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A: The answer lies in the color temperature of your monitor, which should be set up for consistency with your studio’s lighting.
By Tom Hauenstein
During my recently completed tour of America on the Great Output Seminar Tour, I fielded a lot of questions regarding color management and printing that were specific to one person’s studio. However, there were a number of excellent questions that applied to just about everyone.
One of these was, “What color temperature bulbs should I use for evaluating prints?” Another common question was, “What color temperature should I use when calibrating my monitor?” The answers to these questions are actually related to each other, and the right answer to each is whatever color temperature you prefer.
However, these two color temperatures – for both the monitor and the lighting you use for evaluating prints – need to be consistent. Start by determining which monitor color temperature is right for you. The usual options range from 5000 K to 6500 K.
I find 5000 K to be a little too warm and 6500 K too cool, Goldilocks. Therefore, I prefer a color temperature of 5500 K. Most new calibration software allows you to calibrate your monitor to different white points. This makes it easy for you to test which color temperature is right for you.
Find a file that is a good evaluation image. The PDI target usually works. Right Click on link and Save Link as to download the target
Calibrate and profile the monitor to 5000 K. Open the evaluation image and examine it at this temperature. Pay attention to the gray build in the file and the flesh tones. Then, calibrate and profile the monitor for 6500 K and do the same thing.
Most likely you will prefer the look of one over the other. If you have two monitors, then it is really nice because you can place them side by side. You can then calibrate and profile one to 5000 K and the other to 6500 K and not have to rely on your memory.
Then do a third calibration and profile halfway between these two at 5700 K and compare them to the other two. This will give you an idea which color temperature works best for you. I know this test takes quite a bit of time, but it is something you will have to do only once in your life. Once you decide which temperature is the best for your eyes, your job is done.
Now that you know which color temperature you like best for the monitor, the light bulbs are easy. You simply need to find bulbs with the same color temperature as your monitor.
You should evaluate prints in the same temperature as you color corrected them on-screen. This will eliminate a lot of the discrepancies between the print and the monitor. You can usually Google a certain color temperature and find a bulb that matches it.
Doing this should tighten up color management, and allow you to trust your soft proof.