Calibrating monitor and printer and scanner

Posted on 2006-06-04
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2010-05-18
I'd like to calibrate my screen, my printer and my scanner, but I don't wont to spend a LOT of money on it. Is it possible to get a decent result with freeware and color samples from the local paint supplier?

From the paintsupplier I got a lot of cards with color samples. Theese have a color code printet next to each color. I think the code is NCS color.

My dream is to be able to scan theese cards, view them on the screen, print them out again and also send them to my favorite online photo service and get a paper copy back. And guess what, I'd like the colors to be identical all the way from the original, on the LCD monitor, on my own printout, and the printout from my photoservice.

Where do I start?

Question by:arildj78
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Expert Comment

by:David Brugge
ID: 16830655
It's all a question of how you define "decent."

I worked this way for years but realized how much I was actually spending on paper and ink.

Others will have different opinions and different experiences, but my view is yes, you can get reasonable good results using a guess and check method, but you spend a lot of time and money doing it. I'm intrinsically a cheap son of a gun and I hated to lay out the bucks for a profiling program, but after thirty minutes with the program and getting a near perfect print the first time, I was kicking myself for putting it off.

Besides, with profiling, when I get back inferior results, I get to say "Look you guys, I handed you a calibrated print. YOU'RE the ones who messed up." Before that, all I could say was "I don't understand what the problem could be. I used so and so's profiles, and it printed good on MY system."

- David
LVL 26

Expert Comment

by:David Brugge
ID: 16867562
Just to elaborate a little more (and to answer your question more directly)

No, you can't use paint chip samples to calibrate your monitor.

I'll keep this short...

Most printed color work is made using Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks. The size of the dots determine the intensity as well as lightness and darkness of the color. What you see is the light reflected off of the pigments in the ink.

Monitors make color by varying the line voltage on a cathode ray, or liquid crystal displays. What you see are rays of colored Red, Green, and Blue light that mix to make colors.

Your desktop printer receives RGB information and translates it into CMYK inks. (Even if you send it CMYK information, it translates that into RGB and then back into CMYK!

The fact that these devices make colors and describe colors in entirely different ways is why it is hard to get everything agreeing on what color a color really is.

Paint chips are made using specially formulated inks that have the same pigments as the paints. While you may have the formula for mixing pigments, that does not tell you how to get the same color using RGB or CMYK inks.

You can scan a color chip, print it and adjust the printer until it gets close to the chip, but when you switch to a different chip, and adjust for it, it throws off the first chip settings (I know, I’ve tried!!!)

You will have better luck with something like the Adobe “ole No Moiré” test print or the iphoto test print (free here:  http://www.gballard.net/psd/assignconvert.html ) and adjusting the settings to give you clear whites, detail in the shadows, and no color shifts.

To adjust your monitor, try this: http://www.construnet.hu/nokia/Monitors/TEST/monitor_test.html

Author Comment

ID: 16886190
Can you recommend some software/equipment that I can buy to calibrate my system then?

LVL 26

Accepted Solution

David Brugge earned 2000 total points
ID: 16899674
Here is a review of the current “prosumer” monitor calibration packages. I have been using Monaco EZcolor for about four years, so I have not kept up with the reviews.

If you are a student, or qualify for a student discount. Many of these companies sell through the academic software dealers at reduced prices.

If you want to try profiling on your own without software and calibration hardware, take a look at this site.


Norman has way too much geek-speak, but if you gloss over the gobbledygook,  there is a lot of useful information including links to good test images.

Another good site, just for monitor calibration is:


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