First steps with colour management

A week ago, after months of deliberation, I finally bit the bullet and ordered a printer capable of producing decent-quality photographic prints, settling for the Canon Pro 100-S due to its lower price and smaller size than the other Canon options. I also ordered the Colormunki Display calibration tool on the basis that getting to grips with screen colour management now would save me a lot of ink and printing paper in the future. The Colormunki arrived a couple of days before the printer, and technical issues meant it took me both those days to get it set up and working… as is so often the case, the really time-consuming part was finding out what was causing the issues, and fixing them was quick and easy once I knew that.

Once it was all set up properly I ran the Colormunki software and was astonished to find that it adjusted my screen to a far darker, far more saturated and far warmer setting than I’m used to. I repeated the process half a dozen times in total, using easy set-up mode and advanced mode with a number of different options. While the results varied to some extent, in each case they were dark, saturated and warm-toned. And it wasn’t just my internal computer environment… all the images on my blog suddenly looked oversaturated and too dark, and I wondered whether I was now seeing them as they appear to PC users. I checked other sites. On the Guardian Michel Barnier looked as if he’d just emerged from a session on Donald Trump’s sunbed, so I concluded that the ColorMunki profile is intended specifically to colour-match the profiles used by printers and is not a general “correct” or objectively definitive setting for all environments.

Further revelations followed after my printer arrived and I got that set up, another lengthy process as I went round in circles trying to connect it to my wifi network. (Tip for other Apple Airport users: the WPS “button” on Apple routers is a software connection you make in the Airport Utility app. You’re welcome.) And yes, the ColorMunki screen setting gave a reasonably good match between what I see on screen and what comes out of the printer… after I discovered the Proof Setup option in Photoshop’s View menu and selected the correct Device to Simulate.

So I’ve made a start on this new learning curve, but now have a stack of other questions to investigate. Do I need to use different monitor profiles when I’m preparing images for print and web respectively? What I’ve learned so far leads me to think I do. Does this mean I need to create two separately colour-adjusted versions of an image for web publication and printing on my printer? Again, it would seem so. Should I allow ColorMunki to continually adjust for changing ambient light in my working environment? The match between screen and printer strayed considerably as the evening drew in and ColorMunki responded by darkening my screen, so perhaps I shouldn’t. Is it better to allow the printer or than Photoshop to manage colours? I will need to run a lot of experiments and/or do some googling and/or ask others to find the answers to these questions and many others that have arisen during my first real attempt to get to grips with this complex subject. But at least I’ve now made a start.