Color Management, the Digital Darkroom, and Adobe Photoshop
In order to understand color management, it is important to get your hands around some of the workflow. It is also important to understand a little bit about the ICC itself. The ICC or "International Color Consortium" was created in 1993 by a number major corporations with the goal of assisting end users in creating consistent color throughout the entire reproduction process. ICC profiles are a means by which one device can translate the same color information to another. This process is applied in graphics programs like Adobe Photoshop, and created in color management systems like X-rite's Pulse or ColorVision's Spyder software.
How is a profile created?
In order to have a fully color controlled environment you must have all devices displaying or printing color, profiled. How is this accomplished? Color management software (CMS) takes readings from your specific devices and compares their color with reference files of what color "should be" as defined by the ICC. For example, to profile a scanner you would scan in what is called an IT8 target. This scan is then compared with a reference file by the CMS. The differences between what the reference file says the color should be, and what the color your device actually output is meat of the profile. Basically, a profile says what's not perfect about your particular device. If your scanner always seems to scan things in a little green, or your printer always seems to print things with a magenta cast-these are the things that are taken into account when color profiling your devices. To complicate matters a little further, this process also takes into account the differences in color between various paper and ink combinations.
Understanding Your Environment.
Color Model: When you hear the term color model we are referring to the method from which we define or classify the color we are to work with. Examples of such are RGB, LAB, CMYK, etc. Color Space: A color space is simply a variation of your color model. For instance, within your RGB framework some common variations are, sRGB, Adobe RGB, and so on. Some of these spaces are better for display e.g. sRGB and Wide Gamut RGB while other color spaces are more suited to printing e.g. ColorMatch RGB and Adobe RGB.
Now, it is important to note that every device in our workflow utilizes it's own unique color space. Meaning, while your monitor, scanner, and printer will base their color spaces basically on what we can see their actual gamut (range of colors) will differ. This is where we lose our consistency across devices. This is the problem we must attend to.
Color Management Using Adobe Photoshop: Step-by-Step
Okay, so now we're ready for the whole process-it's a big one, so keep with me. In this section I will describe how color management works with entry-level CMS's like Monaco EZ Color or ColorVision's Spyder2-programs like these >b>utilize actual hardware colorimeters for monitor calibration and a reflective target for scanner calibration. Scanning the printed target with your home scanner creates the printer profile. Entry-level programs like these generally retail between $150 and $500.
Step One: The Monitor
This step is quite easy and is generally conducted entirely in the CMS program of your choice. The CMS will guide you through the process of adjusting you monitor brightness and contrast to its proper settings and then, with the hardware colorimeter, take readings of the colors your monitor can produce. Your CMS should also set this profile as your default profile for your operating system. Take note if your CMS doesn't already explain it, you should remove Adobe Gamma Loader.exe from your Startup folder after creating a new monitor profile. AGL is a very minimal monitor correction tool and will conflict with your newly created profile.
Step Two: The Scanner
For the scanner profile you will be using an IT8 target. This is a printed color reference of approx. 250 color patches. These targets are manufactured under strict controls and are measured by ICC approved methods to produce accurate reference files. Kodak, Coloraid, and Fuji are the major manufacturers of IT8 targets and should be included with your CMS package but may be a required separate purchase. There are two forms of IT8 targets: reflective and transparent. Reflective targets create a generally consistent profile for scanning reflective images. Transparent IT8 targets are printed on to the specific film to be profiled and therefore cannot be used as globally as reflective targets.
Profiling of the scanner involves scanning the IT8 target under the same conditions that will be used to scan originals. This has to be taken to the nth degree, as every setting in your scanner software needs to be exactly the same for scanning the target as it is for every other original that you will scan. Turning all hue/saturation/brightness/contrast controls off in your scanner software generates the most effective profile. Any auto correction adjustments need to be turned off so the same conditions the profile gets generated under will apply to each consecutive scan.
At this point you will scan in the IT8 target, most likely at 200 dpi, and save the file. Some CMS's will have you scan the IT8 target out of their own interface, but I would recommend scanning the target with the same application that you will be using in the future-if possible. When scanning into an application like Photoshop, remember to save the image without any profile attached (in Photoshop when saving you will see a checkbox under Save Options>Color that is labeled ICC Profile-make sure this is not checked). Now load this image into your CMS, it will take this image and calculate the differences between what your scanner sees compared to what the colors of the IT8 "really" are.
Step Three: The Printer
Now, the last piece to the puzzle, printer targets. Like transparent IT8 targets, printer targets are more complex. Similar to film, different papers or media can produce incredibly different color results. This has to be taken into account in the profiling stage. When creating a printer profile, you are essentially creating a description of the differences between what is ideal color and what is the result of the specific paper/ink/quality setting you choose. A profile created for a professional glossy photo paper will generally not produce good results if used to print on a matte heavy weight paper. The same holds true for differences in ink or quality/speed settings.
In your CMS you should be given the option to save your printer target for printing within your chosen graphic app. If asked choose not to apply a profile when opening. In Photoshop choose File>Print with Preview. Change the Output dropdown to Color Management. Under Source Space choose Document. Under Print Space choose Profile: Same as Source. You are now set up in Photoshop to print your profile target. You aren't done yet! Now go into your printer driver software and set any color options to none, or zero, or whatever shuts off any color changes by the driver. Now print your target.
This is where professional level CMS's and entry level ones differ. At this point with the entry level you will scan in the printed target and the CMS will actually use the before generated scanner profile to correct the scan, so it can the correct your printed target. A professional level CMS will have a separate hardware device designed specifically for reading printed media targets.
Step Four: Utilizing the Profiles
Okay, now that we've created all of the profiles, time to implement them. You monitor profile should be getting applied upon startup by your operating system, so let's move on to your scanner. Scan in an image-once again using the exact same settings that were used to create the profile (other than resolution). In Photoshop choose Image Menu>Assign Profile. Then choose Profile: Your Scanner Profile. Having done all of the previous steps in Photoshop correctly, you should now be amazed at how your image colors changes to appear incredibly like the original that you've just scanned in.
From here go to Image Menu>Convert to Profile and choose working RGB from the profile selections. This will convert your document to the native RGB working space of Photoshop. When printing you will apply the printer profile by once again choosing File>Print with Preview, select Document as your Source Space (which this time should be your Working RGB space) and in your Print Space choose Profile: Your Printer Profile. Remember once again to disable any color options in your printer driver. Finally, Print!
Other Notes on Profiling
I would recommend using Relative Colorimetric as your Rendering Intent when doing the Convert to Profile step and when printing with Print with Preview out of Photoshop. Rendering intents control how the profile is applied to either the scanner or printed image. Relative Colorimetric has proven to be the best in my testing. Read the documentation that came with your CMS in order to learn more about the other available rendering intents.
Profiles are only as accurate as the CMS that generates them and the size of the targets that are used to generate them. Packages in the $150-$500 price range generally have around 75-250 patches, while $2000 and up gets you 729 patches or more. Also, the more expensive packages rely on physical hardware devices to generate printer profiles, while the less expensive packages use your scanner as the print colorimeter. In addition, the more expensive packages have numerous options for the edition of the profiles you create.
Sources cited in this column are:
Nigel is the E-Commerce Project Manager for Ultimatech Creative Consultancy located in Carbondale, Colorado. Ultimatech provides website design for photographers, artists, and art galleries along with Fine-Art Reproduction and SEO Services.
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How many of the birthday party pictures you've seen are kept just because they are of someone's birthday, not because it is inherently a terrific photograph?When was the last time you heard anyone exclaim: "THIS IS REALLY A GREAT BIRTHDAY PHOTO?" Can you say? NEVER?And yet, birthday parties are happening ALL THE TIME. You would think that "practice makes perfect," wouldn't you; but in this case.
Guidelines for Printing Great Photos at Home
So you have this great digital camera and you've taken lots of great photos. Now what? Well you could go to a store and have them print your images for you, but isn't that what you did with film? The point of all this great digital technology is that you can print your own photos at home without having to pay someone else to do it.
Online Photo Sharing: Not Just for Family and Vacation Photos
You may have joined the photo-sharing craze to share your family vacation photos, but have you thought about other uses for photo sharing?Here are just a few ideas:Scrapbooking: Show off your creative projects. You can design scrapbook pages and enhance them with clipart using software like Paint Shop Photo Album or FotoFinish and then upload them to a photo sharing site for everyone to enjoy.
HP Digital Cameras - History and Beyond
HP has started making digital cameras only recently. However, the firm provides a one-stop-shop for all digital facilities.
Underwater Digital Cameras
Underwater photography's is primarily focused towards entertaining and informing the people and the users themselves about what is happening in the world of under water with the aid of photography. The advent of digital cameras has opened up new horizons for such ventures.
Tiny Cameras, Big Pictures and Make Your Photos Great!
The path to picking a digital camera usually leads to a fork in the road. On one side is the small camera that's convenient to carry but doesn't take the sharpest pictures; on the other, a camera that crisply catches all the details and color but is comparatively bulky.
Better Photos with Your Digital Camera
Everyone has a digital camera today and we all take a lot of photos. But if your photos still have trees coming out of your father's head, mom has red eye, and your beloved pet is never facing the camera then here are some tips to help you take better photos.
Portrait Photography: Tips and Methods
Portrait is defined as, "A likeness of a person, especially one showing the face, that is created by a painter or photographer, for example." In the area of portrait photography there are some guidelines that you should consider when you go to take photos of people.
Is Digital Photography Expensive?
Being such a fascinating device as the digital camera, this technological masterpiece is of course a precious and priced possession. And acquiring it also means that one time achievement feeling.
Digital Cameras & Resolution
While analyzing any camera, one of the most important qualities of a photograph that a person seeks, is resolution. This word itself needs a brief discussion before progressing onto its implication upon a digital camera.
Sometimes, usual photographs look so common and boring. Converting your pictures into charcoal or oil painting is a welcome change but then, a lot of people have been into these crafts already that there are times when these portraits too, look clichéd.
Take Spectacular Nighttime Photos with Your Digital Camera - Part II
Night photos can take on a somewhat magical quality you may find lacking in normal daytime photography. Amazing night pictures certainly can attract attention.
Digital Camera Reviews and Ratings De-Mystify the Choices
Shopping for a new digital camera can be quite frustrating with the hundreds of choices available. Digital camera reviews clarify this confusion by comparing camera features and options, then rating how each camera compares with similar models.
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