS) – freeware with which you can create palettes beyond the realm of RGB and CMYK, choose from a library of predefined colours, email that palette to your clients, who can then get their art team to import it into any design application. It can measure the exact difference between the right colour and the wrong colour – so you can tell the printer or manufacturer exactly what it’s going to take to get it right. The Eye-One photospectometer comes into its own with EOS, because – even though EOS is a useful free download – it becomes a colour-management powerhouse in the hands of Eye-One owners. This is because any colour, from anything – a tin can, or a printed page – can be scanned into and interpreted by EOS. In the Library strip at the foot of the EOS screen is displayed the closest Pantone colour-matches. EOS also allows you to determine if your client’s selected colour can be reproduced across all media they want you to use. The Convert Spot feature shows how a given colour can be reproduced on various devices. It translates the colour from the LAB colour-space into the specific colour space of an output device. I scanned Mygate’s cyan from one of its ads in Macworld, and, in Convert Spot, selected the web-offset colour-profile that we use on the magazine. EOS gave me an exact match.

OUR VERDICT

Eye-One is for graphics pros, and comes in three flavours: Eye-One Monitor, which calibrates just your monitor; Eye-One Pro, which measures all types of colour and also profiles your monitor; and Eye-One Pro with Eye-One Match, which does all this and profiles input and output devices. EOM’s poor showing drags down the overall score of the top-end package. I’d have been livid to have spent an extra £1,200 for the device-profiles it gave me. Eye-One Pro is the best package, as it allows the Eye-One to do what it does best – interpret colours mathematically.

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