HashOut: 2007/02/26
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How important is profiling computer monitors in DTP

It is said that to get colors right, computer monitors need to be profiled. How important is this? Is it really necessary for me to spend a lot of money to get a device to profile my monitor? I have a home printer and I am quite satisfied with the colors but when I give my files to a lab, they often give me lousy colored prints.

Let us take a hypothetical situation and assume that your computer monitor has a blue cast, that you are unable to notice. Let's also say that your room is lit by incandescent bulbs (yellowish lights). The yellow light could cut the blue and that could be the reason you were not able to notice the blue color cast on the monitor. Now, if you were to give this digital file to a lab, you are very likely to get a print with a blue cast.

In this example, let us say that your room lighting is perfect (not giving any color cast). Your computer monitor is still giving a blue cast that you are not able to notice. When you print the file using your home printer, the print looks good - without any color cast. Does that mean that your system is perfect? Not necessarily. Your printer may be giving a yellow color cast that could be canceling the blue cast from the monitor! In this case, two wrongs seem to be making a right! As explained, such a situation does not mean that everything is OK.

To circumvent such potential problems, and if you are very particular about your work, it is very much necessary for you to profile your computer monitor as well as your printer. It is also necessary to profile the monitor/printer every month, as the calibrations do shift (slightly) from time to time.

There is one solution (?), though it is very unscientific and debatable. Don't try to compare the colors of your print to those on the monitor. If you are happy with the print colors (even thought they may not match the original scene), then be happy. Think of this in reality - can you hundred percent remember the multitude of colors that you saw in the original scene? Can any man-made imaging device (film or digital sensor) ever 100-percent match the colors provided by mother Nature? Mind you, I am not advocating that we do a sloppy job, I am merely indicating that trying to be 100-percent accurate in everything we do in life, is close to madness.

Tomorrow, I will talk about how to get your CRT and LCD screens profiled.
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