Most scanner- and monitor-calibration solutions are generally within the price range of keen home users. Printer-calibration solutions, however, have always been catastrophically expensive, and used only by professional photographers and graphics and pre-press experts. Amateurs wanting reliable printer colours have had little choice but use bundled manufacturer printer profiles. Until now, that is, because at £495 TypeMaker’s Print Profiler is the most affordable hardware printer-calibration kit by far.
Measuring printer output meaningfully requires either a colorimeter or a photospectometer. While high-end print-profile solutions use photospectometers, Print Profiler uses a CM2C ColorMouse colorimeter, which is what makes it so affordable. Until now colorimeters have been used almost exclusively for building monitor profiles, and although they can’t create the super-accurate printer profiles demanded by high-end users, they’re perfect for those wanting reliable results from an inkjet or office laser.
Allied to Print Profiler’s colorimeter is profile-creation software. The two-stage solution involves printing a pair of colour targets on the required paper stock. The first target is a test sheet of 105 colours that allows the software to ‘linearize’ the printer by calculating a set of colour compensations. The second target contains 300 colour squares, each of which has to be read by the ColorMouse.
This takes an absolute age, but the real drag is that you can’t use a single profile for different kinds of paper: the process has to be repeated for each stock used. After the targets have been read, the software builds a ICC colour profile that’s saved automatically to your ColorSync folder.
It’s important to know, however, that even high-end printer profiles are useless if your monitor is uncalibrated. To learn more about monitor calibration, see Macworld, March 2003 – or visit the subscriber-only area of Macworld Online (www.macworld.co.uk).
My one big quibble with Print Profile is that getting the ColorMouse to work is no easy task. Instead of a USB connection, it’s connected using a labyrinthine series of connectors, involving an RJ-45 Ethernet-style port and a Keyspan Serial-to-USB adaptor that requires drivers. When the Mac refused to see the ColorMouse, Print Profiler insisted I “Try Another Serial Port”. For Mac users, that’s a disconcerting request. Only after endless checking could I make it work.
Also, the accompanying literature would benefit from some background information on how Print Profiler’s profiles can be best used once created.
If you want WYSIWYG monitor-to-printer colour accuracy, then Print Profiler is just about the only affordable, quality solution out there. Those using different types of paper stock will get more value from it than users outputting to one kind only.