Los Angeles InDesign User Group

Introduction to Calibration

Including How to Calibrate Your Monitor and Printer

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Capital One 360 Café, Los Angeles, California

See the Photos

Original Event Page



By Alvin Takamori


On January 15, the Los Angeles InDesign User Group met at the Capital One 360 Café in West LA. It’s a nice modern looking facility with a big screen monitor. The parking was free and so were the hot drinks.


Our guest speaker for the evening was Stephen Burns. He’s been a presenter for us before and why not? Among his many accomplishments, he’s a digital artist, author and internationally-known trainer who teaches on Xtrain, Photoshop Café, and writes for Layers Magazine. He’s also the president of the San Diego Photoshop Users Group, the nation's largest.


This time he came to teach us the basics of color calibration. It may not be the most exciting topic, but it might be one of the most important. Whether it’s a design or a photograph, having the color you envisioned match the final output is critical. It can also be confusing and overwhelming because every monitor, every printer and every type of paper can produce a different range of colors.


Stephen explained to us that to control color, first you have to understand gamut. Gamut is the range of colors that can be seen or produced. The human eye has a gamut of colors that it can perceive. Every device has a different gamut and coordinating them so that the blue on your iMac with retina display comes close to matching the blue on the BK Reeves off white paper that comes out of your Epson Expression printer is the role of the color profile.


The color profile is like a language that various digital devices can understand to interpret what should Pantone 297 look like on this monitor. In a closed loop system, your monitor, your printer and your paper can be optimized to produce consistent color. But once you send work outside the system, to a client or a commercial printer, if you want them to see or produce the same color you saw on your system, you need to share color profiles.


You can expect to accumulate a big collection of profiles, because you need one for each printer and paper combination. Even if you use the same printer, if you change paper, you need to create another color profile. Also, your monitor can change over time, so you need to create a new profile for it every few months.


Stephen demonstrated the process of creating a color profile using a Spyder 4 Elite colorimeter to analyze the monitor in Capital One 360 Cafe. The device is similar to a photographic light meter. He placed it on a tripod and pushed it up against the monitor. At home you’d hang the colorimeter with the wire over the top your monitor and the meter pressed against the screen.


One of the first things he needed to do was to select a white point. It is measured in units called Kelvin. A Kelvin of 6500 is how white looks in daylight conditions and a Kelvin of 5000 is what white looks like under halogen light, which is often used in galleries. The higher the Kelvin the bluer the light is, and the lower the Kelvin is the redder the light. Stephen usually targets a white point from 5500 to 5800 Kelvin.


Once the white point is chosen the analysis process is initiated and the colorimeter reads the light coming off the monitor to determine it’s dynamic range. The software displays blocks of white, black, red, green and blue and a range of grays and color values on the monitor while the meter reads and analyzes the results to create a color profile for the monitor. That information is stored on the computer in what Stephen referred to as “profile heaven.” On a Mac you go to System Preferences and select Displays or Screen Resolution, then Color Management and you’ll find a list of your color profiles for the monitor.


Next, Stephen addressed creating color profiles for printer output. Using the Spyder Print software he could select a range of targets. A target is a table of gray or color squares of various gradations. By selecting more targets to use, a more precise color profile can be created. You print the different targets on the paper you are interested in. Then you can place the colorimeter on the printed targets to analyze the color on that paper. The software makes a direct comparison of how each color in the target looks on the monitor and how it comes out when it is printed. The colors generated by a monitor are created by a transmissive process, but colors on a piece of paper are reflective, which has a much more limited gamut, so the colors tend to be darker. Anyway, using this information the Spyder software creates a color profile for that specific printer-paper combination.


When you open a photograph or design file in a software like Photoshop, you can go to the Edit Menu and under Assign Profile you can select a color profile to attach to that file. Under Preview you can see the color of your image as it will come out on the paper in the profile. When you print the image make sure you let Photoshop manage the color not the printer. Similarly if you want to see what your image is going to look like when you use a commercial printer, you can go to them and get a color profile for their equipment.



Farthest Attendee Prize Winner


InDesign Magazine Subscription: Barbara Cott


Raffle Prize Winners


eDocker CREATE!: Param Sharma

Beats by Dre Studio Wireless Headphones: DeShawn Burton

MathMagic: DeShawn Burton

Stock Layouts: Trish Weber Hall

in5 from Ajar Productions: Robert Gaylord

PDF2DTP from Markzware: Carmela Garcia

Font Agent Pro from Insider Software: Isabel Renteria

Dollar Photo Club: Norine Lukaczyk

Stylism for Illustrator from Astute Graphics: Dallas Dorsett Mathers

Ebook from O'Reilly Media: David Morin

TypeDNA: Carmela Garcia

iDML iPad App for iPad from DTP Tools: Isabel Renteria

ColliderScribe for Illustrator from Astute Graphics: Philip Postovoit

LA Web Professionals Meeting tickets: Trish Wener Hall, Richard Krause, Dallas Dorsett Mathers, Connie Schurr



Copyright © 2020 Los Angeles InDesign User Group. All rights reserved.