Colour Management and ICC Profiles for Sublimation Printing
Nowadays, it’s possible to buy inks that were specially developed for the most varied types of equipment. Therefore, for each application, the user needs to have the correct type of ink and the correct software to print from. To print with original ink, you have just to install the printer driver, insert the paper in the tray, select the paper type, the print quality and click on “print”.
Now, to print using sublimation ink, on the other hand, there are a few more steps and details that you must be aware of, and understand how each of this details impact on the final product will definitely help to achieve better results.
When we are dealing with sublimation, colour is a big problem because most printers and software use the RGB colour curve to read the colours on a design, however they print using CMYK: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (some printers have Light Cyan and Light Magenta as well). That’s why an ICC profile is required, to convert the information from one colour space to the other.
In colour management, an ICC profile is a set of data that characterises a colour input or output device, or a colour space, according to standards promulgated by the International Colour Consortium (ICC). With this data, it is possible to build the necessary mathematical model. The greater the number of colours measured in the target, the better defined the model will be and, therefore, the greater the accuracy of the results. A target is a collection of colours that will be read and used to create a mathematical map to describe the colours that are possible to be reproduced by a device.
ICC profiles can store information obtained by reading targets in two ways: matrix and tables. The first, matrix, consists of the collection of nine numbers (3×3 matrix) that allows direct conversion between two colour spaces. In addition to the basic colours, this matrix stores one or more data about the reproduction of the midtones, allowing variation calculations for the midtones. The second way – tables – is also called “lookup”, table or by the abbreviation LUT. These tables allow the search and location of a given input value and its corresponding output value.
The importance of colour profiling for the sublimation market.
When you choose the “plain paper” or “photo paper” option on your printer, you are choosing an ICC colour profile, that is, the printer will understand the type of paper and throw the ink in the correct way in order to reproduce, in the best possible way, what is being sent out to print.
Sublimation ink, in most cases, is used as parallel ink in adaptations such as refillable cartridges and continuous ink supply systems (CISS), so there is no standard.
In short, the colour profile is created especially for a particular paper together with a specific ink brand, paper and equipment. Therefore, a colour profile is not generic for any equipment, ink and paper. Each supplier should have its own profile and provide it to its customers.
It is recommended to purchase the complete solution in the same place: the printer + sublimation ink + sublimation transfer paper + ICC colour profile. At InkTec Australia, we always provide the ICC free of charge when you purchase your inks through our official website: https://store.inktec.com.au and our official Ebay store: https://www.ebay.com.au/str/inktecaustralia
When we work with graphic applications such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator among many others, we must initially, when creating the page, define the colour space we want to work with, as well as the colour profile to be used. Then, even if we place images in RGB, CMYK, or any other colour space, they are automatically converted at the output to the colour space that we previously defined without the need to convert every image separately.
Different devices create different colours. Even two printers of the same make and model will require slightly different settings to produce the same colour (and will produce slightly different colours with the same settings).
Custom profiles take many factors into account, including paper colour, texture, printer settings, and more. The only way to ensure you are getting the most accurate and faithful image possible is to use a profile that has been created especially for your equipment, paper, inks and adjustments.
Keep in mind that when using the same ink and paper, you will only need a single profile. But each time you use another manufacturer's ink or paper, you must re-profile to have the same quality as before. Professional help is important, and we can guide you through the process. Remember that profiles are made to characterise the printing process. If you change any part of the process, it will reflect directly on the printed colours. Therefore, you will need to create a new profile.
In order to create your own ICC profiles, you will need a monitor and printer calibrator (Ex: X-rite) that comes with the software for ICC profiles on monitors and printers. All ICC profiles, if properly constructed, can be used on Mac or Windows computers. Your ability to use them depends more on your applications than the operating system. The investment is high and requires technical training, so the recommendation of a professional supplier is necessary!
Here's an example:
Without ICC Proflie With ICC Profile