Monitors & Color Bit Depth

Monitors and Color Bit Depth – yawn, yawn – Andy’s being boring again!

Well, perhaps I am, but I know ‘stuff’ you don’t – and I’m telling YOU that you need to know it if you want to get the best out of your photography – so there!

Let me begin by saying that NOTHING monitor-related has any effect on your captured images.  But  EVERYTHING monitor-related DOES have an effect on the way you SEE your images, and therefore definitely has an effect on your image adjustments and post-processing.

So anything monitor-related can have either a positive or negative effect on your final image output.

Bit Depth

I’m going to begin with a somewhat disconnected analogy, but bare with me here.

We live in the ‘real and natural world’, and everything that we see around us is ANALOGUE.  Nature exists on a natural curve and is full of infinite variation. In the digital world though, everything has to be put in a box.

We’ll begin with two dogs – a Labrador and a Poodle.  In this instance both natural  and digital worlds can cope with the situation, because nature just regards them for what they are, and digital can put the Labrador in a box named ‘Labrador’ and the Poodle in a separate box just for Poodles.

Let’s now imagine for a fleeting second that Mr. Lab and Miss Poodle ‘get jiggy’ with the result of dog number 3 – a Labradoodle.  Nature just copes with the new dog because it sits on natures ‘doggy curve’ half way between Mum and Dad.

But digital is having a bloody hissy-fit in the corner because it can’t work out what damn box to put the new dog in.  The only way we can placate digital is to give it another box, one for 50% Labrador and 50% Poodle.

Now if our Labradoodle grows up a bit then starts dating and makes out with another Labrador then we end up with a fourth dog that is 75% Labrador and 25% Poodle.  Again, nature just takes all in her stride, but digital in now having a stroke because it’s got no box for that gene mix.

Every time we give digital a new box we have effectively given it a greater bit depth.

Now imagine this process of cross-breed gene dilution continues until the glorious day arrives when a puppy is born that is 99% Labrador and only 1% Poodle.  It’ll be obvious to you that by this time digital has a flaming warehouse full of boxes that can cope with just about any gene mix, but alas, the last time bit depth was increased was to accommodate 98% Lab 2% Poodle.

Digital is by now quite old and grumpy and just can’t be arsed anymore, so instead of filling in triplicate forms to request a bit depth upgrade it just lumps our new dog in the same classification box as the previous one.

So our new dog is put in the wrong box.

Digital hasn’t been slap-dash though and put the pup in any old box, oh no.  Digital has put the pup in the nearest suitable box – the box with the closest match to reality.

Please note that the above mentioned boxes are strictly metaphorical, and no puppies were harmed during the making of this analogy.

Digital images are made up of pixels, and a pixel can be thought of as a data point.  That single data point contains information about luminance and colour.  The precision of that information is determined by the bit depth of the data

Very little in our ‘real world’ has a surface that looks flat and uniform.  Even a supposedly flat, uniform white wall on a building has subtle variations and graduations of colour and brightness/luminance caused by the angular direction of light and its own surface texture. That’s nature for you in the analogy above.

We are all familiar with RGB values for white being 255,255,255 and black being 0,0,0, but those are only 8 bit values.

8 bit allows for 256 discrete levels of information (or gene mix classification boxes for our Labradoodles), and a scale from 0 to 255 contains 256 values – think about it for a second!

At all bit depth values black is always 0,0,0 but white is another matter entirely:

8 bit = 256 discrete values so image white is 255,255,255

10 bit = 1,024 discrete values so image white is 1023,1023,1023

12 bit = 4,096 discrete values so image white is 4095,4095,4095

14 bit = 16,384 discrete values so image white is 16383,16383,16383

15 bit = 32,768 discrete values so image white is 32767,32767,32767

16 bit = 65,536 discrete values so image white should be 65535,65535,65535 – but it isn’t – more later!

And just for giggles here are some higher bit depth potentials:

24 bit = 16,777,216 discrete values

28 bit = 268,435,456 discrete values

32 bit = 4,294,967,296 discrete values

So you can see a pattern here.  If we double the bit depth we square the value of the information, and if we halve the bit depth the information we are left with is the square root of what we started with.

And if we convert to a lower or smaller bit depth “digital has fewer boxes to put the different dogs in to, so Labradoodles of varying genetic make-ups end up in the same boxes.  They are no longer sorted in such a precise manner”.

The same applies to our images. Where we had two adjacent pixels of slightly differing value in 16 bit, those same two adjacent pixels can very easily become totally identical if we do an 8 bit conversion and so we lose fidelity of colour variation and hence definition.

This is why we should archive our processed images as 16 bit TIFFS instead of 8 bit JPEGs!

In an 8 bit image we have black 0,0,0 and white 255,255,255 and ONLY 254 available shades or tones to graduate from one to the other.

%name Monitors & Color Bit Depth

Whereas, in a 16 bit image black is 0,0,0 and white is 65535,65535,65535 with 65,534 intervening shades of grey to make the same black to white transition:

Gradient Monitors & Color Bit Depth

But we have to remember that whatever the bit depth value is, it applies to all 3 colour channels:

red Monitors & Color Bit Depth green Monitors & Color Bit Depth blue Monitors & Color Bit Depth

So a 16 bit image should contain a potential of 65536 values per colour channel.

How Many Colours?

So how many colours can our bit depth describe Andy?

Simple answer is to cube the bit depth value, so:

8 bit = 256x256x256 = 16,777,216 often quoted as 16.7 million colours.

10 bit = 1024x1024x1024 = 1,073,741,824 or 1.07 billion colours or EXACTLY 64x the value of 8 bit!

16 bit = 65536x65536x65536 = 281,474,976,710,656 colours. Or does it?

Confusion Reigns Supreme

Now here’s where folks get confused.

Photoshop does not WORK  in 16 bit, but in 15 bit + 1 level.  Don’t believe me? Go New Document, RGB, 16 bit and select white as the background colour.

Open up your info panel, stick your cursor anywhere in the image area and look at the 16 bit RGB read out and you will see a value of 32768 for all 3 colour channels – that’s 15 bit folks! Now double the 32768 value – yup, that’s right, you get 16 bit or 65,536!

Why does Photoshop do this?  Simple answer is ‘for speed’ – or so they say at Adobe!  There are numerous others reasons that you’ll find on various forums etc – signed and unsigned integers, mid-points, float-points etc – but really, do we care?

Things are what they are, and rumor has it that once you hit the save button on a 16 bit TIFF is does actually save out at 16 bit.

So how many potential colours in 16 bit Photoshop?  Dunno! But it’ll be somewhere between 35,184,372,088,832 and 281,474,976,710,656, and to be honest either value is plenty enough for me!

The second line of confusion usually comes from PC users under Windows, and the  Windows 24 bit High Color and 32 bit True Color that a lot of PC users mistakenly think mean something they SERIOUSLY DO NOT!

Windows 24 bit means 24 bit TOTAL – in short, 8 bits per channel, not 24!

Windows 32 bit True Color is something else again. Correctly known as 32 bit RGBA it contains 4 channels of 8 bits each; three 8 bit colour channels and an 8 bit Alpha channel used for transparency.

The same 32 bit RGBA colour (Mac call it ARGB) has been utilised on Mac OS for ever, but most Mac users never questioned it because it’s not quite so obvious in OSX as it is in Windows unless you look at the Graphics/Displays section of your System report, and who the Hell ever goes there apart from twats like me:

MacElCap8bit Monitors & Color Bit Depth

Above you can see the pixel depth being reported as 32 bit colour ARGB8888 – that’s Apple-speak for Windows 32 bit True Colour RGBA.  But like a lot of ‘things Mac’ the numbers give you the real information.  The channels are ordered Alpha, Red, Green, Blue and the four ‘8’s give you the bit depth of each pixel, or as Apple put it ‘pixel depth’.

However, in the latter part of 2015 Apple gave OSX 10.11 El Capitan a 10 bit colour capability, though hardly anyone knew including ‘yours truly’.  I never have understood why they kept it ‘on the down-low’ but there was no fan-fare that’s for sure.

MacElCap10bit Monitors & Color Bit Depth

Now you can see the pixel depth being reported as 30 bit ARGB2101010 – meaning that the transparency Alpha channel has been reduced from 8 bit to 2 bit and the freed-up 6 bits have been distributed evenly between the Red, Green and Blue colour channels.

Monitor Display

Your computer has a maximum display bit depth output capability that is defined by:

  • a. the operating system
  • b. the GPU fitted

Your system might well support 10 bit colour, but will only output 8 bit if the GPU is limited to 8 bit.

Likewise, you could be running a 10 bit GPU but if your OS only supports 8 bit, then 8 bit is all you will get out of the system (that’s if the OS will support the GPU in the first place).

Monitors have their own panel display bit depth, and panel bit depth costs money.

A lot of LCD panels on the market are only capable of displaying 8 bit, even if you run an OS and GPU that output 10 bit colour.

And then again certain monitors such as Eizo ColorEdge, NEC MultiSynch and the odd BenQ for example, are capable of displaying 10 bit colour from a 10 bit OS/GPU combo, but only if the monitor-to-system connection has 10 bit capability.  This basically means Display Port or HDMI connection.

As photographers we really should be looking to maximise our visual capabilities by viewing the maximum number of colour graduations captured by our cameras.  This means operating with the greatest available colour bit depth on a properly calibrated monitor.

Just to reiterate the fundamental difference between 8 bit and 10 bit monitor display pixel depth:

  • 8 bit = 256x256x256 = 16,777,216 often quoted as 16.7 million colours.
  • 10 bit = 1024x1024x1024 = 1,073,741,824 or 1.07 billion colours.

So 10 bit colour allows us to see exactly 64 times more colour on our display than 8 bit colour. (please note the word ‘see’).

It certainly does NOT add a whole new spectrum of colour to what we see; nor does it ‘add’ anything physical to our files.  It’s purely a ‘visual’ improvement that allows us to see MORE of what we ALREADY have.

I’ve made a pound or two from my images over the years and I’ve been happily using 8 bit colour right up until I bought my Eizo the other month, even though my system has been 10 bit capable since I upgraded the graphics card back in August last year.

The main reason for the upgrade with NOT 10 bit capability either, but for the 4Gb of ‘heavy lifting power’ for Photoshop.

But once I splashed the cash on a 10 bit display I of course made instant use of the systems 10 bit capability and all its benefits – of which there’s really only one!

The Benefits

The ability to see 64 times more colour means that I can see 64x more subtle variantions of the same colours I could see before.

With my wildlife images I find very little benefit if I’m honest, but with landscapes – especially sunset and twilight shots – it’s a different story.  Sunset and twighlight images have massive graduations of similar hues.  Quite often an 8 bit display will not be able to display every colour variant in a graduation and so will replace it with its nearest neighbor that it can display – (putting the 99% Lab pup in the 98% Lab box!).

This leads to a visual ‘banding’ on the display:

band Monitors & Color Bit Depth

The banding in the shot above is greatly exaggerated but you get the idea.

A 10 bit colour display also helps me to soft proof slightly faster for print too, and for the same reason.  I can now see much more subtle shifts in proofing when making the same tiny adjustments as I made when using 8 bit.  It doesn’t bring me to a different place, but it allows me to get there faster.

For me the switch to 10 bit colour hasn’t really improved my product, but it has increased my productivity.

If you can’t afford a 10 bit display then don’t stress as 8 bit ARGB has served me well for years!

But if you are still needing a new monitor display the PLEASE be careful what you are buying, as some displays are not even true 8 bit.

A good place to research your next monitor (if not taking the Eizo, NEC 10 bit route) is TFT Central

If you select the panel size you fancy and then look at the Colour Depth column you will see the bit depth values for the display.

You should also check the Tech column and only consider H-IPS panel tech.

Beware of 10 bit panels that are listed as 8 bit + FRC, and 8 bit panels listed as 6 bit + FRC.

FRC is the acronym for FRAME RATE CONTROL – also known as Temporal Dithering.  In very simple terms FRC involves making the pixels flash different colours at you at a frame rate faster than your eye can see.  Therefore you are fooled into seeing what is to all intents and purposes an out ‘n out lie.

It’s a tech that’s okay for gamers and watching movies, but certainly not for any form of colour management or photography workflow.

Do not entertain the idea of anything that isn’t an IPS, H-IPS or other IPS derivative.  IPS is the acronym for In Plane Switching technology.  This the the type of panel that doesn’t visually change if you move your head when looking at it!

So there we go, that’s been a bit of a ramble hasn’t it, but I hope now that you all understand bit depth and how it relates to a monitors display colour.  And let’s not forget that you are all up to speed on Labradoodles!

Monitor Calibration Update

Monitor Calibration Update

Okay, so I no longer NEED a new monitor, because I’ve got one – and my wallet is in Leighton Hospital Intensive Care Unit on the critical list..

What have you gone for Andy?  Well if you remember, in my last post I was undecided between 24″ and 27″, Eizo or BenQ.  But I was favoring the Eizo CS2420, on the grounds of cost, both in terms of monitor and calibration tool options.

But I got offered a sweet deal on a factory-fresh Eizo CS270 by John Willis at Calumet – so I got my desire for more screen real-estate fulfilled, while keeping the costs down by not having to buy a new calibrator.

%name Monitor Calibration Update

But it still hurt to pay for it!

Monitor Calibration

There are a few things to consider when it comes to monitor calibration, and they are mainly due to the physical attributes of the monitor itself.

In my previous post I did mention one of them – the most important one – the back light type.

CCFL and WCCFL – cold cathode fluorescent lamps, or LED.

CCFL & WCCFL (wide CCFL) used to be the common type of back light, but they are now less common, being replaced by LED for added colour reproduction, improved signal response time and reduced power consumption.  Wide CCFL gave a noticeably greater colour reproduction range and slightly warmer colour temperature than CCFL – and my old monitor was fitted with WCCFL back lighting, hence I used to be able to do my monitor calibration to near 98% of AdobeRGB.

CCFL back lights have one major property – that of being ‘cool’ in colour, and LEDs commonly exhibit a slightly ‘warmer’ colour temperature.

But there’s LEDs – and there’s LEDs, and some are cooler than others, some are of fixed output and others are of a variable output.

The colour temperature of the backlighting gives the monitor a ‘native white point’.

The ‘brightness’ of the backlight is really the only true variable on a standard type of LCD display, and the inter-relationship between backlight brightness and colour temperature, and the size of the monitors CLUT (colour look-up table) can have a massive effect on the total number of colours that the monitor can display.

Industry-standard documentation by folk a lot cleverer than me has for years recommended the same calibration target settings as I have alluded to in previous blog posts:

White Point: D65 or 6500K

Brightness: 120 cdm² or candelas per square meter

Gamma: 2.2

Screen Shot 2017 04 02 at 13.04.25 Monitor Calibration Update

The ubiquitous ColorMunki Photo ‘standard monitor calibration’ method setup screen.

This setup for ‘standard monitor calibration’ works extremely well, and has stood me in good stead for more years than I care to add up.

As I mentioned in my previous post, standard monitor calibration refers to a standard method of calibration, which can be thought of as ‘software calibration’, and I have done many print workshops where I have used this method to calibrate Eizo ColorEdge and NEC Spectraviews with great effect.

However, these more specialised colour management monitors have the added bonus of giving you a ‘hardware monitor calbration’ option.

To carry out a hardware monitor calibration on my new CS270 ColorEdge – or indeed any ColorEdge – we need to employ the Eizo ColorNavigator.

The start screen for ColorNavigator shows us some interesting items:

colnav1 Monitor Calibration Update

The recommended brightness value is 100 cdm² – not 120.

The recommended white point is D55 not D65.

Thank God the gamma value is the same!

Once the monitor calibration profile has been done we get a result screen of the physical profile:

colnav2 Monitor Calibration Update

Now before anyone gets their knickers in a knot over the brightness value discrepancy there’s a couple of things to bare in mind:

  1. This value is always slightly arbitrary and very much dependent on working/viewing conditions.  The working environment should be somewhere between 32 and 64 lux or cdm² ambient – think Bat Cave!  The ratio of ambient to monitor output should always remain at between 32:75/80 and 64:120/140 (ish) – in other words between 1:2 and 1:3 – see earlier post here.
  2. The difference between 100 and 120 cdm² is less than 1/4 stop in camera Ev terms – so not a lot.

What struck me as odd though was the white point setting of D55 or 5500K – that’s 1000K warmer than I’m used to. (yes- warmer – don’t let that temp slider in Lightroom cloud your thinking!).

1000k Monitor Calibration UpdateAfter all, 1000k is a noticeable variation – unlike the brightness 20cdm² shift.

Here’s the funny thing though; if I ‘software calibrate’ the CS270 using the ColorMunki software with the spectro plugged into the Mac instead of the monitor, I visually get the same result using D65/120cdm² as I do ‘hardware calibrating’ at D55 and 100cdm².

The same that is, until I look at the colour spaces of the two generated ICC profiles:

profile Monitor Calibration Update

The coloured section is the ‘software calibration’ colour space, and the wire frame the ‘hardware calibrated’ Eizo custom space – click the image to view larger in a separate window.

The hardware calibration profile is somewhat larger and has a slightly better black point performance – this will allow the viewer to SEE just that little bit more tonality in the deepest of shadows, and those perennially awkward colours that sit in the Blue, Cyan, Green region.

It’s therefore quite obvious that monitor calibration via the hardware/ColorNavigator method on Eizo monitors does buy you that extra bit of visual acuity, so if you own an Eizo ColorEdge then it is the way to go for sure.

Having said that, the differences are small-ish so it’s not really worth getting terrifically evangelical over it.

But if you have the monitor then you should have the calibrator, and if said calibrator is ‘on the list’ of those supported by ColorNavigator then it’s a bit of a JDI – just do it.

You can find the list of supported calibrators here.

Eizo and their ColorNavigator are basically making a very effective ‘mash up’ of the two ISO standards 3664 and 12646 which call for D65 and D50 white points respectively.

Why did I go CHEAP ?

Well, cheaper…..

Apart from the fact that I don’t like spending money – the stuff is so bloody hard to come by – I didn’t want the top end Eizo in either 27″ or 24″.

With the ‘top end’ ColorEdge monitors you are paying for some things that I at least, have little or no use for:

  • 3D CLUT – I’m a general sort of image maker who gets a bit ‘creative’ with my processing and printing.  If I was into graphics and accurate repro of Pantone and the like, or I specialised in archival work for the V & A say, then super-accurate colour reproduction would be critical.  The advantage of the 3D CLUT is that it allows a greater variety of SUBTLY different tones and hues to be SEEN and therefore it’s easier to VISUALLY check that they are maintained when shifting an image from one colour space to another – eg softproofing for print.  I’m a wildlife and landscape photographer – I don’t NEED that facility because I don’t work in a world that requires a stringent 100% colour accuracy.
  • Built-in Calibrator – I don’t need one ‘cos I’ve already got one!
  • Built-in Self-Correction Sensor – I don’t need one of those either!

So if your photography work is like mine, then it’s worth hunting out a ‘zero hours’ CS270 if you fancy the extra screen real-estate, and you want to spend less than if buying its replacement – the CS2730.  You won’t notice the extra 5 milliseconds slower response time, and the new CS2730 eats more power – but you do get a built-in carrying handle!


Colour in Photoshop

Colour in Photoshop.

Understanding colour inside Photoshop is riddled with confusion for the majority of users.  This is due to the perpetual misuse of certain words and terms.  Adobe themselves use incorrect terminology – which doesn’t help!

The aim of this post is to understand the attributes or properties of colour inside the Photoshop environment – “…is that right Andy?”  “Yeh, it is!”

So, the first colour attribute we’re going to look at is HUE:

ColWheel1 1 Colour in Photoshop

A colour wheel showing point-sampled HUES (colours) at 30 degree increments.

HUE can be construed as meaning ‘colour’ – or color for the benefit of our American friends “come on guys, learn to spell – you’ve had long enough!”

The colour wheel begins at 0 degrees with pure Red (255,0,0 in 8bit RGB terms), and moves clockwise through all the HUES/colours to end up back at pure Red – simple!

Hue1 Colour in Photoshop

Above, we can see samples of primary red and secondary yellow together with their respective HUE degree values which are Red 0 degrees and Yellow 60 degrees.  You can also see that the colour channel values for Red are 255,0,0 and Yellow 255,255,0.  This shows that Yellow is a mix of Red light and Green light in equal proportions.

I told you it was easy!

Inside Photoshop the colour wheel starts and ends at 180 degrees CYAN, and is flattened out into a horizontal bar as in the Hue/Saturation adjustment:

ColWheel2 Colour in Photoshop

Overall, there is no ambiguity over the meaning or terminology HUE; it is what it is, and it is usually taken as meaning ‘what colour’ something is.

The same can be said for the next attribute of colour – SATURATION.

Or can it?

How do we define saturation?

Sat1 Colour in Photoshop

Two different SATURATION values (100% & 50%) of the same HUE.

Above we can see two different saturation values for the same HUE (0 degrees Hue, 100% and 50% Saturation). I suppose the burning question is, do we have two different ‘colours’?

As photographers we mainly work with additive colour; that is we add Red, Green and Blue coloured light to black in order to attain white.  But in the world of painting for instance, subtractive colour is used; pigments are overlaid on white (thus subtracting white) to make black.  Printing uses the same model – CMY+K inks overlaid on ‘white’ paper …..mmm see here

If we take a particular ‘colour’ of paint and we mix it with BLACK we have a different SHADE of the same colour.  If we instead add WHITE we end up with what’s called a TINT of the same colour; and if add grey to the original paint we arrive at a different TONE of the same colour.

Let’s look at that 50% saturated Red again:

Sat2 Colour in Photoshop

Hue Red 0 degrees with 50% saturation.

We’ve basically added 128 Green and 128 Blue to 255 Red. Have we kept the same HUE – yes we have.

Is it the same colour? Be honest – you don’t know do you!

The answer is NO – they are two different ‘colours’, and the hexadecimal codes prove it – those are the hash-tag values ff0000 and ff8080.  But in our world of additive colour we should only think of the word ‘colour’ as a generalisation because it is somewhat ambiguous and imprecise.

But we can quantify the SATURATION of a HUE – so we’re all good up to this point!

So we beaver away in Photoshop in the additive RGB colour mode, but what you might not realise is that we are working in a colour model within that mode, and quite frankly this is where the whole chebang turns to pooh for a lot of folk.

There are basically two colour models for dare I use the word ‘normal’, photography work; HSB (also known as HSV) and HSL, and both are cylindrical co-ordinate colour models:

HSBHSL Colour in Photoshop

HSB (HSV) and HSL colour models for additive RGB.

Without knowing one single thing about either, you can tell they are different just by looking at them.

All Photoshop default colour picker referencing is HSB – that is Hue, Saturation & Brightness; with equivalent RGB, Lab, CMYK  hexadecimal values:

col3 Colour in Photoshop

But in the Hue/Sat adjustment for example, we see the adjustments are HSL:

ColWheel2 Colour in Photoshop

The HSL model references colour in terms of Hue, Saturation & Lightness – not flaming LUMINOSITY as so many people wrongly think!

And it’s that word luminosity that’s the single largest purveyor of confusion and misunderstanding – luminosity masking, luminosity blending mode are both terms that I and oh so many others use – and we’re all wrong.

I have an excuse – I know everything, but I have to use the wrong terminology otherwise no one else knows what I’m talking about!!!!!!!!!  Plausible story and I’m sticking to it your honour………

Anyway, within Photoshop, HSB is used to select colours, and HSL is used to change them.

The reason for this is somewhat obvious when you take a close look at the two models again:

HSBHSL Colour in Photoshop

HSB (HSV) and HSL colour models for additive RGB. (V stands for Value = B in HSB).

In the HSB model look where the “whiteness” information is; it’s radial, and bound up in the ‘S’ saturation co-ordinate.  But the “blackness” information is vertical, on the ‘B’ brightness co-ordinate.  This great when we want to pick/select/reference a colour.

But surely it would be more beneficial for the “whiteness” and “blackness” information to be attached to the axis or dimension, especially when we need to increase or decrease that “white” or “black” co-ordinate value in processing.

So within the two models the ‘H’ hue co-ordinates are pretty much the same, but the ‘S’ saturation co-ordinates are different.

So this leaves us with that most perennial of questions – what is the difference between Brightness and Lightness?

Firstly, there is a massive visual difference between the Brightness and Lightness  information contained within an image as you will see now:

BHSB Colour in Photoshop

The ‘Brightness’ channel of HSB.

LHSL Colour in Photoshop

The ‘L’ channel of HSL

Straight off the bat you can see that there is far more “whites detail” information contained in the ‘L’ lightness map of the image than in the brightness map.  Couple that with the fact that Lightness controls both black and white values for every pixel in your image – and you should now be able to comprehend the difference between Lightness and Brightness, and so be better at understanding colour inside Photoshop.

We’ll always use the highly bastardised terms like luminosity, luminance etc – but please be aware that you may be using them to describe something to which they DO NOT APPLY.

Luminosity is a measure of the magnitude of a light source – typically stars; but could loosely be applied to the lumens output power of any light source.  Luminance is a measure of the reflected light from a subject being illuminated by a light source; and varies with distance from said light source – a la the inverse square law etc.

Either way, neither of them have got anything to do with the pixel values of an image inside Photoshop!

But LIGHTNESS certainly does.

Lumenzia for Wildlife

The Lumenzia Photoshop extension

Yet more on the usefulness of the Lumenzia Photoshop extension, the short cut to great looking images of all types and styles.

I had an email from client and blog follower David Sparks after my last post about this useful mighty Photoshop tool.

He sent these before and after rail shots:

20141002  D4S6303 900x599 Lumenzia for Wildlife

Before adding Lumenzia. Click for larger view.

20141002  D4S6303 Edit 900x599 Lumenzia for Wildlife

After adding Lumenzia. Click for larger view.

difference 900x599 Lumenzia for Wildlife

Comparison overlay – see how the left side of the image has that extra presence – and that’s just with the click of a couple of buttons in the Lumenzia GUI. Click to view larger.

Here is what David had to say in his email:

Andy, here is a before and after.  Processing was much, much faster than usual, using Lumenzia.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention….I’m working my way through your Image Processing in LR4 & Photoshop + LR5 bundle and enjoying it very much.

And as my friend and blog follower Frank Etchells put it:

Excellent recommendation this Andy. Bought it first time from your previous posting… at just over £27 it’s marvellous icon smile Lumenzia for Wildlife

What gets me puzzled is the fact that these Lumenzia posts have had over 500 separate page views in the last few days but less then 3% of you have bought it – WTF are you guys waiting for…


Please consider supporting this blog.

This blog really does need your support. All the information I put on these pages I do freely, but it does involve costs in both time and money.

If you find this post useful and informative please could you help by making a small donation – it would really help me out a lot – whatever you can afford would be gratefully received.

Donations would help offset the costs of running this blog and so help me to bring you lots more useful and informative content.

Many thanks in advance.


Colour Editing in Photoshop

Colour Editing in Photoshop using the Channel Mixer

I’ve just uploaded 3 video lessons on THE BEST way to do selective colour changes in Photoshop using the Channel Mixer.

This is a far better and more accurate way to change the colour of something whilst maintaining all its original tonality, and it is vastly better than the commonly touted Hue saturation method.

HueSat doesn’t do the job with 100% fidelity, and you are very limited in the colour choice.

Using the Channel Mixer method you can effectively make every single colour in the Pantone colour spectrum simply by using Pantone/RGB conversion figures.

If you watch the videos on YouTube it may take a minute for the HD play option to activate.

Part 1 is here:

Part 2 here:

Part 3 here:

The demo file can be downloaded on the link below:

There are many instances where you might want or need to change the colour of an object in your image, and this is exactly what the Channel Mixer exists for; not for creating crappy black and white conversions as some crackpots think.

Give it a try for yourself by downloading the file and following along with the videos – the file has the path built into it, put these paths are simple to make with then pen tool.

Please consider supporting this blog.

This blog really does need your support. All the information I put on these pages I do freely, but it does involve costs in both time and money.

If you find this post useful and informative please could you help by making a small donation – it would really help me out a lot – whatever you can afford would be gratefully received.

Donations would help offset the costs of running this blog and so help me to bring you lots more useful and informative content.

Many thanks in advance.


Lumenzia for Easy Luminosity Masking

Lumenzia for Easy Luminosity Masking..

I’m a really BIG fan of Luminosity Masking, and the ease by which you can use them to create really powerful adjustments to your image inside Photoshop – adjustments that are IMPOSSIBLE to make in Lightroom.

For a while now I’ve been selling a luminosity mask action set for Photoshop, and up until a week ago I had plans to upgrade said action set to produce even more custom masks.

That is until a good friend of mine, Mr. Omar Jabr, asked me if I’d come across this new product, LUMENZIA, that made the production and deployment of luminosity masks and their derivatives EVEN EASIER.

intro 900x624 Lumenzia for Easy Luminosity Masking

An original RAW file open in Lightroom (right) together with the final image (left) – 99% of the “heavy lifting” being done in Photoshop using the Lumenzia Extension and it’s luminosity masking functions.

In all honesty I am so excited about this amazing software extension that I’ve abandoned all plans to further develop my own action set for Photoshop – to do so would be a truly pointless exercise.

There is so much more to Lumenzia than the production of the standard 4 or 5 Darks,Lights and Midtone luminosity masks that mine and other available action sets produce.

To get an idea of just how powerful Lumenzia is just click HERE to visit the applications home page – and just buy it while you are there; purchase is a “no brainer” and one of those digital imaging JDI’s (just do it)!

The inclusion of a luminosity masking function based on the Zone System gives you instant recourse to masks based on Ansel Adams 11 zone system of scene brightness – a classic approach to the quantification of subject brightness range created by arguably the greatest landscape photographer the world has ever known – IMHO of course.

AAZone Lumenzia for Easy Luminosity Masking

In order to instal Lumenzia you will need to install the correct Photoshop Extension Manager for which ever version of Photoshop you are running – CS6, CC, or CC2014 (it is not intended to be installed on CS5 or lower).

1. Buy Lumenzia

2. Follow the download link, and download the .Zip folder.

3. Extract the folder contents.

4. Locate the “com.lumenzia.zxp” file in the extracted contents, right click and choose Open with: Adobe Extension Manager v.xx

You should see:

a Lumenzia for Easy Luminosity Masking

Click Install, and you should see:

b Lumenzia for Easy Luminosity Masking

If you are running Mac OS 10.10x Yosemite you may have a slight problem with the CC2014 Extension Manager not being able to find the application pathway to Ps CC2014.  If you get a message from the Extension Manager waffling on about needing Photoshop v11 or higher don’t stress, the fix is a little brutal but really simple:

Go Applications>Utilities>Adobe Installers and UNINSTALL (that’s right!) BOTH Photoshop CC2014 and Extension Manager CC2014, then log back in to your CC account, go to the Apps tab and re-install Photoshop CC2014 AND Extension Manager CC2014 sequentially – that will cure the problem and only take about 5 or 6 minutes.

Open a RAW file in CameraRAW, or better still Lightroom. Get your camera calibration and contrast under control as I’ve banged on about so many times before, negate any chromatic aberration and do a bit of effective noise reduction if needed, then send the image to Photoshop:

3 900x563 Lumenzia for Easy Luminosity Masking

Go Window>Extensions>Lumenzia

Go Window>Extensions>Lumenzia and the Lumenzia interface will appear – I like to drag it into the right hand tools palette so it’s not encroaching on the work area.

The first thing that amazed me about Lumenzia is the fact that you can create luminosity masks without creating 12 or 15 separate Alpha channels with the image – this makes a HUGE difference to the file size of the image, not just from the disc space PoV but it can also have file handling speed benefits in terms of tile rendering speed and scratch disc usage – if you don’t understand that just think of it as a GOOD thing!

For example:

5 900x560 Lumenzia for Easy Luminosity Masking

The final adjusted image (prior to a couple of tweaks in Lightroom) on the left is 271Mb including all layers being intact; the image on the right, though not yet processed, has been prepared for processing by running a luminosity mask action set and developing a stack of Alpha channels; it is now over 458Mb:

6 900x562 Lumenzia for Easy Luminosity Masking

…just because of the Alpha channels. And we have also got 50 steps of History that have to be retained by Photoshop; as you’ve now realised, the joke is that it’s double the size of the Lumenzia processed image and we haven’t begun to start making any adjustments yet!

There is lot’s more to Lumenzia, such as surface sharpening and easy dodge and burn layer creation – it’s going to take me a week to digest it all.

Prior to working with Lumenzia my one question was “how good are the masks” – well they are pixel-perfect.

Creating pixel-perfect luminosity masks is the most tedious of jobs if you do it the maual way – so much so that most folk take one look at the process and go “No thanks…..”

Photographers like myself couldn’t really help alleviate the tedium until the advent of CS6 which gave us the ability to write an ACTION that involved the operation of a PREVIOUSLY recorded action – so the luminosity mask action set was born.

But the developer of Lumenzia has topped it all by the proverbial country mile and given us a totally unique way of making the tedious and complex very easy and simple.

Once you have made your purchase you’d do well to go and watch the developer videos that are available online; you will get links to the training and support pages in your purchase receipt.

And to top it all off we can even generate Alpha channels and selections if we want or need to, and we can mask on the basis of Vibrancy and Saturation; yet another processing wheeze known by few, and used by fewer still.

The developer has given me permission to demonstrate and teach the deployment of Lumenzia, and to promote it as an affiliate.  I’ve been offered affiliate-ships before but have rejected them in the past because basically what was being peddled was either crap or too expensive; or BOTH.

But whatever you think the opinion of yours truly is worth, I can honestly say that Lumenzia is most definitely NEITHER of the above – it’s that good I’ll never use anything else ever again, and at under 40 bucks you’re going to make one hell of a difference to your images with so little effort it’s unreal.

Click HERE to buy and download

LUMENZIA – BUY IT – go on, get on with it!

lum Lumenzia for Easy Luminosity Masking

Lumenzia GUI for Photoshop CC2014


Please consider supporting this blog.

This blog really does need your support. All the information I put on these pages I do freely, but it does involve costs in both time and money.

If you find this post useful and informative please could you help by making a small donation – it would really help me out a lot – whatever you can afford would be gratefully received.

Your donation will help offset the costs of running this blog and so help me to bring you lots more useful and informative content.

Many thanks in advance.


Colormunki Photo Update

Colormunki Photo Update – for OSX Yosemite

Both my MacPro and non-retina iMac used to be on Mountain Lion, or OSX 10.8, and nope, I never updated to Mavericks as I’d heard so many horror stories, and I basically couldn’t be bothered – hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

But, I wanted to install CapOne Pro on the iMac for the live-view capabilities – studio product shot lighting training being the biggest draw on that score.

So I downloaded the 60 day free trial, and whadyaknow, I can’t install it on anything lower than OSX 10.9!

Bummer thinks I – and I upgrade the iMac to OSX 10.10 – YOSEMITE.

Now I was quite impressed with the upgrade and I had no problems in the aftermath of the Yosemite installation; so after a week or so muggins here decided to do the very same upgrade to his late 2009 Mac Pro.

OHHHHHHH DEARY ME – what a pigs ear of a move that turned out to be!

Needless to say, I ended up making a Yosemite boot installer and setting up on a fresh HDD.  After re-installing all the necessary software like Lightroom and Photoshop, iShowU HD Pro and all the other crap I use, the final task arrived of sorting colour management out and profiling the monitors.

So off we trundle to X-Rite and download the Colormunki Photo software – v1.2.1.  I then proceeded to profile the 2 monitors I have attached to the Mac Pro.

Once the colour measurement stage got underway I started to think that it was all looking a little different and perhaps a bit more comprehensive than it did before.  Anyway, once the magic had been done and the profile saved I realised that I had no way of checking the new profile against the old one – t’was on the old hard drive!

So I go to the iMac and bring up the Colormunki software version number – 1.1.1 – so I tell the software to check for updates – “non available” came the reply.

Screen Shot 2014 12 05 at 13.50.17 646x900 Colormunki Photo Update

Colormunki software downloads

Screen Shot 2014 12 05 at 13.51.09 809x900 Colormunki Photo Update

Colormunki v1.2.1 for Yosemite

So I download 1.2.1, remove the 1.1.1 software and restart the iMac as per X-Rites instructions, and then install said 1.2.1 software.

Once installation was finished I profiled the iMac and found something quite remarkable!

Check out the screen grab below:

Screen Shot 2014 12 05 at 14.07.23 900x472 Colormunki Photo Update

iMac screen profile comparisons. You need to click this to open full size in a new tab.

On the left is a profile comparison done in the ColourThink 2-D grapher, and on the right one done in the iMacs own ColourSynch Utility.

In the left image the RED gamut projection is the new Colormunki v1.2.1 profile. This also corresponds to the white mesh grid in the Colour Synch image.

Now the smaller WHITE gamut projection was produced with an i1Pro 2 using the maximum number of calibration colours; this corresponds to the coloured projection in the Coloursynch window image.

The GREEN gamut projection is the supplied iMac system monitor profile – which is slightly “pants” due to its obvious smaller size.

What’s astonished me is that the Colormunki Photo with the new software v1.2.1 has produced a larger gamut for the display than the i1 Pro 2 did under Mountain Lion OSX 10.8

I’ve only done a couple of test prints via softproofing in Lightroom, but so far the new monitor profile has led to a small improvement in screen-to-print matching of the some subtle yellow-green and green-blue mixes, aswell as those yellowish browns which I often found tricky to match when printing from the iMac.

So, my advice is this, if you own a Colormunki Photo and have upgraded your iMac to Yosemite CHECK your X-Rite software version number. Checking for updates doesn’t always work, and the new 1.2.1 Mac version is well worth the trouble to install.

Please consider supporting this blog.

This blog really does need your support. All the information I put on these pages I do freely, but it does involve costs in both time and money.

If you find this post useful and informative please could you help by making a small donation – it would really help me out a lot – whatever you can afford would be gratefully received.

Your donation will help offset the costs of running this blog and so help me to bring you lots more useful and informative content.

Many thanks in advance.


Camera Calibration

Custom Camera Calibration

The other day I had an email fall into my inbox from leading UK online retailer…whose name escapes me but is very short… that made my blood pressure spike.  It was basically offering me 20% off the cost of something that will revolutionise my photography – ColorChecker Passport Camera Calibration Profiling software.

I got annoyed for two reasons:

  1. Who the “f***” do they think they’re talking to sending ME this – I’ve forgotten more about this colour management malarkey than they’ll ever know….do some customer research you idle bastards and save yourselves a mauling!
  2. Much more importantly – tens of thousands of you guys ‘n gals will get the same email and some will believe the crap and buy it – and you will get yourselves into the biggest world of hurt imaginable!

Don’t misunderstand me, a ColorChecker Passport makes for a very sound purchase indeed and I would not like life very much if I didn’t own one.  What made me seethe is the way it’s being marketed, and to whom.

Profile all your cameras for accurate colour reproduction…..blah,blah,blah……..

If you do NOT fully understand the implications of custom camera calibration you’ll be in so much trouble when it comes to processing you’ll feel like giving up the art of photography.

The problems lie in a few areas:

First, a camera profile is a SENSOR/ASIC OUTPUT profile – think about that a minute.

Two things influence sensor/asic output – ISO and lens colour shift – yep. that’s right, no lens is colour-neutral, and all lenses produce colour shifts either by tint or spectral absorption. And higher ISO settings usually produce a cooler, bluer image.

Let’s take a look at ISO and its influence on custom camera calibration profiling – I’m using a far better bit of software for doing the job – “IN MY OPINION” – the Adobe DNG Profile Editor – free to all MAC download and Windows download – but you do need the ColorChecker Passport itself!

I prefer the Adobe product because I find the ColorChecker software produced camera calibration profiles there were, well, pretty vile in terms of increased contrast especially; not my cup of tea at all.

ISO1 900x665 Camera Calibration

5 images shot at 1 stop increments of ISO on the same camera/lens combination.

Now this is NOT a demo of software – a video tutorial of camera profiling will be on my next photography training video coming sometime soon-ish, doubtless with a somewhat verbose narrative explaining why you should or should not do it!

Above, we have 5 images shot on a D4 with a 24-70 f2.8 at 70mm under a consistent overcast daylight at 1stop increments of ISO between 200 and 3200.

Below, we can see the resultant profile and distribution of known colour reference points on the colour wheel.

24 70 200 900x667 Camera Calibration

Here’s the 200 ISO custom camera calibration profile – the portion of interest to us is the colour wheel on the left and the points of known colour distribution (the black squares and circled dot).

Next, we see the result of the image shot at 3200 ISO:

24 70 3200 900x667 Camera Calibration

Here’s the result of the custom camera profile based on the shot taken at 3200 ISO.

Now let’s super-impose one over t’other – if ISO doesn’t matter to a camera calibration profile then we should see NO DIFFERENCE………….

24 70 200vs3200 Camera Calibration

The 3200 ISO profile colour distribution overlaid onto the 200 ISO profile colour distribution – it’s different and they do not match up.

……..well would you bloody believe it!  Embark on custom camera calibration  profiling your camera and then apply that profile to an image shot with the same lens under the same lighting conditions but at a different ISO, and your colours will not be right.

So now my assertions about ISO have been vindicated, let’s take a look at skinning the cat another way, by keeping ISO the same but switching lenses.

Below is the result of a 500mm f4 at 1000 ISO:

500mm1000iso 900x578 Camera Calibration

Profile result of a 500mm f4 at 1000 ISO

And below we have the 24-70mm f2.8 @ 70mm and 1000 ISO:

24 70 1000ISO 900x578 Camera Calibration

Profile result of a 24-70mm f2.8 @ 70mm at 1000 ISO

Let’s overlay those two and see if there’s any difference:

500v24 70 1000ISO Camera Calibration

Profile results of a 500mm f4 at 1000 ISO and the 24-70 f2.8 at 1000 ISO – as massively different as day and night.

Whoops….it’s all turned to crap!

Just take a moment to look at the info here.  There is movement in the orange/red/red magentas, but even bigger movements in the yellows/greens and the blues and blue/magentas.

Because these comparisons are done simply in Photoshop layers with the top layer at 50% opacity you can even see there’s an overall difference in the Hue and Saturation slider values for the two profiles – the 500mm profile is 2 and -10 respectively and the 24-70mm is actually 1 and -9.

The basic upshot of this information is that the two lenses apply a different colour cast to your image AND that cast is not always uniformly applied to all areas of the colour spectrum.

And if you really want to “screw the pooch” then here’s the above comparison side by side with with  the 500f4 1000iso against the 24-70mm f2.8 200iso view:

500mm1000isoV24 70mm200iso Camera Calibration

500mm f4/24-70mm f2.8 1000 ISO comparison versus 500mm f4 1000 ISO and 24-70mm f2.8 200 ISO.

A totally different spectral distribution of colour reference points again.

And I’m not even going to bother showing you that the same camera/lens/ISO combo will give different results under different lighting conditions – you should by now be able to envisage that little nugget yourselves.

So, Custom Camera Calibration – if you do it right then you’ll be profiling every body/lens combo you have, at every conceivable ISO value and lighting condition – it’s one of those things that if you don’t do it all then you’d be best off not doing at all in most cases.

I can think of a few instances where I would do it as a matter of course, such as scientific work, photo-microscopy, and artwork photography/copystand work etc, but these would be well outside the remit the more normal photographic practices.

As I said earlier, the Passport device itself is worth far more than it’s weight in gold – set up and light your shot and include the Passport device in a prominent place. Take a second shot without it and use shot 1 to custom white balance shot 2 – a dead easy process that makes the device invaluable for portrait and studio work etc.

But I hope by now you can begin to see the futility of trying to use a custom camera calibration profile on a “one size fits all” basis – it just won’t work correctly; and yet for the most part this is how it’s marketed – especially by third party retailers.

Please consider supporting this blog.

This blog really does need your support. All the information I put on these pages I do freely, but it does involve costs in both time and money.

If you find this post useful and informative please could you help by making a small donation – it would really help me out a lot – whatever you can afford would be gratefully received.

Your donation will help offset the costs of running this blog and so help me to bring you lots more useful and informative content.

Many thanks in advance.


Black Ink Type

Black ink type and black ink switching when moving from matte to luster and gloss papers – here’s my thoughts on this, initially triggered by Franks’ reply to my previous article HERE.

And I quote:

Another great and instructive article Andy. I have the r3000 but get slightly annoyed with the black ink changes from one to the other. Some further guidance on the use of these re paper ‘types’ would be appreciated by moi ~ please ♡

Look, he’s even put a heart in there – bless you Frank, that’s more than I’ve got out of ‘her indoors’ for years!

Now the basic school of thought over this switching of black ink type is this:

  • PK, or Photo Black ink type supposedly produces a smooth, highly glossy black.
  • MK or Matte Black ink type produces a dull, flat black.
  • Using a matte finish paper requires the MATTE black ink type.
  • Using Luster or Gloss paper requires the Photo black ink type.

The PK black ink type really only produces a HIGH GLOSS finish when chucked onto HIGH GLOSS media.  Its’ got a rather less glossy and more ‘egg shell’ finish when used on a more luster finish paper. There does come a “tipping point” though where it will look a little shinier than the finish of the paper – and it’s this tipping point where theory, clever-dicks and user-guides tell you there’s a need to switch to the matte black ink type.

The Matte black ink type does exactly what point two says it does.

The third point – replace the word “requires” with the phrase “can cope with” and we’d be about right.

The forth point is absolutely true; get this wrong by printing with the MK black ink type on high gloss paper and you’ll just waste consumables and potentially end up with the type of clean up operation normally the preserve of Exon & BP. Dot gain on steroids!

There’s also an argument that the MK black ink type produces a deeper black on matte finish paper than the PK black ink type – this is also true:

4800 PermMus MKvsPK 900x692 Black Ink Type

Permajet canned profiles for Museum paper on the Epson 4800 printer using PK and MK black ink types.

As we can clearly see, the Matte black ink type does indeed accommodate a deeper black point than its counterpart Photo black ink type.

Adopting the Common Sense Approach

There are a few things we need to think about here, and the first one is my constant mantra that the choice of paper is governed by the “overall look, feel and atmosphere of the finished image” when it’s sitting there on your monitor.

Paper choice IS the final part of the creative process; for all the reasons I’ve mentioned in past blog posts.

You will also know by now that in my world there is little room for high gloss paper – it’s a total pain the bum because of its highly reflective surface; but that same surface can allow you to print the very finest of details.

But here’s common sense point number 1 – the majority of people reading this blog, attending my workshops and coming to me for 1to1 tuition CAN NOT produce images with detail fine enough to warrant this single benefit of high gloss paper.

That’s not because they’re daft or rubbish at processing either – it’s simply due to the fact that they shoot 35mm format dSLR, not £30K medium format.  The sensors we commonly use can’t record enough ultra fine detail.  There’s a really good comparison between the Nikon D800 and an IQ160 here, it’s well worth having a look – then you’ll see what I’m on about.

The point I’m trying to make is this; print on gloss from 35mm if you like; but you are saddling yourself with its problems but not truthfully getting any of the benefit – but you can kid yourself if you like!

I Lust After Luster Papers But How Lusty Is That Luster?

As I mentioned in the previous post, Calumet Brilliant Museum Satin Matte Natural is NOT a matte finish paper.

True matte papers never really hold much appeal for me if I’m honest, because they are very dull, flat and relatively lifeless.  Yes, a 12×12 inch monochromatic image might look stunning, especially hanging in an area where reflections might prove difficult for any other print surface.

But that same image printed 8 foot square might well “kill’ any room you hang it in, just because it’s so dull and so damned BIG.

True matte papers do have their uses that’s for sure, but in the main you need to discriminate between matte and what I call matte “effect”.

Permajet Fine Art Museum 310, Matte Plus and Portrait 300 are papers that spring to mind as falling into this matte effect category – and wouldn’t you know it, there are canned profiles for these papers for both PK and MK black ink type ink sets, as you can see from the image earlier in the post.

So, with regard to black ink type switching you have to ask yourself:

  • Am I using a paper the ACTUALLY NEEDS the MK black ink type?  Chances are you’re probably not!
  • If I am, do I really want to – how big a print am I doing?

In my own print portfolio I only have two images that benefit from being printed on a “dead” media surface, and they are both printed to Permajet Museum using the PK black ink type.

I had another one that looked “nearly there” but the heavy texture of the paper detracted from the image, so it was re-proofed and printed to Matt Plus, again using PK ink. It looked just the same from a colour/luminance stand point, but worse from a ‘style’ point because of the zero texture.

Along comes Calumet Museum Satin Matte Natural!

The subtle texture gets me where I wanted to be on that score, and that ever-so-soft luster just makes the colours come to life that tiny bit more, giving me a print variation that I love and hadn’t even envisaged at the time I did the original print.

Ink Type Switching

I have to say at the outset that I do NOT own an R3000 printer – I use wide format Epson printers and so have no commercial need for the 3000 DT format.  But I always advise people looking for a printer to buy one – it’s a stunning machine that punches well above it’s weight based on price point.

My Epson wide format does not hold both black ink types.  Switching entails a rather tedious and highly wasteful process; which I have neither desire or need to embark upon.

But if you have any brand of printer that carries both types on board then I’d highly recommend you to set the black ink type to PK, and turn any auto-switching OFF – that is, set switching to manual.

Right, now the super-pessimist in me shines through!

I’m not a fan of Epson papers on the whole, and there’s a lot more choice and far better quality available from third party suppliers ranging from Photospeed to Hahnemuhle, Canson, Red River and all points in between.

Now third party suppliers in the main will tell you to use one black ink type or the other – or either, and give you the correct media settings (Brilliant – are you reading this??).

But, if you have auto switching enabled, and use Epson paper, the print head sees the paper surface and automatically switches the ink to the ‘supposed’ correct type.  This switching process requires the printer to purge the black ink line and refill it with the ‘correct’ black ink type before printing commences.

Now these figures are the stats quoted from Epson:

Black ink conversion times:

  • Matte to Photo Black approx. 3 min. 30 sec
  • Photo to Matte Black approx. 2 min. sec

Ink used during conversion:

  • Matte to Photo Black approx. 3 ml
  • Photo to Matte Black approx. 1 ml

Now why the times and volumes aren’t the same in both directions is a bit of a mystery to me and doesn’t make sense.  But what is killer is that the carts are only 26 (25.9)ml and around £24 each, so 6 changes of black ink type is going to burn through as good as £25 of ink – and that’s without doing any bloody printing!!!

When ever I demo this printer at a workshop I never use Epson paper, auto switching is OFF and I never get a head sensor warning to tell me to switch ink even if I load Permajet Museum – the head sensor doesn’t warn me about the fact that I’m using PK ink.

Yes the printer could be up the spout, but using a canned PK profile the resulting print would tend to indicate otherwise.

Or something slightly more dark and sinister might be happening – or rather NOT, because I’m not using OEM paper………...What was that I heard you say?  Good gracious me…you might think that but I couldn’t possibly comment!

One thing to bare in mind is this.  For the most part, the majority of print media will work exceptionally well with the PK black ink type – BUT NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND – you’ve been warned.  If you want to know how the captain of the Exon Valdez felt and be up to your ass in black stuff then go ahead and give it a try, but don’t send the cleaning bills to me!

I did it once years ago with an HP printer – I can still see matte black ink tide marks on the skirting board in my office……it wasn’t pretty! And it screwed the printer up totally.

Using PK on matte media will only effect the D-max and lower the overall contrast a wee bit; unless it’s a very low key image with vast areas of blackish tones in it then for the most part you’d perhaps struggle to notice it.  Sometimes you might even find that the drop in contrast even works to your advantage.

But don’t forget, you might not be using a matte media at all, even though it visually looks like it and says the word matte in the paper name.  If the paper manufacturer supplies a PK and an MK profile for the same paper then save yourself time and money and use the PK profile to soft-proof to AND to control the printer colour management.

Did that answer your question Frank – FRANK – can you hear me Frank??!!


Please consider supporting this blog.

This blog really does need your support. All the information I put on these pages I do freely, but it does involve costs in both time and money.

If you find this post useful and informative please could you help by making a small donation – it would really help me out a lot – whatever you can afford would be gratefully received.

Your donation will help offset the costs of running this blog and so help me to bring you lots more useful and informative content.

Many thanks in advance.


Paper White – Desktop Printing 101

Paper White video

A while back I posted an article called How White is Paper White

As a follow-up to my last post on the basic properties of printing paper media I thought I’d post this video to refresh the idea of “white”.

In this video we basically look at a range of 10 Permajet papers and simply compare their tints and brightness – it’s an illustration I give at my print workshops which never fails to amaze all the attendees.

I know I keep ‘banging on’ about this but you must understand:

  • Very few paper whites are even close to being neutral.
  • No paper is WHITE in terms of luminosity – RGB 255 in 8 bit colour terms.
  • No paper can hold a true black – RGB 0 in 8 bit colour terms.

In real-world terms ALL printing paper is a TINTED GREY – some cool, some warm.

D4R8269 Edit 21 1024x674 Paper White   Desktop Printing 101

If we attempted to print the image above on a cool tinted paper then we would REDUCE or even CANCEL OUT the warm tonal effects and general ‘atmosphere’ of the image.

Conversely, print it to a warmer tinted ‘paper white’ and the atmosphere would be enhanced.

Would this enhancement be a good thing?  Well, er NO – not if we were happy with our original ‘on screen’ processing.

You need to look upon ‘paper white’ as another TOOL to help you achieve your goal of great looking photographs, with a minimum of fuss and effort on your part.

We have to ‘soft proof’ our images if we want to get a print off the printer that matches what we see on our monitor.

But we can’t soft proof until we have made a decision about what paper we are going to soft-proof to.

Choosing a paper who’s characteristics match our finished ‘on screen’ image in terms of TINT especially, will make the job of soft proofing much easier.

How, why?

Proper soft proofing requires us to make a copy of our original image (there’s most peoples first mistake – not making a copy) and then making adjustments to said copy, in a soft proof environment, so that it it renders correctly on the print – in other words it matches our original processed image.

Printing from Photoshop requires a hard copy, printing from Lightroom is different – it relies on VIRTUAL copies.

Either way, this copy and its proof adjustments are what get sent to the printer along what we call the PRINT PIPELINE.

The print pipeline has to do a lot of work:

  • It has to transpose our adjusted/soft proofed image colour values from additive RGB to print CMYK
  • It has to up sample or interpolate the image dpi instructions to the print head, depending on print output size.
  • It has to apply the correct droplet size instructions to each nozzle in the print head hundreds of times per second.
  • And it has to do a lot of other ‘stuff’ besides!!

The key component is the Printer Driver – and printer drivers are basically CRAP at carrying out all but the simplest of instructions.

In other words they don’t like hard work.

Printing to a paper white that matches our image:

  • Warm image to warm tint paper white
  • Cool image to cool paper white

will reduce to the amount of adjustments we have to make under soft proofing and therefore REDUCE the printer driver workload.

The less work the print driver has to do, the lower is the risk of things  ‘getting lost in translation‘ and if nothing gets lost then the print matches the on screen image – assuming of course that your eyes haven’t let you down at the soft proofing stage!

cool 600x387 Paper White   Desktop Printing 101

IMPORTANT – Click Image to Enlarge in new window

If we try to print this squirrel on the left to Permajet Gloss 271 (warmish image to very cool tint paper white) we can see what will happen.

We have got to make a couple of tweaks in terms on luminosity BUT we’ve also got to make a global change to the overall colour temperature of the image – this will most likely present us with a need for further  opposing colour channel adjustments between light and dark tones.


Warm 600x387 Paper White   Desktop Printing 101

IMPORTANT – Click Image to Enlarge in new window

Whereas the same image sent to Permajet Fibre Base Gloss Warmtone all we’ll have to do is tweak the luminosity up a tiny bit and saturation down a couple of points and basically we’ll be sorted.

So less work, and less work means less room for error in our hardware drivers; this leads to more efficient printing and reduced print production costs.

And reduced cost leads to a happy photographer!

Printing images is EASY –  as long as you get all your ducks in a row – and you’ve only got a handful of ducks to control.

Understanding print media and grasping the implications of paper white is one of those ducks………

This video is an extract from a Lightroom printing tutorial title I’m working on for release later in the year.

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