Make Your “Colorblind” Computer See As You Do; Datacolor’s Spyder3Elite/Pro And Print Profiling Products Page 2

The one serious detraction I found in using the new software is the use of a black background for the screen design. Although I understand the rationale for this--accurate screen measurement because the black limits lateral light bleeding--I see no reason a black surround could not be popped up only for the reading function, allowing a more neutral medium gray for the other screens. This would make text reading clearer and easier to follow by most users, and would not provide the false exaggeration of color brilliance in the final before and after evaluation of SpyderProof. The black just reminds me of so many early, badly designed, stereotypically clichéd websites of the early Internet years.

First introduced as the ColorVision PrintFIX PRO, the print profiling complement of the Spyder3 line is a highly developed and refined method of producing custom printer profiles. I found it both easier to use and more accurate in obtaining a precise calibration of a printer's output performance. This has been accomplished by making the spectrocolorimeter reading device more sensitive and controllable as well as a provision to make reading the test print chart color patches faster and more accurate.

Spyder3Print developed as a complement to display calibration and profiling with the company's PrintFIX PRO. The Spyder3 iteration of PrintFIX PRO now includes an easier handling measuring device, including a physical guide that makes reading test print color patches both faster and more accurate. For many photographers the latest development in Spyder3Print will result in a far more refined neutral gray profile performance. This more refined gray neutrality, besides assuring cleaner color, free of minor color cast, makes reproducing a gray scale file converted to RGB more accurate. With printers like the Epson R2400 and Canon PIXMA Pro9500, adding Extended Gray calibration to a profile provides more refined print tone control. It also makes printing black and white with a neutral gray without a color cast possible with photo-quality inkjet printers that have no specific support for black and white printing, using all colors of ink.

The bottom line is that photographers using Datacolor's Spyder3 for both display and print profiling can now enjoy consistent, reliable color performance with accurately refined profiles at both ends of the process, from display to final print output. But, you say, I have printer profiles supplied by the printer manufacturer! Unfortunately, canned printer profiles will only get you in the ballpark, not to home plate. Printers are mass-produced devices and each one has its own character and personality. It's like renting a car. You choose a make and model because it's the same as the car you own, and get in and drive away to find it feels and drives nothing like what you are used to with your own car.

At the end of the day, color management with a Spyder3 for your display and Spyder3Print can pay for itself, especially as you make more and more prints. It reduces or even eliminates unexpected print results that would otherwise require you to throw a print in the round file, and virtually eliminates printing by trial and error.

The Spyder3Print hardware and software does not just advantage precise color profile performance but, with the optional Extended Grays test chart combined with the color chart data, produces a profile with more precisely controlled neutral tones and better control of the color tone of black and white prints as well.

Evaluation & Recommendation
From the many e-mails I receive from readers, the most frequent problem I am asked to respond to is why a photographer's print output is not the quality they hoped for and expected, usually in terms of what they see displayed on screen. Many of the messages are accompanied by language that indicates the photographer is fairly new to digital photography and is somewhat disappointed their computer doesn't produce perfect images automatically. Sadly, they have probably seen too many movies where computers seem to be human-like and able to read the user's mind to produce perfect results, as if by magic. Frankly, a computer is a dumb machine that needs instructions, in detail, for everything it is asked to do. That's especially true when it comes to color management.

How do you know once you have made a profile for either the Spyder3 display colorimeter or a printer with Spyder3Print? SpyderProof provides a screen set of test images for critical examination that can also be used to make a print to test the performance of a printer profile made with Spyder3Print.

In terms of the satisfaction of getting print output that is predictably matched to what I expect from what I see on screen, the Spyder3Elite/Pro display and the Spyder3Print are more than worthwhile investments. They are also much less demanding of time and learning than many things in digital photography. And if you make very many prints, especially larger ones, the system will pay for itself in ink and paper saved by not having to make prints over to get them right.

For more information, contact Digital Color Solutions, 5 Princess Rd., Lawrenceville, NJ 08648; (800) 554-8688;

David Brooks can be reached via e-mail at: