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Reproducing Reality

(September 2007) posted on Wed Sep 12, 2007

The challenge of color management.

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By Jake Widman

Peter Constable, color workflow expert for Adobe, sees the same transitions. "Photographers have traditionally been one of the leading adopters of color management," he says. At the other end of the spectrum, though, are designers: "Traditionally, they’ve been less comfortable with color-management implementations and technology. But we see that changing moving forward."

"The key to making ICC color management more effective and usable is a user-interface issue," Constable continues. Vendors need to get away from intimidating phrases like "rendering intent," he says, and make the process more transparent. Not surprisingly perhaps, he believes that Adobe is at the forefront of that process. In Creative Suite CS2, for instance, "many users say they don’t even realize color management is on," he says.

Doris Brown sees the intriguing possibility of an enlarged color-management user community beginning to create a feedback effect. "There’s an audience of millions of general users. Once we unveil some of the ‘dirty little secrets,’ they can put more pressure on the big companies."

For example, she cites the issue of inks for color printers: Printer manufacturers don’t want to standardize on inks because it would break their business models, she points out. "Are you going to get Epson or Canon to have a universal ink? Probably not." But standardized inks could help with color-management issues.

Built-in solutions

Not only will color-management tools become easier to use on their own, but we’ll also see more of them built into the devices themselves. Holland says, "There will still be things that you as a user will have to do, but much of it will be handled in the background. A lot of the technology will be built into the output devices." As an example of this trend, he points to HP’s Z2100, Z3100, and Z6100 Designjet printers, which have added built-in spectrophotometers.

Max Derhak, senior color scientist for Onyx Graphics (and Onyx’s voting member in the International Color Consortium, ICC), agrees: "One trend I see is adding color devices to the printer. But that also has some issues to it." HP touts the ability of those Designjets to create ICC profiles; but, according to Derhak, that can be done better in other ways. What the spectrophotometers can do is enable the printer to maintain a consistent state. "It makes it very easy for the device to be calibrated, which will provide more control."