Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What is Color Management

It is described by current International Color Consortium (ICC) architecture, as the method in which output devices have a common reference. This allows the user to add several output devices by only linking them to a common reference to standardize color throughout.

Color Management is important to translate from one color space to another hoping to maintain integrity of the original. For example your monitor displays color in RGB and printers print in CMYK. These are actually two different languages that sometimes have a hard time communicating the intended output. This is why we use color profiles and why they are so important.

Most devices come with generic ICC profiles, however, these profiles are not as accurate as we would like them to be. Custom profiles have been created and supplied by the manufactures and are preferred when looking for consistency in output. These profiles that come with a specific device are beneficial because the device’s manufacturers are producing a more consistent product thus more consistency from one machine to the next.

When setting up a document with the knowledge of your end product, you should be able to use a custom profile in the application you have chosen to use, for that particular printer. Which will communicate with your monitor and tell it how to look when displaying. So what you see and what you get will be similar.

To get the most accurate color from monitor to printer, calibrating your monitor is necessary. When calibrating you need a print out from the device you are using. Then you match your screen to the printed material using the system preferences to calibrate, this is where you can name and save a specific profile for use later. This may sound simple but there are many factors to consider. For instance is there artificial light, or natural light in your work space? If you are by a window, then the color of your monitor may change as the sun goes behind a cloud. There is also the paper you used to calibrate to, is it glossy, matte, or varnished? As you can see a lot goes into calibrating your monitor and it takes a lot of work to maintain the consistency.

Custom profiling is the most consistent use of color management and takes most of the guess work out of your end product. Even with these precautions it is important to go to press with new pieces because the press operator can tweak the color a bit for you. They are even able to match previously run pieces by locking in the color profiles on the press itself.

If you must have a specific color a spot color is the way to go, using the Pantone Matching System (PMS). This system allows the user to color match specific colors (even metallics and fluorescents) when a design enters the production stage—regardless of the equipment used to produce the color. As with any system, color variance also occurs based on paper stock.

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