Test method: How we test printers, all-in-ones, photo paper, online photobooks and print services
Both Printer and Photo paper define the score
For our printer reviews we start by printing two test files: color and grayscale (including 'pure' white and black).
Subsequently the color values of each patch in the print are determined with an Eye-One X-Rite spectrometer. The final color accuracy of a printer depends on the number of color patches that are displayed correctly. Ideally, the reference color value and that of the print will be equal. To show you the deviation between reference value and actual print, we split each patch in half in the images of the color chart we show you in our printer reviews. The left side has the original color value, the right side the measured value.
For the photo paper tests, we use an Epson 4900 or Epson 2880 printer, utilizing strict color management procedures. This means that an ICC color profile is used specifically made (by the paper manufacturer or printer manufacturer) for the paper-printer combination under investigation.
Besides the two color test files, we print another test chart to assess print sharpness. This test shows how well small details are displayed. In addition, several photos are printed and used to assess the rendering of color transitions.
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To give an impression of the color accuracy, we show you the test file in the printer or photo paper review. However, what you see on your monitor may - depending on your browser and monitor settings - differ from reality.
Moreover, we show you a jpg file instead of the original PSD file. These test chart images on our site are therefore, in some cases, inappropriate to assess the absolute color accuracy by looking at your screen. But the images are suitable to assess color differences between test and reference images.
In assessing the prints, we consider the following:
- Color of the medium. Each photo paper has its own color. Some photo papers are almost white, whereas other photo papers show a creamy color. The whiter the paper, the higher the contrast of the print can be.
- Structure. Paper without texture feels smooth. Several fine art papers exhibit a structure, which give it a more luxury appearance.
- Glossy and matte surface. Some surfaces have a semi-gloss or satin finish. A glossy surface can very effectively reflect light, whereas a matte paper reflects much less of the incidental light. A disadvantage of a glossy surface may be that fingerprints easily remain visible on the surface.
- Color accuracy. To show you the color error of a printer or photo paper, we split each patch in the color test-chart in half. The left side has the original color value, the right side the measured value. This helps you to see at a glance how well a particular printer / photo-paper combination performs.
- Monochrome display. Same approach as for color reproduction. Examining how well the neutral gray values are preserved. The gray can be displayed in a warm ('reddish') or cool ('bluish') tone. In some prints you will see that only a part of the grayscale (i.e. only the dark or light grey patches) shows a color tone other than gray. Also, the maximum density is measured. If this value is low then a black and white photograph looks lifeless. The gray scale is also used to see whether there is sufficient difference between black and very dark gray. This is important in order to preserve detail in the shadows.
- Bronzing. Dark areas may, viewed at a specific angle, exhibit a bronze-like glow. This phenomenon is known as bronzing.
- Gloss differential. In the transition from completely white to very light colored areas, you may observe that the white areas reflect differently. This phenomenon is called gloss differential.