X-Rite’s Pulse ColorElite; Color Manage All Your Input And Output
Monaco has long been known for their color management solutions. Their EZcolor
product is often bundled with, or offered at a reduced price with products such
as printers and scanners and it has a reputation for being easy to use, accurate,
Monaco is now owned by X-Rite, and while the name may have changed, the ease of use and quality certainly haven't. I recently took a look at their Pulse ColorElite system that measures all the digital input and output devices you use.
For monitor calibration the ColorElite includes the very good MonacoOPTIXXR colorimeter. The device can profile CRT, LCD, and laptop displays, while the software can be as simple or complex as you like. Most people will be perfectly happy with the easy settings, requiring only a few button clicks to completely profile their display. For the control freak in us all, the software allows you complete control over contrast, brightness, and ambient lighting, creating a profile that is completely customized to your work environment. You could even create multiple profiles for different lighting conditions in your work area, switching to the correct one as needed.
Depending on the method you select for profiling your monitor, the device will either prompt you to adjust the brightness and contrast of your display or go directly to the measuring step. While the simple profile-only step generates a very good profile, for extra precision you'll want to use the Calibrate and Profile option. Going this route, you'll select both the lighting of your work area and the white point you want to use. After setting the contrast and brightness to match the optimal settings shown in the software, the measuring is done.
The ColorElite isn't the fastest monitor profiling solution I've used but it does generate a very good profile when completed. I found that with my LCD displays I had to ignore the recommended setting for Contrast as it was too low. This wasn't a problem with the CRT display I profiled though, and in both cases the generated profile had perfectly neutral grays.
The Pulse can be used remotely and stores up to 10 profiles for later downloading--handy for creating profiles for specific lighting conditions, and the included Pathfinder makes scanning nearly foolproof. Although the software can be used with no understanding of color management, additional tools are included to analyze and edit profiles for complete control.
Calibrating your printer is a simple task of printing the target sample, which can be done from within the ColorElite software or, by saving a TIFF file, from your image-editing program, and then scanning it with the Pulse. After printing the target, place the Pathfinder over the target as instructed and begin to scan each line. The PULSE uses sound and color to let you know if there were problems reading the color bars. The entire operation is quick and easy, taking less than two minutes to scan a full target and save the resulting profile.
Since the Pulse has its own internal memory that will store up to 3000 patches and can run from battery power (without the accessory kit, the Pulse battery recharges when connected to the USB cable), you can scan the targets anywhere to tune the profile for those particular lighting situations. When you get back to your computer, plug the Pulse into a USB port and instruct the software to create the profile. This is a very nice feature and one I haven't seen in other products, and one I found myself using more than I expected.
I created profiles for the Canon PIXMA iP8500, Epson Stylus Pro 4000, and HP Photosmart 8750 printers. In every case the new profiles resulted in prints that were more accurate with better tonal range than the generic profiles supplied with the printer.
The ColorElite software can also be used to edit profiles you've already created. Using either the provided sample or your own image, you can adjust Curves for Lightness and Saturation as well as the Red, Green, and Blue output Curves. This is the easiest method of making profile adjustments I've seen.
Typically I make them in Photoshop after doing a Convert to Profile and choosing Proof Colors.