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Chapter 4. Creating Your Own Device Profiles > Using Color Measurement Devices

Using Color Measurement Devices

To calibrate displays and printers, you need a measurement device. A variety of devices are available, each with different capabilities. Buying a measurement device is a complicated process in itself, and should you prefer to skip the color babble, a decent spectrophotometer such as the GretagMacbeth Eye-One or X-Rite Pulse will handle all of your color management needs.

Three basic types of devices are used in graphic arts and publishing:

  • Densitometer. Measures the density of ink on paper (that is, the absorption of light), not color values. A densitometer can tell you how much of a color is on the page, but not what the color is. A densitometer is useful for a variety of purposes: to check whether the printing devices are behaving, for example, or to calibrate a device. Densitometers can be found on or near every printing press, but they are not useful for creating device profiles.

  • Colorimeter. Measures the color value of a sample, using color filters, within a specific color space. A colorimeter can determine whether two colors are the same, but it doesn't take into account the light under which the samples are measured. Colorimeters are often used to calibrate both LCD and CRT display types.

  • Spectrophotometer. Measures the wavelength of light across the entire visible spectrum of colors. This type of measurement is the broadest, and it can easily be translated into a number of values, including those used by colorimeters and densitometers. Because it can be used to profile both displays and printers, the spectrophotometer is preferred for device profiling.

Depending on how much you are willing to spend, you can get more advanced capabilities and features. Some solutions measure one patch of color at a time, while others measure strips in an automated fashion. The automated devices cost more—sometimes much more—but save time and reduce errors. Other devices, such as the GretagMacbeth Eye-One spectrophotometer, can measure single patches but also include an attachment that enables the device to engage a strip-reading mode.

If you spend some time creating profiles with a device that measures only patch by patch, you will quickly come to appreciate the value of an automated instrument. The Rolls-Royce of measurement devices—in case you're wondering—is the GretagMacbeth iCColor spectrophotometer. You simply feed a target into the device and wait about 20 seconds, and the measurements are complete—all for about $5,000.

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