Join Chris Orwig for an in-depth discussion in this video Two simple steps for more accurate color, part of Photoshop CS5 for Photographers.
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So if color management is all about clarifying your color communication between multiple devices, what can you and I do in order to improve our overall color managed workflow? Or in other words, what can we do to get more accurate colors, so that the colors we are seeing on our monitor can be reproduced in other contexts? What I want to do here is focus in on a couple of simple steps and a few areas of color management, so that you can improve your overall color managed workflow. Now, the areas that I want to focus in on are your monitors and monitor calibration, as well as your ambient lighting.
Now, these two steps can be really simple or they can be quite evolved. Let's start off with monitor calibration. You have a couple of different approaches. The first approach may be to use software that comes with your operating system, like you can see this screen grab here. Or you can use software that comes with other programs in order to create a profile of your monitor. Now, in this case what you do is you click through these different steps in these software programs, and then you create a profile which describes or defines how your monitor actually looks and works with color, and what the color temperature of your monitor is, what the gamma is.
In other words, it describes some of the color and brightness and tone characteristics of your monitor, so that when you send an image somewhere else that profile can then accurately translate what you saw in the monitor. Now, that would be a step one approach. It would be a decent approach. It's better than nothing. But if you really want to have accurate color, I mean if you really want to go for it, what you are going to need to do is take this type of approach, where you are buying an external device, a colorimeter or a spectrothermometer.
What this does is it's a little device that you actually put on your monitor. It then measures the color and the brightness coming off of your monitor. It also takes an ambient light reading of the light surrounding your monitor, because that affects how we view content on our monitor as well. It then takes all of that information, kind of packages it up, and creates a really accurate profile. In other words, if you want to have a good, I mean a solid color managed workflow, you are going to want to pick up one of these devices.
The particular one that I use and have had great success with is called the ColorMunki, because that allows me to create profiles for my monitor, my printer, and my paper, and also projectors. So again, that's the device that I have chosen. There are many others out there, but that's a phenomenal one, if you're interested in digging into color management. Now, the other side of the equation is ambient light. A lot of times people will calibrate their monitors, but then they may have a bright red colored wall right next to their monitor. And in those situations what's going to happen is that red wall is going to bounce red color onto the monitor.
Or what could happen is you can be wearing a bright green shirt, or your monitor will emit light, and then that green will bounce back onto the monitor. And that will affect the colors that you see in your monitor. So the surrounding or ambient lighting situation is really critical. There are a couple of things that you can do which will improve your overall context. One is try to dim the lights just a little bit. Now, a lot of people who are really concerned with color will actually work almost in the dark. It will be about the same lighting that you would see in a movie theater, if you were to walk in while the previews are playing or before the movie actually started.
Now, in this particular case, I found that having the lights down, yes, it does increase color accuracy, but it's also a little bit too muted for me. So I have my lights a little bit brighter. Well, then that leads to the question of, what kind of lights are you using? Now, if we are using let's say regular tungsten light, what's going to happen is it's going to give you a yellow color shift, which is coming off of that light bulb. And again, that's going to affect your color accuracy. But one of the things that you can do is head to your local hardware store and buy a simple light bulb.
And what you are looking for is something that's daylight balanced, as you can see here. And this small investment can really help you create a better working environment. Now, when you first start to work with this type of light, one of the things that you will discover is that it's going to be really neutral. In other words, sometimes at night when you are driving down the street and you look into someone's house and the light is just glowing yellow. And it's so warm and inviting. Well, in contrast, one of these bulbs will look really sterile and white and bright. It won't have that yellow tint to it.
So it may take a little bit of adjustment, but one of the things that you will find is it will help out with your proofing context as well as getting color accuracy. Now, if you want to take things a little bit further, there is a great company out there. It's called SoLux. And they create some really good daylight balanced lightbulbs and also some really good daylight balanced lights, like this task lamp here. And again, many people who are very concerned with color accuracy will take things up a notch. So if you are interested in that, you can Google their company name and navigate over to their Web site to get some more information about the products that they provide.
And they are really a company that is on the cutting edge in regards to creating high quality light. All right. Well, in conclusion, I hope that these two simple suggestions or these two simple steps of calibrating your monitor, and also thinking about your ambient lighting environment will help you ultimately create a more color managed workflow, so that it will improve your accuracy between the color that you are viewing on your monitor and the colors that come out in your final print.
- Calibrating a monitor
- Setting up color and file handling preferences
- Resizing images
- Processing images in Camera Raw
- Creating, targeting, and moving layers
- Making selections and taking advantage of the Refine Edge feature
- Masking and selective sharpening
- Improving a photo using Content-Aware Fill and the Puppet Warp tool
- Enhancing color, tone, and contrast with Levels
- Improving under- and overexposure using blending
- Burning and dodging techniques
- Converting an image to black and white
- Retouching essentials
- Publishing images to the web