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What is color management?

From: Inkjet Printing for Photographers

Video: What is color management?

When most people print for the first time, they're usually shocked to see how much their print mismatches what they see on their monitor. Hopefully by now though you understand why getting a match between your monitor and the printed page is so difficult. Still it seems like it should be possible for your screen and prints to match. Fortunately, a lot of really smart people agree with that thought, a lot of work and engineering has gone into technologies that will allow you to get a better match between your monitor and your printer. In this chapter we're going to look at these color management technologies, I'm going to show you how they work and show you what you need to do to build a color-managed printing workflow.

What is color management?

When most people print for the first time, they're usually shocked to see how much their print mismatches what they see on their monitor. Hopefully by now though you understand why getting a match between your monitor and the printed page is so difficult. Still it seems like it should be possible for your screen and prints to match. Fortunately, a lot of really smart people agree with that thought, a lot of work and engineering has gone into technologies that will allow you to get a better match between your monitor and your printer. In this chapter we're going to look at these color management technologies, I'm going to show you how they work and show you what you need to do to build a color-managed printing workflow.

Before we get started though I want to issue the disclaimer that what you see me doing here may not work with the monitor that you already have. Unfortunately, to get a color-managed workflow that works you've got to spend some money. You might need to buy a new monitor, and you'll definitely need to buy some calibration hardware of some kind. If you've been following along with the techniques that I've already shown you then you should already be getting good prints with very few, if any, test prints. You could probably pay for a lot of test prints with what you'd spend on a new monitor and calibration hardware, so you may or may not find color management to be a worthwhile goal.

Color management technology is simply a combination of some special hardware and some agreed-upon standards. You use this hardware and these standards to ensure that your monitor and printer are in agreement about what a particular color looks like. What makes color management work are small files called profiles or more specifically ICC profiles, these are little text files that get stored on your computer. The ICC or International Color Consortium is a group of companies that have agreed upon a specification for describing the color capabilities of a particular device.

Monitors can be profiled as can specific printer paper combinations. What an ICC profile does is describe how a particular device differs from a set standard. So, for example, an ICC profile for your monitor might indicate that your particular monitor displays certain blue tones with a little bit of green cast, and meanwhile an ICC profile for a specific printer and paper might indicate that those same blue tones print a little bit darker on paper than the accepted standard. Both Photoshop and probably the OS you're using include a color management engine that knows how to take advantage of this profile information.

So, when you print, the color management engine would look at the monitor profile and realize that what you're considering to be blue is actually a little greener than the accepted standard, and then it would look at the printer profile and figure out what hues and tones the paper can actually hold. It would then shift the colors in your image on the way to the printer in an attempt to make the printed output match your expectation, your original image is never actually altered. Now this might sound like a fairly straightforward idea on paper, but in reality it's a really difficult thing to pull off.

First of all, for color management to work, you have to have very accurate profiles of your various devices, and throughout the rest of this chapter we'll talk about how to get those. Further complicating all of this are viewing conditions. If your profiles are built under particular lighting then they may not be accurate if you switch to different lighting or if the lighting in your workspace changes. This is why we have come to this windowless studio where we can control all of our lighting. Finally, you need to manage your expectations. Your printed image is never going to exactly match what's on your monitor.

For the simple reason that your monitor is shining transmissive light directly into your eyes and a print is showing reflected light. The qualities of the light and color between these two technologies is fundamentally different, so a printed image is always going to look different than an image on your monitor. As I mentioned earlier a good color management system can be expensive and can take a long time to set up. The goal with color management is to reduce the number of test prints that you need to make, but as we've seen careful work with the Histogram can go a long way toward getting you better prints straight out of the printer.

So, before you run out to buy a color management gear I'd recommend watching this entire chapter, so you can see exactly what's involved with color management and then decide if you think it's worth the time and money.

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This video is part of

Image for Inkjet Printing for Photographers
Inkjet Printing for Photographers

68 video lessons · 13421 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 9m 18s
    1. Welcome
      1m 50s
    2. Exploring why we print
      4m 3s
    3. Understanding what you need for this course
      3m 25s
  2. 13m 29s
    1. Why inkjet printing?
      4m 36s
    2. Understanding ink types: Dye vs. pigment
      4m 26s
    3. Discussing considerations for black and white
      1m 48s
    4. Reviewing the features
      2m 39s
  3. 1h 1m
    1. Printing and your workflow
      3m 3s
    2. Printing black-and-white photos
      6m 49s
    3. Understanding the histogram
      7m 37s
    4. Understanding what localized adjustments are used for
      2m 38s
    5. Explaining the histogram with a practical example
      6m 51s
    6. Making a localized adjustment in a practical example
      5m 30s
    7. Evaluating a localized adjustment in a practical example
      2m 29s
    8. Refining a localized adjustment for effect
      13m 36s
    9. Making a gradient adjustment
      6m 47s
    10. Paying attention to viewing conditions
      4m 49s
    11. Summing up
      1m 50s
  4. 54m 36s
    1. Understanding pixels, printer dots, and resolution
      2m 44s
    2. Understanding resolution
      2m 33s
    3. Defining resampling and interpolation
      3m 41s
    4. Understanding where resizing fits into your workflow
      2m 12s
    5. Defining native printer resolution
      2m 39s
    6. Understanding the relationship between viewing distance and print size
      2m 1s
    7. Reducing image size in Photoshop
      9m 11s
    8. Cropping to a specific size and resolution using Canvas Size
      4m 34s
    9. Cropping to a specific size and resolution using the Crop tool
      5m 15s
    10. Enlarging an image in Photoshop
      7m 7s
    11. Creating a triptych
      3m 55s
    12. Creating a triptych using Automator on a Mac
      4m 5s
    13. Exploring the aesthetics of print size
      4m 39s
  5. 1h 17m
    1. Understanding how sharpening works
      3m 18s
    2. Sharpening in JPEG mode
      1m 26s
    3. Exploring sharpening workflows
      3m 47s
    4. Sharpening in Camera Raw
      6m 17s
    5. Looking at noise reduction
      1m 46s
    6. Sharpening output with Smart Sharpen
      11m 52s
    7. Understanding selective sharpening
      4m 25s
    8. Sharpening through an edge mask
      7m 17s
    9. Reviewing high-pass sharpening
      4m 30s
    10. Applying aggressive sharpening
      8m 53s
    11. Exploring advanced sharpening techniques
      9m 7s
    12. Exploring the Print dialog
      11m 35s
    13. Proofing at smaller sizes
      3m 3s
  6. 53m 9s
    1. Exploring how color works
      2m 5s
    2. Reviewing color models
      2m 56s
    3. Defining gamut and color space
      9m 55s
    4. Reviewing when colors go out of gamut
      4m 54s
    5. Configuring Photoshop's color settings
      5m 47s
    6. Changing color space in Camera Raw
      4m 7s
    7. Working in an advanced color space
      6m 13s
    8. Assigning a color space in Photoshop
      2m 20s
    9. Correcting a color image
      9m 17s
    10. Printing a color image
      3m 30s
    11. Evaluating the print
      2m 5s
  7. 34m 46s
    1. What is color management?
      4m 16s
    2. Profiling a monitor
      8m 45s
    3. Evaluating a monitor profile
      4m 37s
    4. Exploring paper profiles
      5m 17s
    5. Understanding soft proofing
      11m 51s
  8. 24m 33s
    1. Understanding how paper quality affects the appearance of black in prints
      3m 26s
    2. Looking at third-party papers
      3m 46s
    3. Looking at paper finish
      3m 44s
    4. Understanding paper traits
      6m 31s
    5. Discussing paper choice and presentation
      7m 6s
  9. 23m 18s
    1. Printing a black-and-white image
      11m 45s
    2. Printing a color image
      11m 33s
  10. 1m 16s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 16s

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