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The Spyder3Studio Complete Color Management System

Display and Printer Calibration, in about an hour.

By Jim Fisher

 The Spyder3Studio is a color management system that allows you to properly calibrate computer displays and to create custom ICC profiles for printers. The system includes the Spyder3Elite colorimeter for monitor calibration and the Spyder3Print spectrocolorimeter for ICC profiling. Oh, and everything comes in a shiny metal case, for easy storage and transportation.

Properly calibrating a display and using an ICC profile for a printer helps to ensure that images will be consistent from screen to print. This is essential for anyone who is making a living via photography. Advanced amateurs and hobbyists will also appreciate the ability to make accurate prints at home.

Software is included for Mac OS X and Windows, allowing you to use it on either operating platform. Each device is USB, for practically universal compatibility. The system is meant for use in studios that do in-house printing.

Software Installation and Monitor Calibration

Software installation is pretty straightforward in OS X. Two CDs are included in the case; one for the Spyder3Elite and one for the Spyder3Print. Once installed, the Spyder3Utility application will launch automatically. This is essentially a driver for the USB colorimeter, and is automatically launched when you start your computer.

 Launching the Super3Elite software begins the process of monitor calibration. The software prompts you for information about your display. You can choose to calibrate CRT, LCD, Projector, or notebook LCD displays. Once you tell the software what type of screen you have, the calibration process can begin.

The colorimeter can be placed on your display via a suction cup, or draped over the monitor and suspended via an integrated counterweight. I found the counterweight to work a bit better than the suction cup method, but it is nice to have both options. To ensure that the colorimeter is properly placed, the software shows you an image of it on the screen. Simply line it up and you are set.

Calibration itself takes about ten minutes. Just be sure that your monitor is not set to go to sleep and that any other screensavers are disabled. Once the display is calibrated, the calibrated profile will be automatically applied. Overall, the calibration process was straightforward and painless. You can even set the utility to inform you when itís time to recalibrate.


 The other half of the suite is the Spyder3Print spectrocolorimeter. The device allows you to create ICC profiles for your printer, and is very robust. You create profiles based on different types of paper and ink, and separate profiles for color and monochrome prints.

Using the printer profiler takes a little bit of time and activity. Once you print the appropriate color target, youíll have to manually scan each of its boxes with the handheld device.

 You can choose targets with different numbers of swatches; the more swatches you choose, the more accurate your ICC profile will be. However, scanning 729 little boxes can take a little bit of time. You may want to find an intern to take care of this, but a basic scan of 255 swatches only takes about ten minutes or so.

Once youíve scanned all of the swatches, the application prompts you to save the data as an ICC profile. This can be selected from Photoshop and other programs when printing.

Results and Conclusion

The system did have a little bit of trouble matching with the glossy MacBook display. Images seem a little more saturated when viewing on the notebook screen versus the matte screen of a 23" Apple Cinema Display. Glossy screens are notoriously difficult to calibrate, and generally should not be used for critical work.

Overall, the Spyder3Studio system was very easy to install and use. The calibration procedure went very smoothly. The true test, of course, is the accuracy of test prints. The colors of the prints I made were very accurate between screen and print. Studios that are looking for a complete end-to-end solution for monitor and printer calibration should definitely consider using the Spyder3 system. Hobbyists and enthusiasts who print work at home should also consider the system, as it will help to keep prints consistent with screen images. If you generally have prints made via an outside service, consider the Spyder3Elite by itself as a screen calibration tool.

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