ColorMunki DesignColorMunki is a brand name for three different products: ColorMunki Create is an inexpensive colorimeter, identical to X-Rite’s Eye-One Display2, that includes software similar to ColorMunki Design. ColorMunki Design combines a sophisticated spectrophotometer with software that helps you create and manage color palettes. The spectrophotometer can measure colors to generate profiles for LCD displays (but not CRTs), as well as for printers and projectors. It can also measure colors on physical surfaces such as paper, textiles, paint, and so forth. ColorMunki Photo is identical to ColorMunki Design, except the device is black instead of white, and its software has an additional feature for sending photos to clients.

The spectrophotometer connects via USB cable and has a removable, weighted strap so you can drape it over your display when profiling. The software guides you through the process, which takes just a few minutes. The main functioning part of the device is a giant rotating dial, which I found clumsy to operate. (Note: A single-user license is included with ColorMunki, and you may install the software on up to three computers.)

To profile your printer, the software prints a page of swatches that you measure with the spectrophotometer. It’s easy and takes just a few minutes. The software then prints an updated page of swatches, which you also measure. It then offers to add the profile to QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop. You do this for each kind of paper you use. To measure a color from any surface (paper, textile, paint, etc.), place the device onto the surface and press a button.

The software is brilliant. With it, you can generate a color palette from any real-world surface color that you sampled or from a photo or any color in the included libraries. (Pantone GOE colors are included, but to use the older Pantone Matching System, you must download the libraries after registering.) You can also borrow palettes from photos by famous photographers (15 are included, with more available online) and share your color palettes online with other designers, printers, or clients.

Sorting is easy because you can flip through colors, just like album covers in iTunes. Click on a color and several sets of harmonious colors appear. You can also find colors by theme or keyword and save them to your own custom palettes; snap sampled colors to Pantone spot colors or to various Process printing standards; preview colors as they would appear when printed on various presses, or when printed on your desktop printer, for fewer surprises when printing; and preview colors as they would appear under different lighting conditions (daylight, tungsten, or fluorescent). There’s a Synchronize Color Palettes feature that currently works only with QuarkXPress 7 and Adobe CS2 and CS3.

I had difficulty profiling my MacBook Pro and its external display. After profiling the external display, and then profiling the internal display, ColorMunki assigned the profile for the internal display to both displays—I had to manually fix that in System Preferences. Also, the two displays didn’t appear remotely similar after profiling (the external display was satisfactory but the MacBook had a distinct bluish tint). Perhaps it’s because of the LED backlighting on the MacBook, but X-Rite couldn’t explain it. After profiling both the display and printer, prints matched the external display pretty closely.

No manual is included and the Help menu takes you to the ColorMunki website where you can click through topics. A downloadable PDF manual should be available soon.

There’s no comparable device on the market at this price, so if its features match your needs, grab one. But if the color profiles that came from your printer manufacturer are good enough for you, and you don’t need to sample colors from real-world objects, you can save $350 by buying the ColorMunki Create instead. It has similar software, along with a colorimeter for profiling your displays.
Jay Nelson

PRICE: $499.99
FROM: X-Rite Incorporated

HOT Measures almost anything; clever software
NOT Questionable LED profiles; no manual