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How to Calibrate & Profile Your Printer

Learn the elements of printer calibration and profiling for photographers, prepress, and printing.

Calibrate & Profile Your Printer

Why should I calibrate and profile my printer?

While your computer screen shows color by projecting combinations of red, green, and blue (RGB), your printer creates color by printing color inks onto paper. Typically the inks used are cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK), but can include light versions of cyan, magenta, and black inks or sometimes red and blue or orange and green. To achieve a color match from your monitor to your printer the monitor and printer must both be calibrated and profiled.

When you calibrate your printer you are essentially setting it up for optimum ink distribution on paper. Calibration ensures linear progression of the ink tints from 100% to 1% without a tonal distortion. Calibration also ensures you are getting the best color saturation for vivid color prints. Because each paper absorbs ink differently you must create a seperate calibration for each paper you use.

To achieve the best results a Raster Image Processor (RIP) is recommended. A RIP allows you to communicate to the printer in CMYK rather than RGB as is the case with manufacturer print drivers. Profiling your printer allows a color management system to correctly translate colors to your paper.


How do I calibrate my printer?

  1. There are two ways to calibrate a printer. The first is just selecting the closest media setting in the printer driver. The manufacturer supplied print drivers do not support calibration or color measurement devices.
    The second method uses a RIP and a color measurement device. We strongly recommend the latter for the best results.
  2. If using a print driver select the media type that gives the most pleasing image without any automatic color adjustment. If using a RIP defeat all color matching functions and remove any prior calibration files.
  3. Print out a 21 step gradient of each primary color, typically CMYK to ascertain any ink pooling.
  4. If using a RIP measure the 21 step gradient to create custom curves that compensate for any deviation from a linear gradient.
  5. If using a RIP next determine the total amount of ink a paper can handle before ink pooling occus, typically called Total Area Coverage or Total Ink Limit.

How do I profile my printer?

  1. Now that you have calibrated the printer for optimum color distribution you will print a profiling chart.
  2. Measure the printed profiling chart with a spectrophotometer, or in some cases, a flatbed scanner.
  3. The software will create the custom printer ICC profile encapsulating the range of colors possible under the calibrated conditions.

Visit our store for printer calibration and profiling bundles.

Good Printer Profiling


X-Rite Colormunki Design
List Price: $499.00

Better Printer Profiling

Publish Pro Contents

X-Rite i1 Publish Pro
List Price: $1,898.00

Best Printer Profiling

Eye One Isis

X-Rite i1iSis
List Price: $3,195.00

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