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Choosing a Viewing Booth

Many of our customers invest in good monitors and colour profiling equipment but then don’t think about the lighting that they’ll be looking at their prints under. Light sources vary greatly both in colour temperature and in what wavelengths of the spectrum they contain – their spectral power distribution. This means that your prints will look different under different light sources and so if you want to check a print for colour or match print to monitor then to get the best results you need proper controlled lighting. Controlled lighting viewing booths, such as the ones we sell from GTI, come in many different sizes and some are designed just for appraising proofs or prints and some for matching print to screen (soft-proofing). In this article I’ll outline the factors you should consider when you are thinking of buying a viewing booth.

We can supply the full range of GTI viewing solutions so if you don’t see what you need on our website then please contact us for a quote.

Why do you need controlled lighting?

Prints reflect light. The colours they display is not only down to the dyes or pigments used to print them but also to the qualities of the light they are relecting. Poor lighting can cause colours made with slightly different colourants to appear different under one light source but the same under another. Or it can cause colours to radically shift when moved from one light source to another. Just take a look at an inkjet print under an energy saving or incandescent light bulb and then under natural daylight and you’ll see what I mean. Even the colours in the environment around your print can influence your perception of colour, which is why viewing booths are a special grey colour.

GTI's Colour Rendering Demonstrator clearly shows how prints can change under different lighting.

GTI’s Colour Rendering Demonstrator clearly shows how prints can change under different lighting.

Cheaper Alternatives

Proper controlled lighting can be quite an investment so before we start looking at viewing booths let’s consider the alternatives. Firstly, there is good old fashioned daylight. Daylight has the advantage of being free, and always with a pretty good spectral power distribution so you won’t get problems with colours shifting as you can with artificial lights. However, it does vary with time of day and the weather. Noon sunlight on a bright summer’s day is very different from late afternoon in the winter when it’s raining. So you can’t rely on daylight making your prints always looking exactly the same.

You can get some inexpensive viewing lights and these can be much better than normal desk lamps or bulbs but they tend to be quite low in colour temperature – often around 4000K (Kelvin is a measure of colour temperature) and their spectral power distribution isn’t that even meaning some colours may shift. Also they don’t shield the print from other light sources in the room so you may not be getting the quite the light on the print that you think you are. So, if you are really critical about viewing colour then it makes sense to get something designed for the job.

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Print viewing or Soft-proofing?

When choosing a viewing booth the first thing you need to decide is if you are going to use it just for viewing prints, hard copy proofs or other physical colour samples or if you are going to use it for soft-proofing and matching your monitor to the print. Soft-proofing viewing booths need dimming controls so that you can vary the level of illumination to better match the monitor. The PDV 2eD and PDV 3eD both have dimming controls for soft-proofing.

Size?

The next factor to consider is the size of prints that you want to view. Viewing booths such as the PDV 1e are perfect for A4 and a bit bigger whereas the PDV 3e can just about fit A2. Think about the orientation of your prints as well. Some may take A3 landscape but not A3 portrait. Viewing solutions are available up to a A0 and bigger, including lighting systems for wall spaces or entire rooms.

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Lighting Specification?

The special fluorescent tubes used in viewing booths usually conform to one of two standards; D50 or D65. D50 is 5000K but also much more because the standard specifies the spectra distribution as well. Just because a bulb is 5000K doesn’t mean it’s good for viewing colour it has to conform to the CIE D50 standard as well. Similarly D65 is 6500K, but with a specific spectral distribution. D50 lighting is used in the print and photographic industries. D65 can be used in fashion and textiles as well as other industries such as plastics.You can also get viewing booths that have multiple light sources so you can see how a sample will look under different lighting.

Extras

Lastly some viewing booths come with optional extras such as stands or sidewalls. Sidewalls stop light spilling in from the sides and influencing print appearance. If your ambient lighting is dim then you don’t need them but if there is a risk of light pollution then they are worth having.

Controlled lighting can appear expensive and the choices can be baffling but for those who need to view prints and be confident of the colours they are seeing it is an investment that can rapidly pay for itself in terms of reduced re-proofing or re-printing and more satisfied customers. We’re always happy to discuss your requirements and guide you to the best product for your needs.

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