To calibrate your printer you should first calibrate your monitor with a calibration spyder. Then by tweaking the individual colours, contrast and brightness in your printer's software you can match the printer to it.
If you don't have a monitor calibration spyder you can get one from ProAm imaging.
At the time of writing FotoSense also have a range of calibration devices including one that calibrates both monitor and printer priced at around £350.
Printer calibration by eye is't quite as accurate - but it's much cheaper. However you must make sure you do everything I tell you below.
OK - here goes ...
Firstly make sure you're working in a constant light source because if the rooms getting brighter and darker as clouds cover the sun - you'll never manage to balance the brightness of your monitor to the printed page. When light levels in the room change, your pupils adjust accordingly so you can still see - but your monitor is going to remain constant. So when the room gets brighter and your pupils close - your monitor will appear darker than it was a moment ago. And that will lead you to set the printer software incorrectly.
Use daylight balanced bulbs and draw the curtains. Household bulbs and strip lights are no good for this because they can be anywhere from yellow to green - and that will reflect off your print. In everyday life we don't notice this because our brains colour correct all the time.
Have you ever noticed how different everything looks when you put on a pair of sun glasses - but a minute later it's just normal? Until you take them off again that is!
Next download and save this calibration test image. It has all the colours and tones you'll need for accurate calibration - then follow these steps.
- Open the test image in Photoshop (or whatever photo software you use) and print it
- Compare the printed image with what you have on screen
- If they match then save those settings in your printer software as the name of the paper used. If not then continue ...
- Open your printer software's 'advanced' section where you can tweak the individual colours, brightness and contrast
- Adjust one setting at a time. For example if your print was too red and too dark, make the image brighter - but leave the colour alone until you get the brightness accurate.
- Put another sheet of paper back in the printer and print again with the new brightness setting.
- Repeat steps 4 to 6 until the brightness of the print matches your monitor.
- Once the brightness matches you can begin adjusting the colours. Do this a little at a time re-printing after each adjustment
- When your print and monitor are the same, save the new settings in your printer software for that particular paper type. I recommend you save it as the name of the paper you're using
- Repeat this process for each type of paper you use. IE. Epson gloss, Fuji mat etc.
Once you've calibrated your printer for all your papers, just choose the saved setting for the type of paper you're printing on and your screen and print will match up provided you haven't changed anything - including the brand of ink you're using!
Next time I'll explain how to print amazing colour accurate and consistent photographic prints. These are real photographs not inkjets.
If you'd like help taking your photography to the next level contact me about a One-to-One photography course - or try one of our photography course downloads.