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Color, Managed

(February 2005) posted on Mon Feb 07, 2005

A little time, a little software, and a couple of pieces of equipment add up to better-looking equip

click an image below to view slideshow

There was a time when color management
seemed like an intimidating, confusing prospect.
And for those who haven't tackled it yet, it probably
still seems that way.

The good news, however, is that current software
and operating systems have laid the groundwork
for a fairly straightforward implementation of color management.
Plus, the vendors of color-management tools are following
suit with products that are tailored to every application and
user"?from digital-photography newbies just trying to get a good
print, to print providers striving to ensure work for their customers
is accurate, to prepress professionals preparing files for
6-color presses.

Color management, as it's practiced today, relies on descriptions
of the characteristics of the different hardware used to represent
images"?scanners, digital cameras, monitors, printers,
and presses"?to make sure the image is represented the same
way by each device. These descriptions are called "profiles," and
are in a format that has been set by the International Color Consortium
(ICC)"?hence, "ICC profiles." Profile-savvy applications
and system software interpret the descriptions, and so "know"
how to translate color as seen by a camera to the same color as
displayed on a monitor to that output by a printer.

No more voodoo

"The big change going on right now is that all of the software is
accessing ICC profiles"?Photoshop, InDesign, the rest," says Paul
Hultgren, applications support specialist for GretagMacbeth.

"Just in the last couple
of years, the software is making ICC profiles
available to anyone. It's not voodoo anymore."

Eric Magnusson, president of Left Dakota, maker of profilemanagement
software, agrees: "The technology works great," he
says, but also notes that it wasn't always so, and not all that long
ago. He recalls that trying to implement color management with
Adobe Photoshop 5, for instance, was confusing at best"?and
certainly enough to make people think they were better off not
dealing with it at all. "But Photoshop 6, 7, and CS make it hard to
make a mistake," he says.