Nature photographer and fine-art printer Bill Atkinson - better known to early computer geeks as one of the creators of the Macintosh computer - has updated his collection of free profiles for newer Epson wide format printers. Over the past several weeks, Atkinson has been assembling on his web site profiles for use with the Epson Stylus Pro 4800, 7800 and 9800 and three different paper stocks: Epson's Premium Luster (250), Premium Semimatte (250) and Premium Glossy (250).
Like previous profiles the photographer has released to the photographic community, they're generated using printer targets of his own design. This time out, however, Atkinson has taken the measurement data from a custom 4096-patch RGB target and generated 48 separate profiles for Premium Luster and Premium Semimatte, and 32 for Premium Glossy. Each profile is comprised of a particular combination of settings for Print Quality (1440 or 2880 dpi), Color Density (0 or +5), bidirectional printing (on/off) and, most significantly, gamut mapping for the perceptual rendering intent (eight different mappings in all).
The different gamut mappings, says Atkinson, provide for a "bouquet" of profile options for users of these printers. That's because Photoshop's on-screen proofing mode can preview the effects of each gamut mapping when the profile is selected in Proof Setup along with Perceptual as the rendering intent, thereby enabling the selection of the optimum gamut mapping for the photo at hand. Unlike relative colorimetric, the other commonly-used rendering intent when printing photos, makers of profile generation software have a fair bit of latitude in how their perceptual algorithms map colours during a conversion. This becomes apparent when soft-proofing the eight different options for each printer driver combo Atkinson has generated profiles for: image contrast and colour vividness changes quite dramatically in some cases, and these differences carry through to the print.
The eight different gamut mappings come courtesy of the options available in the five programs he used to build the profiles: ColorSavvy ProfilePrinterDeluxe v5.3, ColorVision ProfilerPro, Fujifilm ColourKit 4.3.1b1, GretagMacbeth ProfileMaker Pro 5.0.5 and X-Rite MonacoProfiler 4.7.2. Though not all of the makers of these packages permit the resulting profiles to be freely distributed normally, Atkinson secured the necessary permissions.
All of the targets were printed on an Epson 9800 that was calibrated with Epson ColorBase first. As such, they should work equally well with a calibrated 7800. Plus, Atkinson noted in an email exchange that the profiles may also be applicable to a calibrated 4800, but not the R2400 (or older printers that don't use the Ultrachrome K3 inkset). His comments on the level of compatibility with these printer models are based on recent feedback from Epson, rather than his own testing, however. In making three prints today on our ColorBase-calibrated 4800, the results with Atkinson's ProfileMaker 5.0.5-generated profiles were a close match to ones we had generated with the same software earlier this week. This suggests that 4800 users, in addition to those running a 7800 or 9800, may find it worthwhile to check out Atkinson's new profile offerings.
In fact, even if you don't own any of these printers, but you're considering the purchasing of one of these profiling packages, Atkinson's profile collections provide useful information about the quality of the profiles each package generates and whether one application's handling of the perceptual rendering intent is better-suited to the types of photos you print. You can of course compare the relative colorimetric intents in the packages too.
Atkinson's profile collections for the 9800 (and therefore the 7800 and 4800 also, as discussed above), as well as profiles for the Epson Style Pro 9600, a range of custom printer targets for certain GretagMacbeth and X-Rite devices, test images and more are on the Bill's Color Profile Downloads page of his web site. Atkinson, in conjunction with landscape shooter Charles Cramer, also stages a series of workshops each year called Digital Printing for the Fine Art Photographer. Six such workshops are planned for 2006.