Color Management Answers
January, 2008 This Month's Feature Article:
Color Management Answers
(or at least where to try to find them)
by CHROMiX's Patrick Herold and Steve Upton
I spend a good portion of my day answering questions from customers who need information about color management, or how to use the color management tools they have. A reoccurring theme in these discussions is how complicated color management is. It's true. Color management can be quite involved - but a lot depends on how deep you need to go to get the answers you need. You don't necessarily need to be a professor of color geekology. It is possible to read a twenty-minute article that will cover most of the bases for getting your desktop printer to match your computer display, for example. I realize that a lot of users of color management don't necessarily want to make it a full-time endeavor, that learning color management is really just a tool to get you closer to what you want - whether you are a professional photographer ;wanting accurate prints of your shots, or a press operator wanting to please your customers.
So the real question is "Where do I go to get the information I need without having to read an entire library of color science manuals?" This newsletter article is intended to offer some pointers for where to go to get accurate, quality advice and information that you can count on - without spending oodles of time or gobs of money on it.
You've already come across a great source for education. This is the 30th issue of the CHROMiX ColorNews newsletter, which means there are 29 back issues of these articles available on our CHROMiX website, or at the ColorWiki website. We try really hard to make these articles relevant and useful - real information that you don't already know but can really use. And we keep the language down-to-earth so that it is hopefully a little entertaining as well as educational. The ColorWiki site makes it easy to browse around and find an answer to topics you are interested in.
Color Management Myths
Useful to experts and novices alike, reading over our list of color management myths will give you a broad understanding of what common pitfalls you should look for. It's surprising how easily we can fall into some of these wrong ways of thinking. This is one of those "lots-of-good-information-in-a-short-amount-of-time" things you could read.
Would you (or someone you know) describe yourself as knowing "just enough color management to be dangerous?" Reading through and understanding the Color Management Myths will go a long way toward keeping yourself from being too dangerous. Originally part of the ColorNews articles, we have recently broken them apart in the ColorWiki so you can browse all 33 of these topics easily by subject. Some of the topics are getting dated, but others seem to keep cropping up. To read some of the more "popular" myths check out:
- #10 "Profile Rot" myth.
- #11 Printing a target to evaluate a profile.
- #26 Graphing tools provide the same results.
Most of the manufacturers of color management products will have support pages on their website, even if their live technical support personnel are unavailable or not helpful. And these sites often have good, general color management answers in addition to support for specific products.
The "Support" section of the X-Rite website has a wealth of articles designed to answer common questions. These are linked together with X-Rite products, so you first need to enter an X-Rite product name into the search engine to have it search for support documents.
For example, if I enter "i1Match" into the search engine, it returns 114 links to software downloads and common questions including:
- Free, downloadable training videos, showing how to calibrate monitors, set up Photoshop, etc.
- Differences between LCD and CRT monitors.
- How to handle dual monitors on Windows XP
- How often should I profile a monitor?
EIZO has two good articles worth a look:
- Choosing the Right Monitors for a Color Management System www.eizo.com/products/graphics/CMS/01.asp
- Monitor Calibration: <http://www.eizo.com/products/graphics/calibration/01.asp>
There are quite a few forums on the net. Whether they are a source of accurate information depends on which forum you're looking at and what people are involved. Businesses who maintain forums that support their products will generally be monitoring the content to make sure it is accurate.
===ColorForums=== sponsored by CHROMiX: <http://www.colorforums.com>
===Integrated Color Corp.=== makers of ColorEyes products: <http://www.integrated-color.com/phpBB2/login.php>
===Lets Talk Print forum=== sponsored by the PIA/GATF: <http://www.letstalkprint.com/>
===Luminous Landscape=== a Photography forum: <http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/>
===ProPhoto Home=== a Photography forum: <http://www.prophotohome.com/forum/>
Many forums are free. In many cases, you can't expect a very detailed answer from volunteers who answer your particular query. But forums can be useful in furthering your general information about color management, where the industry is going, who is doing what.
The Colorsync User's List has evolved over the years to go beyond Apple's Colorsync application, and has become a highly respected forum where the top color geeks around the world discuss color management, and thousand of others subscribe to the list just to read what they have to say. <http://lists.apple.com/mailman/listinfo/colorsync-users>
Here are some web sites by industry veterans:
has an extensive library of pdf's covering many aspects of color management and Photoshop tips and tutorials. For example, there is a 4-page "Color Management Primer" that explains the history of, and why we have and need, color management. His opinions are informed and objective. <http://digitaldog.net/> <http://www.digitaldog.net/files/IntrotoCMS.pdf>
Bruce Lindbloom's site is more technical in nature. This is where you go when you want to know the math and the calculations that go into various aspects of color. The Info section has some evaluations and test images. <http://www.brucelindbloom.com>
The foremost description of how to profile a scanner is on the Hutchcolor site, under the HCT section. See the Free section for color management notes & test targets and images. <http://www.hutchcolor.com>
- Real World Color Management
by Bruce Fraser, Chris Murphy, and Fred Bunting.
This is often considered the 'bible' of color management. <http://www.colorremedies.com/realworldcolor/index.html>
- Understanding Color Management
by Dr. Abhay Sharma
One of the best books anywhere at demystifying color management in an easy to read, easy to understand format. Dr. Abhay Sharma explains the basics of color science and color measurement, and provides an in-depth look at the range of measuring instruments available to the end-user. He explains ICC profiles and uses in procedures for profiling scanners, digital cameras, computer monitors, inkjet printers, and printing presses.
- Measuring Color - 3rd Edition
by R.W.G. Hunt
This third edition contains the latest developments in the theory and practice of measuring colour. It also has a extensive Appendices that provide a review of photometric measures and tables of data necessary for colour computations, and a glossary of terms and full index.
- Practical Color Management
by Eddie Tapp
This book has simple but strong emphasis on color managing photography.
- Microsoft Windows XP Color Management
- Color Management in Mac Os X
both books (and others) by Joshua Weisberg
Josh Weisberg is a well respected writer and one who tackles OS level issues and topics.
Quick Links to interesting things
Photographer Bob Johnson compares color management to setting your clocks: (1 page) <http://www.earthboundlight.com/phototips/color-management-setting-clocks.html>
Ethan Hansen of Dry Creek Photo has written good, very readable articles on color management. He also has interesting comparisons between different calibration products and other advice worth checking out: <http://www.drycreekphoto.com/index.html>
The Pacific Northwest Color Management User's group site has several free pdfs including Chris Murphy's popular "Introduction to Color Management" series. (medium length) <http://www.pnwcmug.com/pages/articles.html>
LaCie provides a short color management white paper that explains the scientific foundation for color and how that relates to computer displays. (3 pages) <http://www.lacie.com/download/more/wp_colormanagement_en.pdf>
Western Michigan University publishes a review of ICC profile-making software. Back issues are free, and the latest issue is $10. http://www.wmich.edu/ppse/staff/downloads/index.html
Finally, and at the risk of patting ourselves on the back, one of the things CHROMiX is known for is its great customer support. CHROMiX will be here to help you navigate that sea of color management information and misinformation. When you are looking for a voice that you can depend on for accurate and reliable information, put forth in a way that is easy to understand, give us a call.
We know there are other sources for information on the web. This list was not intended to be exhaustive. Instead we hope it is an effective summary of our favorites in a size that isn't too daunting.
Thanks for reading,
-Patrick Herold and Steve Upton
See also Links to Color Management resources