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Color management is one of the biggest challenges in digital imaging. The trick is to get the colors that you see on your monitor as you're preparing a photo in Elements to match the colors that a viewer sees in the final output file whether that's a print or a file on a computer screen. This is a challenge, because color is just a set of numbers that has to be interpreted by devices like computer monitors to produce a color that we can see and each device, whether it's a monitor, a camera, a scanner, a Desktop printer, interprets color numbers a bit differently because each device is just a machine that vary slightly from each other device.
So that's the problem of color management. What's the solution for Elements users? Elements helps you deal with the color management challenge by honoring an industry-wide color management system that relies on color tags. A fancier name for those is ICC Color Profiles. These color profiles are small bits of information that can be embedded into an image that describes where the color numbers in the image come from and what actual perceivable colors those numbers are meant to represent.
So the color profile determines how the colors in an image will look when the file is opened in Elements on your screen. Where does color profile come from? The color profile may already be embedded in a file when you open it into Elements, having been embedded there by a camera or scanner or someone else's image processing software if someone else already worked on the image. A file that has a color profile embedded is called a tagged file. Depending on the color settings that you choose, which I will show you in just a moment, Elements will either honor an embedded a tag, or it may discard an embedded tag, or it may convert the tag to another one.
If a file is untagged when you open it, Elements may assign a tag to it depending on the options you choose in the color settings. So before you start working in Element's editor it's important to open the color settings to choose how you want Elements to handle tagged and untagged images when you open them. The color settings are located in the Edit menu here. When you get a chance read through all of the explanation here. But here is the upshot. I suggest that you choose only one of two options here.
If what you do is primarily prepare images to be printed, then choose this option, Always Optimize for Printing. With this option if you open an image that is not tagged, Elements will assign the Adobe RGB (1998) profile to that image and that's a nice broad profile that's just right for printing. Alternatively, if you generally optimize images for display on a computer screen, for example on a web site, on a social media site, as an E-mail attachment, or maybe even as a PowerPoint presentation, then choose Always Optimize Colors for Computer Screens.
If you choose that and you open and untagged file, then Elements will assign the sRGB color profile to that image and that's a color profile that's optimal for images that are going to be shown onscreen. I don't suggest that you choose No Color Management. If you do choose No Color Management, then you're allowing Elements to display colors using whatever idiosyncratic way your particular monitor displays color and that is not going to be the way that colors will be displayed almost anywhere else, on someone else's monitor or in a print.
When you choose No Color Management, there will be no color tags attached to your photos and so the next device down the line, like a printer, will have no information about how you expect the color numbers in the file to be interpreted. I also don't suggest that you choose Allow Me to Choose. If you do that, every time you open a file that doesn't have a color profile, Elements will ask what you want to do and that means you're going to have to decide over and over. So I'm going to leave this set to Always Optimize for Printing. Now this isn't a permanent choice.
If tomorrow, I'm working on some files for the web, I can always re-open this and change to Always Optimize Colors for Computer Screens. But I'll click OK with this set to always optimize for printing which is the choice based on the Adobe RGB (1998) color space. Now let's see what happens when I open files that have different tags attached to them. First I am going to open a file that I know already has an Adobe RGB (1998) tag embedded in it.
Down here in the Document information field, I click the arrow and I'll choose Document Profile and now I can see that Elements is treating this as an Adobe RGB (1998) file. What happens if I open a file that has another profile embedded in it, an sRGB profile? In this case Elements is honoring the sRGB profile. Even though it knows that I'm optimizing files for print. That's how that particular option deals with photos that have a different profile from the Adobe RGB profile.
Now let's see what happens if I open an untagged image. This image had no color profile embedded in it when I opened it and so because of the choice that I made in Elements' color settings, Elements assigned the Adobe RGB (1998) color profile to this image. In addition to choosing color settings, when you go to save the file you have a choice to make about whether you want a color profile to be embedded in the saved image so that the next device down the line, like your printer, knows how to reproduce colors to match those that you saw when you are working in Elements.
So as an example, with this file, I'll go up to the File menu and choose Save As and down here in the Save Options, in the Color field, there is a check mark next to ICC profile: Adobe RGB (1998). If I leave that checked, then this ICC profile: Adobe RGB (1998) will be embedded in this file when I save it. So that when I send it to a color managed device like my Inkjet printer, the printer will see this color profile.
Later when I go to print this image, if I print out of Elements, I'll find settings in the Print dialog box that also relate to color management. There is one more thing that I suggest that you do if you really want to take advantage of the color management system I described. That is to calibrate and profile your monitor. Calibrating your monitor will set it back to standard settings and generating a profile for your monitor will describe how your particular monitor interprets color so that your display is as accurate as possible.
The way to calibrate and profile your monitor is to purchase and use a hardware calibrator along with software which you can buy from a number of different third-party manufacturers and web sites. If you do that along with choosing the correct color settings, you'll be increasing your chances that the color that you see any images here in Elements is reproduced on your printer or on other color managed output devices.
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