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Understanding paper profiles

If you don’t want to jump through hoops every time you make a print, try using purpose-made profiles.

When to use profiles

If you are happy enough to use an Epson printer with Epson inks and Epson paper (and the same follows for Canon and HP users), then you’ll get perfect print results just using the normal printer software.

However, if you want to try some of the more adventurous paper surfaces or finishes such as the stylish baryta paper from Harman, shown left, then you will need to print with a profile. Profiles are tiny files that are designed to “slot into” to your printer software, because it won’t know how best to convert colors for the new style paper. A profile creates the ideal settings for the three combined elements in your workflow: printer model, ink type, and paper type. Change one of these and the profile becomes useless.

Where to put them

All third-party paper manufacturers provide profiles, shown left, free of charge through their website, based on your printer, ink, and paper combination. After downloading, Windows users simply right-click and choose Install to send the files into the right system software folder. Mac users need to place the files in Macintosh HD / Library / ColorSync / Profiles. Once installed, they become available to choose in your image-editing application.

How profiles are made

To ensure end users get the very best results out of their paper products, manufacturers provide carefully created profiles for free. A paper profile is made by scanning a color test chart with a special profiling hardware instrument like the ColorMunki, as shown above. The test chart file (see example at right) is made with specially chosen colors, then printed out on the inkjet in question. The profiling device then scans the colors that have printed and calculates how to make them brighter. The profile file essentially works by translating the colors of your image into ink droplets, so the end result is saturated and most of all accurate. If you haven’t tried using profiles before, they are well worth the effort and you will see a huge jump in productivity and quality.

Make your own profiles

Nowadays, the cost of a profiling kit is about the same as a good-quality inkjet, so it’s easy to make your own profiles. If you like experimenting with nonstandard inkjet media such as artists papers, then a custom profile will really improve the quality of your prints, and best of all, it will be designed especially for your workflow.

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