Epson ColorBase and Non-Epson Papers

by Eric Chan

Last updated: October 1, 2007

Printer Calibration

Version 2.0 of Epson ColorBase adds support for the Epson Stylus Pro 3800. (It also supports the Stylus Photo R2400 and Stylus Pro 4800, 7800, and 9800.)

ColorBase calibration target printed on Epson Velvet Fine Art paper (left) and ColorChecker chart (right).

The purpose of ColorBase is to calibrate your printer to a standard Epson printer (presumably the factory state). It is mostly useful for minimizing differences between multiple printers. You can read more about ColorBase in this article by Michael Reichmann. Also see the FAQ below.

ColorBase prints a calibration target containing several color patches. The chart contains (scrambled) color density ramps of each of the UltraChrome K3 inks (Black, Light Black, Light Light Black, Cyan, Light Cyan, Magenta, Light Magenta, and Yellow). Each density ramp contains 33 steps; since there are eight inks, the complete chart has 264 color patches.

You can find Epson ColorBase in the support section on the Epson UK site as well as on many other Epson sites (but not the Epson USA site).

Note that Epson ColorBase has no effect on the Advanced B&W Photo Mode.


The following is a copy of the Epson ColorBase FAQ:

What is Colorbase?

ColorBase is a calibration utility for your Epson printer. The utility reduces differences in colour output between multiple Epson printers of the same model or different models. The Epson printers can be located either locally or at a remote location. Epson ColorBase can also reduce the differences in colour output from one Epson printer in a day to day use.

How can I use Epson ColorBase with my ICC profile workflow?

First calibrate your Epson printer with Epson ColorBase and activate the calibration data. Your Epson printer matches now a standard Epson printer. Then create and use your own ICC media profile or use the supplied default Epson ICC media profile. When you recognize changes in the colour output, you only create new calibration data. Afterwards you can still use your already created ICC media profile or the supplied default Epson ICC media profile.

I do not own a spectrophotometer, but I want to calibrate my Epson printer!

Print the test chart from Epson ColorBase Operation mode. Then send the printed colour test chart to someone who owns an Epson ColorBase supported spectrophotometer and so that he can measure your printed test chart. The Settings mode with the option Create Calibration Data is suited for the remote measuring. After the measurement and calculation of the calibration data, the calibration data file can be saved as a *.clb file. This *.clb file needs to be send back to you. Then you import the calibration data file into your Epson ColorBase application. You can do this with the Read button in the Settings mode. Afterwards activate the calibration data with the Activate/ Do Not Activate button. Now you can print to your Epson printer with the calibration data applied.

How does Epson ColorBase calibrate my Epson printer?

For the reduction of colour differences, Epson ColorBase calibrates your Epson printer to a standard Epson printer. First you print an Epson ColorBase test chart. The test chart consists of 264 colour patches. After a specific drying time you measure the test chart with a spectrophotometer. Epson ColorBase compares the actual measurement result with the ideal result of a standard Epson printer and calculates the correction that has to be applied to your Epson printer in order to match the standard Epson printer. These corrections are saved in the calibration data file. The calibration data file is inserted into your Epson printer driver's look up tables (LUTs) that drive the colour halftoning process.

How often should I calibrate my Epson printer?

We recommend you to calibrate your Epson printer with Epson ColorBase regularly every second week to every month. Additional calibration to this time interval is necessary when you changed the ink cartridges or the media lot number, when you transported your Epson printer or when the environmental conditions changed a lot (i.e. in summer high temperatures or humidity).

Where is the calibration data stored: In the computer or in the Epson printer?

The calibration data are linked to a certain Epson printer serial number and black ink configuration and stored in the data folder of Epson ColorBase. When you activate the calibration data, they communicate with the Epson printer driver or Epson Stylus Rip printer driver to influence the colour halftoning process. So the calibration data are stored in the computer.

Shake the inks?

According to the ColorBase documentation, if you haven't used your Epson printer for more than two weeks, you may get better color accuracy if you shake the ink cartridges. That's right -- remove each ink cartridge from the printer and shake it gently four or five times. My guess is that this somehow redistributes the ink within the cartridge so that it can feed the print head properly. Magic voodoo at work.

Practical Applications

Here are two practical uses of ColorBase:

  1. Suppose you run a print studio containing three Epson 3800 printers. First, you calibrate each printer using ColorBase. Then, you create custom profiles for each paper that you use. Since each printer has first been calibrated by ColorBase, all three 3800 printers can share the same printer profile and will deliver the same results. Regularly performing calibration will minimize color differences between these printers.
  2. Suppose you use several different papers on a single Epson 3800 printer, with an identical driver setup. For example, the Velvet Fine Art media type at 1440 dpi works very well with several matte papers: Velvet Fine Art, Photo Rag, German Etching, etc.

    First, calibrate your 3800 using ColorBase and the Velvet Fine Art media type (which requires using Velvet Fine Art paper for the calibration step). Then, create custom printer profiles for all papers using this configuration: Velvet Fine Art, Photo Rag, German Etching, etc. Note that each paper requires its own profile.

    Over time, printer behavior will drift (as the print head ages, humidity changes, changes in ink batches, etc.). This invalidates the printer profiles (and leads to color deviations) since the printer no longer behaves the same way as it did when those profiles were built. Recalibration using ColorBase will fix this problem. Printing and measuring a single calibration target is less expensive and much less time-consuming than creating printer profiles for several papers.

Non-Epson Papers

You have to use Epson papers with ColorBase. That's because ColorBase has an internal database of calibration target measurements -- one set of measurements for each supported printer and media type. These measurements correspond to the "factory standard Epson printer." You can't use third-party papers because the measurements will differ significantly from the ColorBase database and the software will report an error.

ColorBase can still be useful for non-Epson papers, though. ColorBase just writes calibration data that tells the driver how to lay down ink (see FAQ above). This is done separately for each media type. This means that if you calibrate your printer using the Premium Luster media type, for example, then all of your prints made using this media type will be controlled by the same calibration data. This is true even if you're using non-Epson paper like Ilford Smooth Pearl. This means that an image printed on Ilford Smooth Pearl using two different calibrated printers will match closely, even if they're using the same paper profile. How about that -- calibration doing what it's supposed to do!