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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

Nevertheless, Onyx is working toward making its RIP products able to accept data from such built-in measurement devices and generate profiles from it.

Frank Hueske, product marketing manager for EFI Proofing Solutions, says that a RIP vendor will always have a lot of work to do, as long as new printers and new substrates keep coming on the market. "The wide-format and photo markets," he says, "use a lot of different substrates. That means we have to characterize lots of new combinations."

On the proofing side, Hueske says almost wistfully, "You only need to worry about a couple of papers, a couple of ink sets. In the proofing area, papers generally match SWOP or GRACol. But in the production market, you need profiles for textiles, fabrics, glass. Any time you change the ink, you have to start all over."

Not only that, but new printers use "six, seven, eight, even nine colors," says Hueske. Working with these new devices requires what he calls "n-channel" color management-the ability to characterize the interaction of any number of inks.

CMM changes

A Color Management Module is the part of a color-management system that translates the color data among different profiles-it’s the "number cruncher," in Constable’s words. And developments in this area, too, are opening up new possibilities.

For one thing, last spring, Adobe made the Adobe Color Management Module available as a free download. Previously, Constable says, the Adobe CMM was "baked into" the Adobe color management system, which meant that the Adobe transforms-the computer routines or equations that translate one set of color data into another; the profile for a scanner into the profile for a monitor, for instance-could only be used in Adobe products. But current color-management systems such as Apple’s ColorSync and the Windows Color System make it possible to plug in third-party CMMs, which can be used by other applications. QuarkXPress, for instance, has a selector in the user interface enabling the use of third-party CMMs, but it’s not automatic: ColorSync will offer application program interfaces (APIs) for hooking into the plug-ins, but Quark would have to build in support for them as well. If that were to happen, designers and production people would be able to use the same color transforms in QuarkXPress and in Photoshop.