Instrument Spotlight i1Pro 3 Plus
This Instrument Spotlight features a brand-new instrument: The i1Pro3 Plus, which began shipping at the end of summer. It fits a unique niche for those who want to measure fabrics, ceramics, matte papers, and calibrate their monitor. This is the first i1Pro that supports all four measurement modes (M0, M1, M2, M3). The included polarizing filter makes it particularly appropriate for measuring uneven substrates. It can make transmissive measurements for those working with backlit signage - and it does all this at a price that is surprisingly affordable, considering all the features mentioned above.
The original i1Pro was created by GretagMacbeth way back in 2001. A few years later, X-Rite acquired GretagMacbeth and continued to develop this workhorse through several 'revs' that increased its speed, added M-mode filtering, and upgraded the profiling software that accompanies it. The venerable i1Pro has been a ubiquitous fixture for color profiling in one form or another for decades. Every other manufacturer has had to work their business model around this instrument because it offers a reliable way to measure color spectrally while still being affordable for every print shop and color expert to own. That's why it’s big news when X-Rite makes a change in this lineup. The i1Pro 3 Plus looks in form and function much like the i1Pro 1 & 2, but its purpose and use are quite distinct from other devices.
The i1Pro 3 Plus is intended for current emerging print technologies such as textile printing and flexographic printing. These industries use unusual printing substrates, often employing low resolutions and uneven surfaces. A more dispersed dot pattern, or color that is broken by strands of fabric, can make it hard to get an accurate read of the color. It can be particularly difficult when measuring with aperture sizes as small as 2 or 4mm. The i1Pro 3 Plus has a whopping big 8mm aperture. Although the instrument is approximately the same size as an i1Pro 2, turn the i1Pro 3 Plus over and you see a big gaping maw of an aperture to enable a larger sample of the substrate.
We are delighted to see that X-Rite has finally listened to our long cry for polarized instruments. Short of using a $12,000 spherical spectrophotometer, being able to use a polarizing filter on a spectrophotometer is a great way to cut down on the specular highlights that tend to muddle the measurement of blacks. The polarization directs the light coming into the instrument from one direction so that dark measurements tend to measure darker and are more defined. With these measurements, profiles can be made with greater shadow detail.
Due to its large aperture, the i1Pro 3 Plus requires specialized charts; these are made using the i1Profiler software from X-Rite. Different target sizes are available depending on the size of material you're working with. They range from 8.5 x 11” to A2 when working with transmissive targets. It's helpful to remember that everything is "Plus" sized when using this instrument except the instrument itself. These patch sizes will be a minimum of 16mm and are often even larger: the measuring ruler is almost 2ft long, and even the case it comes in is 28in long. This is all a consequence of the larger aperture.
A typical 2000 patch profiling target would take up 15 pages on letter-sized paper. Because of this, the user will find it useful to take advantage of i1Profier's iteration ability. One can create a profile using a smaller set of patches,then make a 2nd iteration of the profile to fine-tune as needed.
A similar iterative approach is used when making a transmissive profile. First, print and measure a fixed set of 100 patches. Then, the software generates a second set of patches based on the results of measuring the first set.
This Instrument Spotlight is not intended to be a manual for how to use the instrument, but we think it’s useful to lay out the general steps involved in making a transmissive profile so you know what you're getting into:
- Choose the page size to be used, print template to be affixed to the light box
- Measure the light box surface with the light off and with the light on
- Scan the light box within the template area. This creates a matrix of data about the light box characteristics which is used to adjust future readings on the light box
- Measure the substrate white point without the light box
- Measure the actual test chart placed on top of the template on the light box, including multiple pages if necessary
- Set the profile settings, such as GCR, size of profile tables, etc
- Generate the second set of patches and print out new target prints
- Measure the second set of target patches
- Define the white point of the lightbox on which the finished print will be displayed. (Use the i1Pro 3 Plus to measure it if necessary)
- Define the white point of your ambient lighting (most likely D50)
- Create profile
As you can see, nothing is left to chance or assumed. The user has great control over the process, and this might include measuring on an unevenly lit light table or displaying on a different fixture than the one used to measure the targets. The downside is that this becomes a multi-step process which takes awhile.
The i1Pro 3 Plus can measure using M0, M1 & M2 modes, and it comes with a physical polarizing filter that can be attached to the instrument, allowing it to also measure in M3 mode. Visit colorwiki.com for more information on these measurement modes.
The larger aperture not only requires the patches to be larger, it also means that more color information is coming into the sensor in the instrument. In our testing, in order to get a successful scan across a row of patches, we had to move slowly and steadily. Obviously, measurements such as transmissive measurements of a densely-printed semi-opaque material will take longer. If measuring using M3 (requiring the polarized filter), then the measurements will need to be even slower and will take longer. i1Profiler even suggests the use of spot measurement (patch-by-patch measurement) if too many measurement errors are encountered. Again, this is a different instrument than the earlier i1Pro's, and its use will be different than what you might be used to.
We were able to scan, in strip mode, two sets of targets (totaling 100 patches) and create a transmissive profile in about 30 minutes, not including the target printing time. This was using M1 without a polarizing filter and a reasonably bright backlight. The first time one runs through this process, expect it to take longer.
Accuracy The specs for this instrument show that repeatability of measurement on a white tile is 0.4 deltaE2000, and the maximum difference between instruments is 1.0 deltaE2000. These are very comparable to earlier versions of the i1Pro. Keep in mind that measuring on unusual media can be inherently "noisy". It's easy for measurements to be slightly off due to the weave of a fabric or the way light reflects off of a bumpy canvas. The final profile might show some unusual shapes and angles due to slightly differing measurements. In order to smooth out this erratic behavior, i1Profiler automatically defaults to an advanced smoothing algorithm when doing transmissive profiling. If the shape of your final profile concerns you, remember that pleasing color in the final product is ultimately what we're after - not good-looking gamut shapes. Did I mention that this is a different instrument?
The i1Pro 3 Plus has a fixed aperture of 8 mm. This larger aperture size will tend to give a more complete sampling of the printed color than a narrower sample area, so it's recommended to use a larger size when measuring larger printed dots, prints made with low resolution, or an uneven surface such as fabric and canvas.
X-Rite's i1Profiler version 3.0 or later is required to work with the new i1Pro 3 Plus. The instrument comes bundled with software that is unlocked depending on the package that was purchased. The Basic package is mainly for those who want to purchase the instrument and calibrate monitors, but it is not intended for printer profiling. The Photo package is for those wanting to make RGB printer profiles. Publish unlocks the rest of the features, enabling full support for monitor, RGB and CMYK+ profiling.
CHROMiX will be working to support this instrument in our Curve4, Maxwell Client and even our ColorThink Pro software in the future. We are already at work on it!
Other items of interest
As with earlier i1Pro's, this instrument can calibrate your monitor as well. A new feature of the i1Pro 3 Plus is that is will calibrate extremely bright displays (up to 5000 cd/m2).
This is the first i1Pro to use all LED illumination. Theoretically, this should provide for more reliable and consistent measuring over time.
Price $1699 to $2999 at CHROMiX.com, depending on the model/features.
I'm always excited to see a new instrument come out. This new product fits a need for a relatively inexpensive device that can take polarized measurements. If you are a part of the flexo or fabric printing business, you know the difficulty of profiling your media. The large aperture, making for large patch sizes and smaller total patches, means that this is perhaps not ideally suited for everyday profiling, so don't throw away your present spectrophotometers yet. An added bonus is the new ability to make transmissive measurements.
Click here to see the i1Pro3 Plus at CHROMiX.com
Thanks for reading,