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Holland's Question...

At 08:34 AM 10/25/00 -0500, Holland wrote:
>>From your prior posts I gather you are using XG ink, an 1160 and gelatin
>paper (?Ilford Glossy).

No, not Xg, or any other Ilford derivative.  Not at the moment.
1160-yes.  Gelatin papers when I want a crisp, photographic 
print.  If it's a more relaxed, "soothing" image, I go with 
coated matte papers.  Glacier, Denali, Somerset Enhanced, etc.

>I have nearly gone crazy trying to get good looking color without
>profiling, trying different paper type settings, and tweaking the Brt,
>Cont, Sat, Cy, Mag and yellow sliders.

Until I began messing with MIS-arc inks, I never touched 
the sliders in the Epson print driver.  For the MIS-arc 
inks, I generally use:  -5 brightness, +5 contrast, +5 
saturation.  At least as a starting point.  I still don't 
mess with the color sliders in the print driver.

>I finally gave up and ordered Profiler RGB, which I have not yet

Good luck...

>Anyway, would you mind sharing either the settings you are using in the
>epson driver, or some tips on how you managed to get good color?

Gad, I think I've covered it many, many times.

Please bear in mind that my photos do not rely on, 
and are not meant to represent "objectively accurate" 
color.  If you need that, ignore the rest of this 
post.  For my photos, I strive for an image that is 
pleasant to look at, and believable.  For landscapes, 
there's often a good deal of leeway.  Of course, 
people will not generally want to look at a photo 
that's obviously off-color.

On matters of color spaces and profiles, I defer happily 
to The Man from Maine.  I'm still happiest working with 
Photoshop 4, un-color-managed, and profile-less.  But 
I do take my numbers seriously <g>.

But the gist of it is to "go by the numbers" as 
much as possible.  I try hard to identify something 
(even a few pixels) close to pure white, and pure 
black, in each image.  I use the curves tool to 
get the black to (5,5,5) and the white to (250,250,250).
I look really hard for something in the image that ought
to be neutral (a rock, say) and set that to R=G=B.  
That's the core of it...  If there are no neutrals 
in the image, it's tough.  But by the same token -- 
an image with no neutrals is less likely to be seen 
as "off-color."  Unless, of course, you've messed 
up some reference colors and printed the bananas as 
orange, or the oranges as lemon yellow... <g>.

The actual values used for "black" and "white" are 
somewhat negotiable, within reason.  If you plan 
to do a lot of unsharp masking, you might want to 
be more conservative, and use 10,10,10 for black,
and 245,245,245 for white -- because the USM step 
will push the tonal range back out toward the limits.

One very useful "trick" is to look at each of the 
color planes separately in Photoshop, and consider 
each as an image in its own right.  If any one of 
the color planes is blown out, muddy, or blocked up,
re-do the scan.  Of course, it's not always possible 
to get all three looking beautiful.  Most likely the 
blue channel will look less appealing than the other 
two, and red will have the best detail and contrast.
If it's not possible to re-scan, use the "Calculations" 
tool (PS4) or the channel mixer (PS 5 and above) to 
"steal" detail from a good channel and lend it to the 
channel that's hurting.

Another thing to remember about the curves tool... 
the steeper the slope, the better the contrast.  
Find the "focus" of your image, and work the curves 
gently to make them more steep in that area.  This 
takes some experimenting, and there's always a hard 
tradeoff.  If the curve is made steeper in one region, 
by definition it must end up less steep in other 
regions.  Margulis calls this horse-trading, and 
Haynes/Crumpler show how to use "lock-down" curves 
to carefully tweak color or contrast in a select 
region of an image.

Contrast and sharpness go hand-in-hand.  "Unsharp 
Masking" is nothing more than a contrast-enhancement 
where colors change.  Contrast has everything to do 
with the *perception* of sharpness and detail.  

Well anyway... most of these tricks come from a dude 
named Dan Margulis (there, I said it...)  Dan's a bit 
of a CMYK fanatic, so that part has to be taken with 
a large grain of salt, if you're working in RGB.  But 
it is impressive how many of his "tricks" translate 
to RGB space as well.  Dan is by no means the only 
expert...  I learned a few good tricks from the book 
by Haynes/Crumpler called "Photoshop Artistry."

The beauty of the numerical approach is that I don't 
rely on monitor calibration, and my images often look 
better in print than they do on the monitor.  I'd also 
posit that, with Epson inks and Epson papers, profiles 
are not needed to get excellent prints.  Where profiles 
*are* useful is when non-standard inks and papers come 
into play, with dot-gains (for each color) that vary a 
good deal from Epson's design values.

rafe b.

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