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Profiling with Argyll for Artwork Reproduction

Updated: Jan 4

This is a highly technical article intended for advanced usage by other advanced-level print shops, at-home-printers that want the absolute best color reproduction possible, or artists and photographers interested in seeing all the work we put into ensuring that we can provide the best possible representation of your work in print.

What's covered in this article:

  • The 10 steps we use for creating RGB ICC profiles for matte cotton art papers

  • Explanations of those steps

  • This is all very over-the-top and should beat even the best manufacturer profiles in all (or nearly all) cases. We will be running a series of articles comparing our profiles to manufacturer profiles in the near future.

  • This is how we create profiles for both in house use, as well as for our Professional-tier custom profiling service.

  • Specifically here we will be creating a profile for Moab Entrada. We are an official Moab Print Services Provider and happily work with the full line of Moab papers.

What's not covered in this article:

  • Why this stuff is important

  • Creating or optimizing Media Types, that will be in a future article

  • Installing or setting up Argyll CMS or LittleArgylle GUI

  • Choosing or buying a spectrophotometer (hint: a used i1 Pro 2 or ES2000 can often be found for under $500. Using it with Argyll doesn't require any X-Rite software or licensing.

  • Its possible to do the below steps with a Calibrite Studio/ColorMunki with some slight modification of the commands, though its a bit of a pain to do all this with this tool and it uses a lot more paper.

  • Creation of CMYK or nCLR profiles.

  • Some papers have a couple more steps unique to that paper or paper type, those will be covered in individual articles later - but this is the complete set of common base steps.


Part 1: Preconditioning


A huge advantage to using Argyll CMS is that it allows us to make an even better profile by feeding an existing ICC profile into the system. This can be done using the paper manufacturers supplied profile - but as we are explicitly going for over-the-top here we are going to create our own initial profile.

You will notice that all of the commands below include the -v flag, this is to indicate that output to the console should be 'verbose'


Step 0: Media Setup

First, make sure you have created or are using an appropriate Media Type for the paper. Where applicable (ie for Canon Pro-4100) also do a Unique Calibration for papers that support it. An article specifically about this step is coming soon and will be linked here when its available.


Step 1: Generate the target grid colors

targen -v -G -d2 -g32 -f400 -e8 -B8 "EntradaNatural290Precond"

-G is used to indicate we want to emphasize quality over speed in the patch creation process

-d2 indicates that we are creating an RGB profile.

-g32 says we want 32 gray-step patches to be included

-f400 says we want around 400 patches total

-e8 gives us 8 totally white patches

-B8 gives us 8 totally black patches

Having this large number of gray, white, and black patches allows us to get better near-neutral readings as well as firmly established white-point and black-point for the paper. These things are very important when we go to feed this profile back into the creation process later.


Step 2: Generate the printable targets

The first step only generated the list of colors to be used in the target. This next step turns that list into an actual printable image file.

printtarg -v -i i1 -p Letter -T600 -C "../Entrada 2023-12-02/EntradaNatural290Precond"

-i i1 indicates that we are using an i1 Pro 1, 2, or 3 device (this only affects the patch size and layout in this step)

-p Letter our initial patch set fits nicely onto a single, standard letter size page so lets go with that.

-T600 indicates we want a 600dpi TIFF file to be generated

-C indicates that no compression should be used in the file

notes: if we were profiling canvas or very highly textured paper, we would could use -i 3p here which uses a lot more paper, but gives larger patches and allows for more averaging during reading. We could also achieve similar using the -a argument. If you have an i1 Pro3+ with large aperture use -i 3p here regardless of the paper. If you are using a Calibrite Studio or ColorMunki use -i CM and probably also -h


Step 3: Print the targets

Now you have to print the target on the paper you are profiling. Be sure to use the correct Media Type setting in the printer when loading the paper, and the correct matching setting in your print software or driver. For the Canon imagePROGRAPH PRO printers, we recommend using the free Canon Professional Print and Layout software for this process, thats what will be pictured here.

You will also want to turn off ALL color correction. In Professional Print and Layout you set it like this:

A note about the Clear Coat setting: if you are profiling a glossy media, set this to what you usually set it when doing actual printing (ie if you typically use Overall, set it to Overall).


Step 4: Scan the Printed Target

Ok so now that we have the chart printed, let it rest for a bit. The colors do change slightly after printing. Generally speaking, wait at least 10 minutes after printing to scan the targets. If humidity is very high, wait an hour or two if you want to be very safe. Usually 10 minutes is plenty.

chartread -v -F5 "../Entrada 2023-12-02/EntradaNatural290Precond"

-F5 the LittleArgyll GUI doesn't actually have an option for -F5, so we add that manually into the command. This causes the instrument to operate in M1 mode - I'm currently finding that to be very slightly better for most cases than other modes. If you are using an i1 Pro2/ES2000, i1 Pro1, or Calibrite Stdio/ColorMunki leave out the -F parameter completely.

Now you will need to look at the console window. It will ask you to calibrate the device:

And then you go row-by-row down the chart. If you are using an i1 Pro device you can go either direction.

After you read the last row you will see a message like this:

press the [d] key on your keyboard and then go back to the LittleArgyll GUI


Step 5: Create the Preconditioning Profile

Now we actually crunch the numbers and create the initial ICC profile.

colprof -v -D "4100 Moab Entrada Precond" -A "Canon" -M "Pro-4100" -C "2023 BSLprints" -Zr -qh -f -i D50 -S "../../../Programs/msys64/home/catherine/AdobeRGB1998.icc" -cmt -dpp -O "4100 Moab Entrada Precond.icc" "../Entrada 2023-12-02/EntradaNatural290Precond"

-D this is how you want the profile name displayed in software that uses the profile. Generally speaking, you want -D and -O to be the same except -O should end in .icc some software will freak out if the filename doesn't match the -D value.

-A is the printer manufacturer (this is optional and can be set to anything you want)

-M is the printer model (this is optional and can be set to anything you want)

-C is the copyright info for the profile (this is optional and can be set to anything you want)

-Zr says that we want to set Relative Colorimetric as the default rendering intent. This is what we use for most artwork reproduction in our shop. If unsure what this means, don't worry about it as most software doesn't look at this value in the profile anyway.

-qh says we want a high-quality ICC profile. This takes a little while to generate, but its worth the extra time.

-f -i D50 says that we anticipate people will be critically evaluating prints made with this profile under D50 lighting

-S should be a copy of the AdobeRGB 1998 ICC file on your computer. There is probably one in C:\Windows\System32\spool\drivers\color

-cmt indicates that people will be looking at the colors on a screen in a typical environment prior to printing (ie we don't need anything specialized)

-dpp indicates that the prints will be for general purpose on a reflective media (that is to say a media that isn't transparent)

-O should match -D but end in .icc

Now, running this command should take a little while. Depending on your system maybe even a couple hours. When its done, you should have a file ending in ICC in the same folder as your chart files that you created in Argyll.

Don't install this .icc file into your system - its only going to be used as preconditioning data to help us create the real ICC profile. This is like when you defeat the boss in a video game, and then you have to face off against the real boss that was hidden behind them the whole time.


Part 2: Creating the Actual ICC Profile


This is basically just doing everything again, but now bigger. I'll only cover in detail the things that are different this time around.


Step 6: Create the full target set

targen -v -G -d2 -g128 -f4000 -e16 -B16 -c "../Entrada 2023-12-02/Moab Entrada Natrual 290 m2 Preconditioning.icc" "EntradaNatural290"

-g128 now we are going to 128 neutral gray-step patches to really hone-in on the gray axis of this paper

-f4000 generate around 4000 total patches. This is probably pushing the limits of what's actually beneficial, especially on modern RGB pigment printers.

-e16 and -B16 say we want to average together 16 each totally white (ie the paper color) and totally black patches to really firmly establish the white and black points of the paper, as this info is used in a lot of other calculations.

-c importantly, this is where we specify the ICC profile we generated in part 1. Doing this establishes to Argyll the gamut bounds. The allows Argyll to generate patches that should mostly be actually printable on the paper, and allows greater focus on near-neutral colors where our eyes are more sensitive.


Step 7: Generate the full patch set images

printtarg -v -i i1 -p 432x279 -T600 -C "../Entrada 2023-12-02/EntradaNatural290"

-p 432x279 unlike the letter size chart we made in Part 1, for doing the full patch sets I like to generate it onto four 17" (length) x 11" (width) sheets. This is a matter of personal preference. You can do a bunch of letter size sheets or fewer larger sheets. Try some different values for -p here and see what works best for you ergonomically and practically (ie your printer may only support letter size).


Step 8: Read the charts

This is the same process as reading the charts in Part 1. Its a good idea to take a short break after each chart or two (but not longer than 10-15 minutes or so, if the instrument goes to sleep you have to start over)

chartread -v -F5 "../Entrada 2023-12-02/EntradaNatural290"

-F5 remember to add this in manually if using an i1 Pro 3 or Pro 3+


Step 9: Generate the full profile

This step is the same as in Part 1.

colprof -v -D "4100 Moab Entrada" -A "Canon" -M "Pro-4100" -C "2023 BSLprints" -Zr -qh -f -i D50 -S "../../../Programs/msys64/home/catherine/AdobeRGB1998.icc" -cmt -dpp -O "4100 Moab Entrada.icc" "../Entrada 2023-12-02/EntradaNatural290"


Step 10: Install the Profile

How to install the generated ICC profile depends on if you are on windows or mac or linux. If you are advanced enough to all the stuff above, I'm sure you already know how to do this or can easily google it.

As a small tip, in Canon Professional Print and Layout if you change Color Management to Driver Matching, and then back to Use ICC Profile it will refresh the list available profiles. It may also change your Rendering Intent setting though so be sure to watch that.

And that's it!

Don't want to go through all that trouble? We'll do it for you. Check out our new custom ICC profile creation service here:

We are currently (December 2023) running a special on this service while we iron out the bumps of offering a new service like this.

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