A few months ago I added the “Onsight Media Selection Image” to the downloads page. This 5×7 color image is intended to be used by advanced users to determine a media’s optimal media selection prior to the profiling process. If you have a 3rd party paper and you aren’t quite sure which media selection to use in the printer driver, simply print this image without a profile several times with different media selections. When the prints come out run your finger across the smudge test area to see if the the ink is drying at an acceptable rate. Compare the final prints for maximum black density (DMax), color gamut, shadow detail and dot smoothness. You’ll want to choose the media selection that delivers the best DMax without loosing a significant amount of shadow detail (loosing 5% or less is OK), or without a course dot pattern caused by what I call “micro pooling” (where dots touch due to excessive ink).
Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl is a paper that demonstrates this selection process well. If Canon iPF x000 printer users print the media selection image with the Special 1, 3 and 5 media selections they will notice that Special 1 delivers a weak DMax, Special 5 a course dot and Special 3 is perfect. If Epson users print the media selection image with the recommended Premium Luster media selection they will notice a course dot due to excessive ink and will want to use lower the “Color Density” slider in the “Paper Configuration” section to get optimal results.
Once you have determined the optimal media selection then one can print a profiling target and generate an ICC profile that delivers optimal results. I do this constantly onsite on my client’s printers (as well as my own) and keep a running list of the results. By doing so, I often find that I can get better results than with a paper manufacturer’s recommendation. Hats off to those that question conventional wisdom and do their own quantitative testing.