Testing profiles and printers is an important part of ensuring your printer is “in tune” and maintaining a color managed workflow. To make sure my profiles are in tune, I use a reference print that I created that allows me to visually compare color that I find to be the best way to evaluate. This is the process behind the hundreds of thousands of prints I’ve made for customers.
Below are links for 8×10 sections of my reference print that you can print on your own printer and compare them to my validated reference prints. I bring my reference prints to select workshop, and I also sell them so that you can have a copy for reference.
Download files for testing:
I suggest you print these files using your normal workflow as a test of your process. I have found that in addition to color, they can uncover other problems in the printing process that you may not even be aware of.
The files are sized to print at 8×10, and should be printed to that exact size to make the most accurate and useful test.
You SHOULD NOT do any processing on them. That defeats the purpose of trying to see how the same file prints on different printer/profile/paper combinations. The file is our control to test the variables of printer setups.
How to use these test files in conjunction with my approved test prints:
Make a print on the paper you want to test using your normal printing procedures and profile.
Write the paper name, date, printing profile, and any other useful settings and data that will help you identify how when and where your test print was made. This will make it more valuable in the future when you want to compare new printers, papers, and profiles to it.
Use the right light to compare prints. I prefer to use SoLux 4700k bulbs, or if not available, actual daylight. Check out my blog post on SoLux for an explanation of why I use it.
Compare your print to my print. I like to stack the prints on top of each other so that I can view the colors right next to each other. Compare each image as a whole and then look at specific colors. Look at dmax (black density) and also be sure to consider white points. Warmer paper bases will make the image look warmer overall than color papers, and this warmth or coolness can not be added or subtracted in an imaging editing program as it is inherent to each paper.
If you are happy with the match, then “approve” your print by signing it and writing “approved” on it. This is now your known reference to use for your printer, and can be used in the future to test your printer against itself. Keep it in a safe place with the other reference prints you will be making. Why would you test your printer? If you are getting different results, if something significant changes, like settings, head replacement, three year olds, moving the printer, etc. It also becomes a record of what your printer was producing at a given point in time, and allows you to compare it to other printers, profiles, and papers.
MAKE YOUR OWN REFERENCE PRINT! Once you have a known and approved printing setup that has been validated with my reference print, pick some of your favorite images and make your own reference print so that you can have your own personal reference that you know is printing right because you validated your process with my reference print. Choosing a range of colors and densities will help, and you’ll learn over time which colors are most sensitive to changing with different ink sets and paper white points.
If my reference print was helpful to you, take a picture of your print overlapping mine and share it on social media with a few words on how it helped, and tag me in it so I can re-share it too.