Color correction for pnm2ppa
The pnm2ppa project team firstname.lastname@example.org
v0.6, October 28, 2000
Information and instructions for color correction of pnm2ppa color
printing. http://sourceforge.net/projects/pnm2ppa (Updated for
pnm2ppa-1.0 and later.)
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Color Pixmap input to pnm2ppa (ppm format, produced by the ghostscript
output devices ppmraw or ppm) specifies the color of a pixel as three
coordinates (Red, Green, Blue) in the range 0-255. The program
pnm2ppa converts these to relative amounts of Cyan, Magenta and Yellow
ink drops printed on the page.
CCoolloorr ccoorrrreeccttiioonn allows the user to attempt to match the printed
colors to some reference colors, such as those displayed on the
terminal, or those printed on a different printer, or those printed
on the same printer with a different driver (such as the Win9x
drivers supplied by HP with their PPA printers).
The color output from pnm2ppa can be controlled in two ways:
+o by a color correction "gamma" file, if it is installed. By
default this file is /etc/pnm2ppa.gamma, but it may also be
specified with the pnm2ppa option
pnm2ppa ... -F gammafile ... .
+o if there is no gamma file, by three values specified by keywords
( either GammaR, GammaG, GammaB or RedGammaIdx, BlueGammaIdx,
GreenGammaIdx) in the pnm2ppa configuration file.
pnm2ppa will carry out ""ccoolloorr ccoorrrreeccttiioonn"", unless it is called with
the ----nnooGGaammmmaa command line option. However, unless you set up a color
correction scheme, the default color correction does not change any
Color correction is specified by three color intensity functions
(curves), one for each of Red, Green, and Blue. In their simplest
form, these curves have a standard form controlled by a single "gamma"
parameter such as GammaR. The more sophisticated correction, in the
file pnm2ppa.gamma, specifies these curves more generally as a table
of numbers that translate each possible color intensity value to a new
Note that, in principle, different color corrections are needed for
different print quality settings, and for different brands and
qualities of paper!
At present the methods for constructing a color correction for
pnm2ppa are not very user-friendly. If you can improve them, please
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The PixMap (ppa) format specifies colors by an intensity for each
primary color, Red, Green and Blue, in the range 0-255, so (0,0,0) is
black, and (255,255,255) is white. The standard color intensity
enhancement function replaces the ppm intensity i of each primary
Enh(i) which is the closest integer to ( i / 256) raised to the
power Gamma, times 256.
You can specify the Gamma values in the configuration file as decimal
numbers GammaR, GammaG, GammaB, but how do you find out what values to
choose?. Perhaps by experimenting with changing the Gamma values.
A source of information on Gamma color correction is
One method for constructing a Gamma correction has been built into
pnm2ppa, but it wastes quite a lot of ink, and many users find it less
effective than producing a customized color correction curve as
described in the next section.
You must first use pnm2ppa to print a color test page, and then
generate a file gamma.ppm to compare to it. To do this, type
pnm2ppa -g -i - -o /dev/lp0
(replace /dev/lp0 by whatever printer device your PPA printer uses, or
use ... -o - | lpr -l , etc.). Note also that as pnm2ppa is not
receiving any ghostscript input to tell it the paper size, this must
be correctly specified by a configuration file entry or, e.g., a -s
a4 option, if the default US Letter paper is not being used. This
procedure will print a color calibration page.
The printed output is an array of sets of three colored bands, red,
blue and green, each of which increases in brightness from left to
right. The topmost set of bands should be referrred to as bands "0",
the next ones as "1", etc.
Next, run the extra program calibrate_ppa which will produce a (large,
10MB) PixMap (ppm) file:
calibrate_ppa -g -o gamma.ppm
This will produce the PixMap file as gamma.ppm in the current direc-
To color-correct the printer so that its colors match those on the
terminal screen, you should now attempt to view the file gamma.ppm
using some application (such as the GNU image manipulation program
gimp, or xv) that can view .ppm files. For each color, identify the
printed band (0, 1, 2, ... etc) that most closely corresponds to the
brightness profile shown on the screen. The default values are now:
(i.e., no color correction). Enter your modified values for these in
the pnm2ppa configuration file (usually /etc/pnm2ppa.conf).
The actual Gamma value is then 11..00 -- 00..003333**((CCoolloorr))GGaammmmaaIIddxx ;
To color-correct with respect to another printer (or the Win9x
drivers), you must manage to print gamma.ppm on that other device,
then make the comparison. (Or print the output of pnm2ppa -g on that
device; the top line is the same uncorrected color data as
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A "gamma correction file" is a binary file containing 3 x 256 numbers,
which are lookup tables of corrected red green and blue color
The program pnm2ppa will use a default correction file
/etc/pnm2ppa.gamma if it exists, unless the --noGamma option is used.
The default correction file location can be changed by using the
pnm2ppa option -F gammafile , where "gammafile" is the name
(including the full path) of the gamma correction file to be used.
Currently, there are two available tools for constructing a gamma
+o A graphical utility ppagammacorrect is available in the PPA Color
Correction Utilities section of the pnm2ppa web page
http://sourceforge.net/projects/pnm2ppa, (but at the time of
writing, this appears to be frozen in early stages of development,
with little documentation, and may not be fully functional).
+o A working procedure is given in
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