Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Standard Print Quality: Color Gamut

Tom's Hardware Benchmarks Inkjet Printer Paper!
By

Do you own an inkjet printer? If you are concerned with the quality of your prints, you will want to read this article. We go over the technical differences between paper from Brother, Dynex, Epson, HP, and Kodak, and why one gets our recommendation.

In order to understand our results, you need to know how modern operating systems manage color. There is no printer (or monitor) in the world capable of reproducing all the colors we can see. On a computer, this problem is made more complicated since printers and monitors tend to have different strengths in color production. As a result, what you see on the screen is often different from what you print, and everything is different from the original picture that you took.

This is what professional photographers refer to as "gamut mismatch." If your monitor can't display all of the colors in a photo, you need to know which colors are out-of-gamut so that you don't incorrectly edit your picture. Operating systems like Windows 7 and OS X overcome this through a process called color management. The two major methods are known as perceptual and relative colorimetric rendering. Each places a different priority on how to render colors.

Original Picture
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
Relative Colorimetric Rendering (mapping to 3-8)
3
3
3
4
5
6
7
8
8
8
Perceptual Colorimetric Rendering (mapping to 3-8)
3
3.33
3.66
4
5
6
7
7.33
7.66
8


We'll use numbers instead of color hues because they're easier to understand. Say you have 10 shades of blue in a picture, 1 being the lightest and 10 being the darkest. If your printer can only print hues 3-8, you have to either toss out the other hues or change the color scale. Relative colorimetric rendering maps all the out of gamut colors to the extreme ends. This means that 3 represents any hue less than 3. Perceptual relies more on scaling. Instead of truncating color data, it maps on the same scale. Since the original picture had 10 shades of blue, it manipulates the extreme ends to make sure there are still 10 shades of blue.

Perceptual colorimetric rendering is vastly more complicated than relative, so don't assume that all of the middle hues go unmolested. The final result depends on the color management module (Adobe ACE, Microsoft ICM, and Apple ColorSync). In a nutshell, relative rendering destroys color information that cannot be displayed, while perceptual rendering compresses the information.

Neither rendering method is superior. Professional photographers have uses for each. However, on a day-to-day basis, you'll generally deal with perceptual rendering. That's how we are treating the color management of our paper samples. In order to see how each paper performs, we map the perceptual gamut (solid volume) in LAB space so that we can identify areas where the color gamut is mismatched. The wire form outline in each video represents the total gamut volume of AdobeRGB 1998.

Brother Multipurpose Paper, Standard Quality

Dynex Multipurpose Paper, Standard Quality

Epson Bright White Paper, Standard Quality

HP Bright White Paper, Standard Quality

HP Multipurpose Paper, Standard Quality

Kodak Everyday Paper, Standard Quality

HP’s Bright White performs the best out of all the printer papers, and Brother’s Multipurpose performs the worst.

Surprisingly, Dynex (Best Buy’s store brand) performs the second-best in terms of perceptual gamut volume. The difference is obvious once we look at profile slices. At 30% luminance, Dynex produces better magenta, blue, and cyan shadows. Dynex continues to hold a strong advantage up until about 60% luminance. We can clearly see a wider production of magenta, cyan, and yellow midtones, while the Bright White paper from Epson and HP both produce strong blue and cyan highlights.

Display all 36 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • -1 Hide
    hmp_goose , May 26, 2011 4:33 AM
    I'd been taught you feed an Epson Epson paper …
  • -1 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , May 26, 2011 4:35 AM
    I was kind of in disbelief when I read this article. Its a good try....but far from what is seen in the real world. Speaking from a printer tech's point of view, I can tell you that using the wrong kind of paper in certain printers can give disasterous results. The ink can sit on top, smudge, bleed etc. The manufacturer designs consumer printers with presets for different paper types. The specific printer may put more or less ink, raise or lower the carriage depending on paper thickness, not to mention every manufacturer uses a different type of ink and will react differently with different paper. This article is leading people in the wrong direction. You will only get reliable results from your inkjet printer using the manufacturers correct spec paper and ink and correct settings in your printer driver. If you happen to find one that works well for you that is not stated in the manufacturers spec, then good for you, but don't complain if your prints come out like crap using the wrong paper.
  • 3 Hide
    acku , May 26, 2011 4:39 AM
    Quote:
    I was kind of in disbelief when I read this article. Its a good try....but far from what is seen in the real world. Speaking from a printer tech's point of view, I can tell you that using the wrong kind of paper in certain printers can give disasterous results. The ink can sit on top, smudge, bleed etc. The manufacturer designs consumer printers with presets for different paper types. The specific printer may put more or less ink, raise or lower the carriage depending on paper thickness, not to mention every manufacturer uses a different type of ink and will react differently with different paper. This article is leading people in the wrong direction. You will only get reliable results from your inkjet printer using the manufacturers correct spec paper and ink and correct settings in your printer driver. If you happen to find one that works well for you that is not stated in the manufacturers spec, then good for you, but don't complain if your prints come out like crap using the wrong paper.


    That's very true when it comes to Photo Paper, but there are hundreds of attributes that matter. However, it is possible for brand B photo paper to be have more color gamut on brand A printer than brand A photo paper, if they're optimizing for color fastestness or water proofing.

    This was a look at everyday paper where differences are negligible on between multiple brands. We got the same results on Epson, HP, Brother, and Kodak printers. We know there are and we have seen different results with Photo Paper. Such as Canon Photo Paper behaving differently on a Canon printer, Epson printer etc....

    I have benchmarks from about 10 more printers of varying brands that line up with the results from the MG5220. For the sake of simplicity, we only presented one.

    Cheers,
    Andrew Ku
    TomsHardware.com
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2011 5:48 AM
    The prices of the HP Bright White and Multipurpose are switched between the first and last pages of this article. At first I thought that the Bright White was both the best of the bunch and one of the cheapest, which left me wondering if the ink fumes had made the reviewer a little woozy when I saw that the multipurpose got the recommendation.
  • 1 Hide
    acku , May 26, 2011 6:04 AM
    Quote:
    The prices of the HP Bright White and Multipurpose are switched between the first and last pages of this article. At first I thought that the Bright White was both the best of the bunch and one of the cheapest, which left me wondering if the ink fumes had made the reviewer a little woozy when I saw that the multipurpose got the recommendation.


    I think magic markers smell better. :kaola:  Fixed!
  • 1 Hide
    acku , May 26, 2011 7:37 AM
    Quote:
    Seriously? You are benchmarking PAPER? Does the word "obsessive" mean anything to you?


    Maybe more neurotic than obsessive.
  • -5 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2011 7:54 AM
    Does the word "KACHINGGGG" mean anything to you?
  • 0 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , May 26, 2011 9:55 AM
    ackuThat's very true when it comes to Photo Paper, but there are hundreds of attributes that matter. However, it is possible for brand B photo paper to be have more color gamut on brand A printer than brand A photo paper, if they're optimizing for color fastestness or water proofing. This was a look at everyday paper where differences are negligible on between multiple brands. We got the same results on Epson, HP, Brother, and Kodak printers. We know there are and we have seen different results with Photo Paper. Such as Canon Photo Paper behaving differently on a Canon printer, Epson printer etc....I have benchmarks from about 10 more printers of varying brands that line up with the results from the MG5220. For the sake of simplicity, we only presented one.Cheers,Andrew KuTomsHardware.com

    Thanks for clarifying that. Just didnt want people to get the wrong idea.
  • 2 Hide
    nebun , May 26, 2011 12:16 PM
    ackuMaybe more neurotic than obsessive.

    it is good....we need to know who manufacures the best paper if we want our prints to last us a lifetime :) 
  • -1 Hide
    zybch , May 26, 2011 12:42 PM
    No Canon papers?
  • 2 Hide
    WyomingKnott , May 26, 2011 12:56 PM
    Just to upset Dan_H a little more
    I write with a fountain pen. I've got about twenty of them and pick one, plus an ink, at the start of each week. Almost all printer paper is too glossy to take the ink; it sits on the surface so long that I would need to use a blotter.
    A paper called "Willcopy Ultra" takes fountain pen ink beautifully. Absorbs it, doesn't bleed. But it's only sold in pallet lots. So, by agreement with my office manager, I buy Staples paper and trade them ream-for-ream.
    Dan, whether it's print quality, durability, compatibility with certain inks, or other reasons, people do care. And we spend a lot of money on paper. Any given printer costs me more in ink, and separately more in paper, than I spend for the printer.
  • 3 Hide
    sempifi99 , May 26, 2011 3:10 PM
    This was a fun read, definitely different than reading about motherboards or graphics cards.

    What would be a good follow up article is comparing standards in paper and consistency of results. I would imagine results varies sheet to sheet. But what about paper manufactured in different batches. Or paper manufactured at different production facilities.
  • 4 Hide
    dstln , May 26, 2011 3:14 PM
    Another nice article covering yet another part of daily computing, good work branching out.
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2011 3:18 PM
    Was the various different paper checked to see if all the paper comes from the same place? Like HP gets all of its paper from this mill. Because it would be really sucky if you buy HP paper and it doesn't act the way this 'bench' suggest merely because HP is using a different source for the paper.
  • 0 Hide
    gmgj , May 26, 2011 3:46 PM
    I really enjoyed your article. I spent a lot of time reading about calibration of monitors and got an appreciation of how complicated the subject of rendering colors is. If I want to print something to keep, I use a commercial service. I do not think there are many of us who could come close to approximating the expertise of a printer technician. For home use, this article gave me more confidence on the process for producing better quality results.

    On the other hand, any article on color should start out with the disclaimer that perception of color is a function of the light you see it in. And lighting conditions vary significantly.

    I look forward to more articles by you.
  • -5 Hide
    dan4patriots , May 26, 2011 3:56 PM
    like someone else said, really-benchmarking paper?
  • 1 Hide
    clonazepam , May 26, 2011 4:50 PM
    I appreciated this article. I still remember the article from slightly over 10 yrs ago when you benchmarked the inkjet printers. It was great at the time b/c I worked at Epson's HQ in Long Beach, supporting all the pro-graphics printers, fiery rips, scanners, projectors, and digital cameras.

    I'd like to see a re-visit to the popular inkjet printer technologies employed by HP and Epson.
  • 0 Hide
    clonazepam , May 26, 2011 4:53 PM
    In addition, another future article can benchmark a manufacturer's printer, ink and paper system (as all 3 are tuned to each other) and how it changes when using 3rd party inks and papers. Also including some of the wilder 3rd party inks / drivers available would be cool too.
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , May 26, 2011 5:52 PM
    for an article about the paper quality and printing there was no focus on the paper and atributes of it. comparing 20# paper to 24# paper will give you very different results, and comparing brand name papers is useless because you do not know what mill is making it for them. I sell this stuff for a living and none of these companies make their own paper they have paper mills make it for them and slap their ream wrapper on it, they could change the mill that makes their paper every other month if they wanted to, unless you know the mill these tests are meaningless. And bright white paper (95-97 bright) will almost always have a strong blue when printing but it is purely because the paper has a blue hue to start with, the way they make the paper super bright white is by adding the blue to it (take a 92 bright and a 97 bright paper and compare them without ink). If you are printing photos, buy photo paper dont use these papers, if you are printing everyday documents almost any paper will be fine, if you want nice paper for reports or school work, buy some 95 bright paper or even better 24# paper. its pretty simple. And the prices shown here are insane, Best buy pays about $26 a case right now for their paper ($2.60 per ream) and the higher quality paper costs about $5 per ream (24# 97 bright), so they are going 100% markup.
Display more comments