Color management

An introduction

In the “analog” days, it used to be simple: You had a slide looking like you wanted, and that was a fixed reference point. So it was “somebody else’s problem” to make a print that matched the slide: WYSIWYG. Simple. Or at least: Not your responsibility. Negatives were a bit more complicated, but still: S.E.P.

Nowadays, you’ll have a file that looks good on your screen. Since you probably don’t want to lug your computer and monitor with you anytime you want to make a print, only to be able to show what you think the print should look like, how do you manage to get a print that looks like the image on your screen?

The keyword

…of course, is “manage”. As in: Color manage: “Out of the box” every monitor will display an image different. Ever seen a store with 20 televisions in a row? All TVs looking different? Same will be the case with computer monitors if you don’t take countermeasures.
While the TVs pretty much boil down to “personal preference”, with digital imaging it’s about accuracy.

How to be accurate?

That is your responsibility: You need to make sure your display looks the same as everybody else’s. To do that you calibrate and profile it: Calibration makes sure your screen is at a fixed state. Profiling creates an .icc profile and makes sure a certain color is displayed exactly so. The best way to do this, is to use a hardware device, such as for instance Spyder3, iOne Display or ColorMunki.

The managing

…of the colors is then done by your (color managed) software, such as Photoshop for instance.
It looks at the images .icc profile and at your display profile, and does a conversion between the two. Thus making sure that the colors are shown as they should.

The beauty of it

…is that the printer also has should have a calibrated screen, so will see the image exactly as you do. So he can see what he should get. If he then also correctly uses the software to print color managed, you’ll get a print that’s as close to the view on screen as possible. In fact, in that case it’s even easier then it used to be in the analog days!

Only remaining difference is caused by the fact that your screen is a device emitting light, while the print is reflecting light, and the fact that there are some colors that can be displayed but simply cannot be printed (and vice-versa).
That’s where softproofing comes in… But more on that in a future blog post.

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One Response to “Color management”

  1. Get Colormanaged » Blog Archive » Photoshop CS4 Color Settings Says:
    January 13th, 2010 at 15:27

    […] sets your monitor profile as default working space. So every time you calibrate your monitor (you do that regularly, right?) your default working space changes. And your default working space […]

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