When it comes to color-management it has to be said that DataColor are one, if not the leading company. They pride themselves in offering a wide range of products and solutions to help photographs ensure they have a seamless colour managed workflow from capture to print.
Colour Management And Black And White
Colour Management always seems to be one of those areas where photographers suddenly break out into a cold sweat. In some regards, its not surprising because colour management can be a very deep subject. Unless you want to really understand the theory, my advice is to keep it as simple as you possibly can.
One point I would like to make clear though is that even if you are only printing black and white photographs, you still need a properly colour managed workflow. The colour managed workflow starts from a properly calibrated monitor and ends with a calibrated printer profile which matches your paper/ink combination.
What Is DataColor SpyderPRINT
DataColor SpyderPRINT is the full-featured solution for enthusiasts and professionals to print and measure colour patches and create custom RGB printer profiles for ultimate print matching. It supports calibration of multiple printer types including: photography and fine art printers, post card printers, and others.
The extended gray targets allow you to include and measure precision gray and near gray patches, enhancing the quality of tinted and black and white prints.
The software supports two reading modes -individual colour patches and strips of colour patches, giving flexibility to control the way you work.
The SpyderGuide provides convenience in reading the printed targets to help you create profiles easily and accurately. The exclusive SpyderProof (soft proof) feature provides a series of images to help you evaluate printer calibration results.
Have full control of your printer output with the ability to create any number of custom profiles to ICC standards for any combination of printers, inks, and papers. The advanced controls allow you to adjust profile settings to get the best possible printout for your images.
The SpyderPrint hardware consists of a high precision spectrocolorimeter which is used to measure coloured test patches. A base unit which is used to store the spectrocolorimeter and is also used to calibrate the SpyderPrint spectrocolorimeter. The colour test patches can be measured individually or as a complete strip.
The SpyderPrint software is very intuitive and easy to use. I will briefly show you how to print one of the test targets ready for measuring.
From the welcome screen, we can learn more about colour management or go straight to profiling the printer. Click Next
In the printer description screen we have the options to enter some information about what printer, paper, driver media settings we are using. It is a good idea to complete these fields as they will be printed directly onto the test target which is useful for future reference. Click Next
Build A Profile
On this screen we can either print and measure a new target or load an existing measurement file. Choose the top option and Click Next
Choose And Print A Target
The SpyderPrint comes pre-loaded with many test targets. Depending on how fine tuned you want the profile to be depends on which measurement target you choose.
In total, there are 9 possibilities. Choose the number of patches and the type of test cards (color calibration and/or B&W) .According to the official Datacolor documents, 225 patches are enough most of the time. More complex test cards are there to adapt or solve a particular problem on a special paper for instance or for a specific black and white job. If you are wanting to print black and white through an RGB workflow then choose one of the targets plus Grays.
Once you have chosen your target then press the print button. One very important step when printing the targets is to make sure that you have any Color Management options in the print driver Disabled to prevent any double profiling. After the target(s) have been printed, give them sufficient time for the ink to dry and settle before actually measuring the patches.
Example of a printed Spyderprint test target
Calibrate The SpyderPrint
The final step before measuring the targets is to calibrate the Spyderprint which is done by placing it on the supplied base and pressing the button once.
Place the guide over the printed target and start measuring from the top left hand corner (A1) by slowly moving the Spyderprint slowly across each of the patches.
My personal thoughts on the SpyderPrint
Over the years I have used a number of different devices to aid in creating custom printer paper profiles, some worked better than the others. I can honestly say that the SpyderPrint is the most user friendly in both setting up, printing and measuring the targets. The guide rail makes the process of measuring the strip patches a breeze.
Using the standard 225 patches will give you a very clean accurate profile for your paper/ink combination. Using more patches although will use more paper, will fine tune the final profile even further and on some paper can yield noticeable differences.
If you intend to print black and white photographs through an RGB colour managed workflow which sometimes we have to when applying a tone to the image, then creating a profile using the Extra Grey patches is your best choice as this really does provide a very smooth transitions of tones across the final print.
Having a custom printer profile to match your specific print, paper and ink combination in my opinion is the only way forward if you are looking to produce accurate colours in your final prints.