Color Accuracy with Metal Prints

At Image Wizards, we know how important accurate color reproduction is to you – so let’s talk about it! We work extremely hard to make sure your final metal print matches the color you expect when you uploaded the print. This can be a long and arduous process for several reasons.

Phase Shifts

When sublimating a file to the aluminum, during this process there are actually three phase-shifts happening all of which alter the colors that we are working with.

First, a mirror image of your file is printed onto our high-release dye carrier transfer paper. This takes the liquid inks and turns them into a solid within the paper as it dries. This is the first phase shift.

Second, as the sublimation process begins to happen these inks in the paper get heated and turned into a vapor – which using heat and pressure is burned into the coating onto the aluminum. So this means the inks are now going from solid to a vapor, then back to a solid again.

Each time this happens it changes how to colors are produced. This is why we have to adjust our files to compensate for these color-shifts. 10 times out of 10 our print file looks completely different than the file you uploaded. However, after all of the phase shifts are complete the final product looks identical to it after all of these shifts in the process! All of these extra steps we take are to compensate for these shifts.

Typically in any form of printing, there are a few factors you have to keep in mind:

  • – The color calibration of your monitor
  • – The color-space you work in, in your photo editing software
  • – Your printers color profile

 

So let’s begin with unpacking these and start with: the color calibration of your monitor.

Monitor Calibration

 

There are several spectrophotometers you can use (What is a spectrophotometer?) ranging from something in the $200 range (Spyder5) which will only calibrate your monitor, to something starting in the $1,500+ range which will allow you to calibrate your monitor but also create ICC profiles for your printers (X-Rite i1 Pro 2). They work well and providing standardized colors that are close enough in most cases to provide satisfactory matching screen calibrations.

However, depending on the manufacturer of your monitor there may be limiting factors to what colors your screen can produce. Higher-end monitors tend to have wider achievable color gamuts than budget monitors. One of the things you can do with us is to mail us a paper-print for us to use as a match print. This way all possible variables are removed and we are looking at an exact physical representation of the color(s) that you like. Let’s discuss gamut a little further in the next section: color-space.

 

Color-Spaces in Photo Editing Software

So you’ve calibrated your monitor, what’s next?

Take a look at this graph:

The colorspace we work with is the Adobe RGB colorspace. So once you are calibrated the next thing to keep an eye out in either Photoshop, Lightroom or whatever software you use is the Gamut Warning. The Gamut Warning will show you what colors you have in your photo that you cannot reach in your color-space.

So let’s take a look at photoshop to what this would look like.

Going across the top of the screen to Edit -> Color Settings will show you this:

Now once you have set the color-space to Adobe RGB 1998, the software will actually show you what colors we are able to replicate in our process. Here is the image we are currently working on (shoutout to Windows XP):

Once we go across the top of the window to View -> Gamut Warning this is what we see:

So as you can see, the majority of the colors in this image are outside of the Adobe RGB 1998 color-space.  Depending on the software you are using it may show it as a neon green color, or a grayed out area, but the bottom line is this: These colors are not possible in this color-spectrum that we can possibly replicate.

We don’t mean to scare you! Just because this area is greyed out doesn’t mean we can’t produce it! It just means that we will get as close as possible with the colors that our gamut can achieve. This is exactly why proofing is so important with this medium.

Checking your Gamut Warning is one of the best ways to make sure we can hit your desired colors: no matter our screen technology or calibration tools the color-space is a firm limiter on what we can produce.

 

Printer ICC Profiles

Quite a few of our clients ask us if we can send our ICC printer profile to them so they can soft-proof at home. If only the process were this easy! The only way our profiles would work for you is if you were using Chromaluxe aluminum panels at home with a certified Epson Sublimation printer on the exact high-release dye carrier paper we use. But since most of our customers don’t do this – we have to offer the next best thing – hard proofs. Whether you want us to send you proofs on the actual aluminum, or you want to send us proofs on paper as color-matches so that you can ensure that all of the variables we listed above are eliminated. If you like a paper print then we know exactly what to shoot for after you mail it to us!

We calibrate our printer profiles daily.

This isn’t a sales tool – it’s the truth. We have to double and quadruple check our profiles because in this business those that don’t maintain their profiles have upset clients and providing inconsistent color.

We are in the color management and happy customer business, and believe us – it’s not easy. If we showed you how much daily waste aluminum we produce simply trying to keep profiles inline – it would paint a true picture of how difficult the process truly is.

We deal with the headaches so you don’t have to.

 

Would you like to see a video breakdown of the image setup that shows how to check color-space and file formats? Click here.

If you have any other questions whatsoever – please email us at info@imagewizards.com.