PHO705: A Reflection on Colour Correction

Colour correction suddenly became important as printing, which had been going swimmingly well, went wrong overnight a week before the 1 May 2020 hand in. I mentioned elsewhere the saying “leave yourself enough time for contingencies”. Well the contingency was needed as I had to allow time to recalibrate the system and sort out a technical printing issue. Gladly these issues were fixed.

A Year Later at April 2021

A year on and this subject unexpectedly crawled to a conclusion: Talking to print consultants at the highly recommended A2i expressions group it was clear that instead of making all of my own ICC profiles with the Datacolor SpyderPrint I should sort out access to the extensive range of paper manufacturers profiles. On a mac computer these were a) never installed fully and never even identified b) were in a hidden Library c) wrapped up as a package and so very much not present. I discovered the packages in an Epson Library folder, opened them (there were four) and copied each list of ICC profiles to the system colorsync folder. I’d like to think this was all an act of genius but in fact the issue was described and solved in an Adobe support article from 2018. This is what came to the rescue:

https://community.adobe.com/t5/color-management/printer-profiles-missing-for-epson-sc-p800/m-p/10870908#M3033

Immediately I had all of the Epson paper options available in Lightroom and Photoshop and in fact I’m now softproofing in both apps and doing screen and paper simulations in Photoshop and very encouragingly my eye can detect the nuances of colour correction which before was done by hard proofing.

A further wrinkle in the Epson printer driver setup was found on reverting to Lightroom Advanced B&W where only a limited generic set of paper profiles was present. I thought this had all been sorted out but no. It turns out there is a known problem where Apple default network connection to the printer via Airport protocol. This prevents the full Epson driver from working and hence the limited selection of generic paper types.

The solution is to start afresh by removing the printer from Apple settings and instal it twice – yes twice. First time the system enforces an Airport protocol. On the second attempt it is realised by the system that there is an identical printer already installed and is coughs up the option to have the second instance as an Epson driver.

Here is the explanation: https://www.redrivercatalog.com/infocenter/tips/how-to-fix-missing-paper-media-type-selection-OSX.html

When someone commented to me the problem was my fault for not installing the printer the truth was I hadn’t installed the printer twice. Who would have thought such defective logic would be hidden from the owner of a new printer?

So Case Closed?

When printing had been going so well with review test prints, or in fact, any prints then why overnight a green cast appeared and wouldn’t go away.

There is a little tale to hear. The system, of course, had been calibrated at regular intervals, both screen and print. Monthly updates on screen and a really deep 9-page colour swatch check on the printer a while back.

The regular intervention meant recalibration was only a small chore but then nothing ever changed. The images always looked their best on the system and on the choice of my regular choice of paper.

Almost imperceptibly the recalibration reminders fell silent. But this was a result of the computer OS being upgraded to 64 bit somewhere along the line. The Spyder software simply faded away and stopped working and almost consigned to the bin.

A bit of begrudged time was needed to backtrack over emails to uncover the software suppliers policy followed by some checking on their website. The whole set of equipment was obsolete overnight except I was pleased to discover that the Spyder5 and associated SpyderPrint scanner were the oldest gear to remain in support.

Next followed some tracking down to find the 64-bit drivers on the datacolor website. Never an easy task but they were eventually found. Before locating the drivers in the support area there were several opportunities to purchase the latest all 64-bit offering SpyderX. That would have been a mistake as it was not required.

A bit of usual messing around with technology followed then without any razzamatazz the Spyder5 and SyderPrint were working again.

That gave a sense of ease but did it solve the problem? Well no, not exactly.

Next up was a colour correction problem caused by a double action of printer and computer. I describe this as two bullets in the barrel firing at once making a bit of a mess.

I was printing from Photoshop opting for Photoshop to control the colours rather than the printer. But still, the vital printer driver settings I needed to alter were greyed out and besides, there was no Generic RGB profile on the system. The embedded YouTube video from datacolor explains all.

There was a deep dive investigation required but once the solution was found it worked really well. First I had to find a Generic RGB colour profile. The reason for this is that it is a no-action option, what goes in comes out. The next step on my computer was to find the ColorSync utility and use it to set the Generic RGB setting from behind the greyed out controls. The manufacturer doesn’t want the general user tampering, I suppose.

Having done a full system calibration I now had a new set of icc profiles. I could see in the making of them how a whole range of colours had been inexact. So a new icc profile was made for each paper (and ink)..

In Photoshop I could now pick the exact profile and let the printer add its neutral /no effect correction and all became good.

The thing was I spent a day or so away from my work solving the green colour cast problem.

When things are going well each print is spot on first time. When things are going wrong in printing they really go wrong and you notice by the amount of reprinting and wasted prints that begin to pile up. There are so many adjustment options that dissapoint and it is only when getting behind the software driver in ColorSync that you retake control. At least that was my hard found experience.

The hanging questions have to do with why did it suddenly go wrong. The 64-bit aspect was one problem, the print manufacturer forbidding vital change with greyed out settings and lack of a neutral Generic RGB profile another.

Add to this a change of paper type. I was now using double-sided matte for the book and poster board matte for the exhibition prints. In the past, the solution had been narrow. I’d kept to what worked. For the FMP publications, I needed to learn to respond to expanded options and change.

A year ago I first used double-sided matte for my Ed Ruscha challenge book, which was a summer activity. Some of that printing was off I recall but I brushed it aside and should have dived into the software behind the scenes to correct the problem back then. I’d have placed myself in a better place. for the delivery fo the FMP assignments. The most significant impact of the printing being held up was that less drying time was left for the hand-bound book.

Summary

Through making FMP publications and both as a photographer and hopefully some may allow artist, I’ve been able to develop printing skills even if progress was hard-won.

As a self-professed print-virgin only two years ago I was aware of the benefit of the photographer printing their own work and always made my own prints. From review comment on the paper selection, I’ve expanded the wider creative options.

What started out as a preference for letting Photoshop control colours turned around. In spite of giving Photoshop colour control, it made more sense to let the printer do the work. I have more confidence with my new choice at the moment at least as the printer tends to control the hidden variables like ink drying and paper feed and size detection.

There was another benefit in that the December Digital Imaging Symposium I attended that helped me sort out issues of residual Infra-red IR detection had a session of colour spaces with lots of examples and comparisons. So the knowledge is building and with practice, it is leading to controlled higher quality publication.

As a consequence of all that is said, I can now confidently go public with my photography in a wider range of forms.

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