Color Managing Your System

Applying color management to your system only requires understanding three basic concepts.

First, you need to choose the appropriate color space for the kind of images you plan to create.

For the majority of digital photographers this is a very simple decision:

• If you are primarily planning to display your images on the Web, choose sRGB as your working color space.

• If you plan to make fine ink jet prints from your digital files choose either Adobe 1998 or ProPhoto RGB.

In practice the difference tends to be that only experts use ProPhoto RGB because its extremely wide gamut requires some skills to manage. Adobe RGB 1998 is generally the safer choice for most photographers.

Secondly, as stated above, in theory all elements of a complete digital imaging system need accurate color profiles and these need to be applied consistently.

This could mean calibrating and creating profiles for everything from your camera, scanner, monitor, printer, and every paper you work with. But in the real world only a well-calibrated monitor and printer/paper profiles are essential.

Finally, there are three different color managers and each controls a different part of the overall process. It's important that you understand how to coordinate these three pieces of software so you can avoid conflicts that cause the most common problems.

• Apple's color management software is called ColorSync and in general it works in the background to make sure that the various color profiles are properly applied.

• Adobe Photoshop uses software called the Adobe Color Engine (ACE) that manages the color profiles for your monitor, images, and printers.

• Your printers and scanners use software called "Drivers," which handles color profiles for each of these devices.

The Step 4 below titled: Resolving Color Management Conflicts explains how to coordinate the functions of these different software tools.

Step 1 - Calibrate your monitor

A precisely calibrated and profiled monitor is absolutely essential for any of the other steps in color management to work properly. There's an understandable tendency to take this step for granted because the images on the screen may look "good," but remember that the key to color management is creating a coordinated system where all of the colors you work with match universal PCS standards. These standards are numerical so your monitor readouts need to be measured precisely and the resulting profile needs to be stored as the standard for your system.

My strong recommendation is that you use one of the many monitor calibration devices that are available for this task (see Appendix T). The process takes about 10 minutes and requires you to make a few important decisions:

White Balance. This determines the color of white that your eye uses as a point of reference for judging all other colors. I use 6500 k (Medium White) as my standard but this is purely a personal choice.

• Gamma. This sets the contrast ratio that your system uses as a standard. For Macintosh computers the default is 1.8 and for PCs it's 2.2.

• Luminance. Most calibration devices give you the option of setting the brightness of your monitor to a recommended standard. For LCD monitors this is 140 lamberts.

How often you should calibrate depends on the type of monitor you are using. CRT displays generally require more frequent calibration than LCD monitors, but it's a good idea to do it weekly just to be sure that it's correct when you need it.

Step 2 - Choosing your color space

The next important step is selecting a color space for your system that sets the parameters within which all of your color management operates. This is done in the Color Settings dialog box in Adobe Photoshop.

The most important choice for this step is found in the "Working Spaces" box. As described above, if you are planning to create images primarily for the Web you should choose sRGB as your color space. If you plan to print your images on an ink jet printer you should choose Adobe RGB 1998 or ProPhoto.

All of the other Adobe default settings work well for most purposes.

FIGURE 1B5 Adobe Photoshop Color Settings Box.

Step 3 - Choosing your printer profile

There is probably more confusion about these final two steps than anything else in color management, yet the two issues involved are really very simple:

1. Your computer needs to know what profile to use for the particular printer and paper/ink combination you are using.

2. You have to resolve potential conflicts between Photoshop and your print driver that both have color management capabilities.

Step 3 asks you to select the profile that will give you the most consistent color match for the specific printer and paper/ink combination with which you are working. To do this you first have to make that profile available to your system and then enter it in the right place when you make a print.

Remember that a profile compensates for the idiosyncrasies that make every monitor, printer, or paper unique. Different paper surfaces absorb ink colors in slightly different ways so that a print that looks perfect on one paper could look green or magenta on another. To create an accurate printer/paper/ink profile you first have to make a test print that includes a complete spectrum of colors and then compare those renderings to known PCS standards. The resulting profile adjusts the printer settings so that the colors match the colors on your calibrated monitor as accurately as possible.

Every manufacturer of ink jet printers distributes a set of profiles that is designed to work with the inks and papers they recommend.These are usually installed when you install the print driver for your printer and in most cases they will work very well if you know how to apply them. But of course if you decide to use a paper or ink set that is different from what the canned profile was designed for, your prints may no longer match your monitor. At this point you will either have to create a new profile on your own for this new printer/paper/ink combination, or have it done for you by a professional. As I mentioned, after days of attempting to do this myself, I learned that the latter choice is far more practical. (See Appendix T for references to reliable and cost-effective custom profilers.)

A typical printer profile will have a name like "Pro4000 Enhanced Matte." As you can see, this profile is specifically designed for the Epson Stylus Pro 4000 Printer using Epson Enhanced Matte paper and inks. If this is the combination you're using, your calibrated monitor and the resulting print will match. Any other profile may give you different results.

Some printer manufacturers install their profiles in folders that aren't easily accessible, but any custom profiles you make should be stored in the following folder on current Macintosh computers:

Home folder > Library > ColorSync > Profiles

Assuming that it's installed properly, the following steps will allow you to apply this profile:

1. In Photoshop, when you are ready to print an image, select "Print with Preview" from the File menu.

You will now see a large dialog box like Figure 136.

Notice that under the preview window there's a drop down menu with two choices: Output and Color Management.

FIGURE 136 Adobe Photoshop Print with Preview dialog box.

2 Choose Color Management.

3. In the Options box under Color Handling, choose "Let Photoshop Determine Colors" from the drop down menu.

4. Under Printer Profile, choose the correct profile for the printer and paper/ink combination you are planning to use.

At this point it's important that you tell your computer which print driver it should use and what paper size and print orientation you want. You do this through the Page Setup button on the right of the Print with Preview box.

Make sure that you select the correct print driver from the "Format for:" drop down menu and that your paper size and orientation are correct. Click "OK" and you're now ready to move on to the final step.

Page Setup

Page Attributes

' * .

Stylus Pro 4000

J' ■

Orientation: f[f) N

Scale:

Cancel OK

FIGURE 137 Apple Macintosh Page Setup dialog box.

Step 4 - Resolving Color Management Conflicts

When you click the Print Button in the Print with Preview window you will move to the Print Driver box where you have to make a few extremely important choices.

FIGURE IBS Apple Macintosh Print Driver box #1

The Print Driver box controls all of the specific behaviors of the printer, including the way the printer applies color management if you allow it to.

Printer color management software works well if the application you're printing from doesn't have color management capabilities, but my experience has been that Adobe Photoshop's software does a much better job.

The crucial thing to remember is that, if both Photoshop and the Print Driver try to color manage your image the conflict will result in a terrible print. This is the most common mistake that beginning digital photographers make.

For Epson printers you resolve this conflict by going to the drop down menu that by default is at first labeled "Copies & Pages." Scroll down to the Printer Color Management box and set the print driver to "Off" (No Color Adjustment).

FIGURE 1B9 Apple Macintosh Print Driver box set to Turn Off Epson Color Management.

Next, from the same drop down menu scroll up to the Print Settings box.

Print

Printer: Stylus Pro 4000__;J

- Print Settings t -

Page Setup: Standard

Media Type: Enhanced Matte Paper_

Ink: Color/B&W Photo_

Mode: w Automatic w Custom

^Advanced Settings

Print Quality: SuperFine - 1440dpi i

/ MicroWeave y Super _ High Speed

_Flip Horizontal

Finest Detail

Help

PDF * Preview Supplies,,. y Cancel Print

FIGURE 140 Apple Macintosh Print Driver Box set to Printer Settings.

Make sure that the settings are as follows: Printer: The printer you plan to use.

Presets: It's a very smart idea to save presets that contain all of the specific settings you customarily work with. This will save you lots of time in the future.

Media Type: This should be set to the specific paper you are planning to print on. Mode: These settings define the quality of the print you intend to make.

Advanced Settings > Print Quality: Super Fine 1440dpi > High Speed (Off) will give you to best print.

At this point it's a good idea to get into the habit of scrolling down to Summary to double check that the Print Driver is set the way you want it to be. Most especially make sure that the Color setting is still set to "Off."

Print

Printer: Stylus Pro 4000_

presets: Epson 4000 Manual (Matte-su - Summary

Printer: Stylus Pro 4000_

presets: Epson 4000 Manual (Matte-su - Summary

► Layout

A

► Scheduler

► Paper Handling

► Col or Sync

► Cover Page

▼ Print Settings

Version

1.91

Page Setup

Standard

Media Type

Enhanced Matte Paper

Print Quality

SuperFine - 1440dpi

High Speed

Off

Color

Off (No Color Adjustment)

T

Expa-dAl; Collapse A I

Expa-dAl; Collapse A I

J PDF» Preview Supplies... j Cancel Print

FIGURE 141 Apple Macintosh Print Driver Box set to Summary.

When you click the Print button your printer should now produce a print that very closely matches the image on your monitor.

That's what effective color management is all about.

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