ChromaticSoul :: The Blog

Color Management Part II

Posted on: 8 May 2007

Ok. So we know what CMS is and why it’s important. Right?

Just to refresh everyone–The goal of a Color Management System (CMS) is to provide color consistency and predictability between devices. The characterization of a device is also called its profile. Color profiles are custom-created for the device at hand to tell applications how to compensate for the specific interpretation of each color by the device. Now let’s try to get a better handle on Color Profiles. The simplest explanation I think, comes from DryCreek Photo:

Profiles are simply look-up tables that describe the properties of a color space. They define the most saturated colors available in a color space; i.e. the bluest blue or deepest black your printer can produce. If you don’t have a profile, the trio of Red, Green, and Blue values (or CMYK) that make up a color have no particular meaning — you can say something is blue, but not exactly which shade of blue. Accurate profiles are the key to a color managed workflow. With accurate monitor and printer profiles, your prints will closely match what you see on your monitor. Without profiles, you need to rely on trial and error combined with good old-fashioned guessing [via DryCreek Photo].

So in order to actually see the colors as they truly should be and not simply guess what they should be we start by profiling the monitor. Only then can we be sure that what we see really looks the way we think it does.

Calibrating and profiling involves adjusting luminance (brightness and contrast) of monitor white and black (the white point and black point), the color temperature of monitor white and the color response characteristics including the gamma curve for each color channel (red, green, and blue). All this information then goes into the resulting display profile to enable the Color Management System on your computer to properly compensate for the peculiarities of how your monitor responds to color. You may be familiar with Adobe Gamma that comes with Photoshop. While this is certainly better than nothing, it is not really an adequate monitor profiling solution. It only deals with gamma and not luminance or color temperature and also relies on you to visually determine what is right. A true profiling solution such as Monaco [Color Vision or Gretag Macbeth] comes with a small device called a colorimeter that sticks to your monitor to tell the accompanying software what color your monitor is really producing so you get a much higher degree of accuracy. The human eye adapts far too easily to color temperature in particular to be able to do this reliably on its own. [For more see Earthbound Light]

Outback Digital Photo has more to say on the subject of Hardware Monitor Calibration Systems. Their site is definitely work checking out if you are in the market for a new calibration system. One thing I do want to note however is that I have heard that suction cups can be damaging on LCD monitors when they are removed. I have noticed that the new Pantone Huey is receiving wide popularity. I purchased one some time back when they first came out and was disappointed because of the suction cups. I merely took a razor blade and cut the cups off and now I have to hold the sensor to the screen when it is time for calibration. I notice no difference in the system with this little change. I simply make this note to readers to beware when purchasing for CRT screens as opposed to LCD screens.

Now that the monitor is calibrated and profiled you send something to print and…does the printer output match the monitor output? If not, we’ll try and tackle printer profiles in Part III.

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