Colour management on Windows

About fourteen months after I realised there was a problem, I have finally reached a system which allows the faithful reproduction of colours when printing digital photographs on windows. I’m not saying this is the only one. But it works, and it’s cheaper than Photoshop.

The key is colour profiles; your camera and screen will already have them. Really obsessive people will calibrate their monitors, too; but I don’t bother because I use a profile and a reference card. My aim is to get the prints looking right, since they are what other people see.

So the first thing to do is to get a custom colour profile for the printer, inks, and paper that you use — note: you will need a different profile for every paper you use. Fortunately, Permajet do free ones in this country.

Since I print using QImage which is much the best program for getting detail into prints, as well as arranging prints on paper, the custom profiles work perfectly to print exactly what is on screen. I have had that working for a year now; but how to ensure that what’s on screen has the same colours as the original? This is really a problem of white balance, rather than colour profiles, and last month I stumbled across the answer: there is a plugin for Bibble Light which works with colour reference cards to solve it.

I sent off to Mölndal1 to get a couple of glossy colour matching cards; put them beside the embroidery I was photographing; and when I later looked at the raw file in Bibble at full size and rotated it until it matched the plugin mask, it fixed the colours at once, and this fix could then be pasted into everything else from that session.

Since the resulting prints are going out to galleries, it really matters that they should look as much as possible like what they represent. I suppose the total outlay for this system is around £120 — perhaps a bit more. Some of these programs — Bibble, certainly — are cross platform, though Macs presumably have their own tricks. But the point is that this is now rock solid and almost idiot proof, so it’s worth knowing for anyone who needs to produce accurate digital colour in ways that were impossible for amateurs even five years ago, and until recently prohibitively expensive, too.

1 There are American firms that make similar things. Sweden is closest to me.

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