Mastering Color Management

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Use color management to make better files and insure others see them in their best light.

 

1. 6 Simple Steps to Good Color Management
Take these simple steps to get consistent high quality color.

2. Step 1 – Using ICC Profiles 
Assign ICC profiles to make color consistent and predictable.

3. Step 2 – Profile Your Monitor
Calibrate your monitor with hardware.

4. Step 3 – Photoshop Color Settings
Set good Photoshop Color Settings in seconds.

5. Step 4 – Softproof
Preview how your print will look before printing it.

6. Step 5 – Navigate Your Printer Driver
Set good color management policies in your printer driver.

7. Step 6 – Control Your Environment
Use good quality light in neutral environments to evaluated your images.

8. Profile Your Printer
Better printer profiles help make better prints.

9. Editing Spaces Compared
From small to large, standard RGB editing spaces including sRGB, Adobe RGB (1998), and ProPhoto.

10. Choose A Wide Gamut Editing Space
Choose a wide gamut editing space to make the best prints possible.

11. 16-Bit (Adobe Photoshop Master Class)
Thousands of shades of gray reduce posterization.

12. What to Do with Color Management Dialogs 
Know what to do with the color management dialog boxes you encounter.

13. The Difference Between Converting Versus Assigning With Color Profiles 
Understand the difference between assigning and converting to a profile.

14. Rendering Intents Compared 
Perceptual, Relative Colorimetric, Absolute Colorimetric, Saturation.

15. Where to Put ICC Profiles 
ICC profiles need to be filed in the correct location on your computer.

16. Test files 
Find out more about what to test.

17. X-Rite’s Color Checker Passport Camera Profiles 
X-Rites’ Color Checker Passport can be used to quickly deliver more accurate color in a variety of ways.

18. Managing Camera Profiles 
If you make camera profiles customized for your camera, sooner or later you’re going to want to rename or delete a few.

19. Chromix Colorthink
Colorthink graphs ICC profiles for visual comparison and contrast.

20. Solux Lighting
Choose full spectrum lighting with an appropriate brightness and temperature.

 

View videos on using X-Rite’s color management solutions here.

 

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How To Preserve Shadow Detail In Your Prints

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One of the keys to making a great print is great shadow detail.
Shadow detail is something to be mindful of during exposure, processing, and printing. Curiously, even if you see shadow detail in your file on a calibrated monitor you may not see all of the details in your print. What can you do about this? Many things!
First Check Your Color Management
Before you start editing your files based on your proofs, check your color management system.
Recalibrate Your Monitor
Make sure you’ve calibrated your monitor with hardware. Set a brightness value of 90-100 lux, instead of using the default brightness target of 120 lux. If you monitor is too bright, your prints will look dark overall, especially in your shadows.
Read more on Profiling Your Monitor here.
Give Your Prints Enough Time To Dry
Inkjet prints come out of the printer almost dry, but not quite fully dry. When they’re fully dry, they’ll appear slightly lighter, especially in the shadows where there’s a lot of ink. So before you evaluate prints critically, give them a few minutes to dry. This affects absorbent matte surfaces even more than glossy surfaces.
Find my resource on Outgassing here.
Look At Your Prints In Good Light
Look at your prints in good light. You need the right amount of light (a CRI of 90 or higher), you need the right color temperature light (5000K is the standard but many viewers prefer the warmer 3600K), and it helps to use full-spectrum light (Many manufacturers now make full spectrum bulbs.)
Read more on Controlling Your Environment here.
MediaType_P800

Media Type sets the amount of ink that's used.

Set Your Media Type Correctly
Your printer driver will allow you to set your media type, which controls ink the amount of ink that is sprayed on your paper. Use too much ink and you’ll lose shadow detail. Use too little and your blacks and midtones will appear weak. If you’re using a paper not made by the manufacturer, choose the nearest media type and then adjust its settings with the printer driver’s advanced utilities. (You’ll find this under Advanced Media Control with Epson printers.)
Find my resource on Ink Limit here.
testfile_shadows

Print test patches to determine when maximum black is achieved and when separation is lost.

Print A Target To Determine How Much To Lighten Shadows
Before you adjust your files for printing precisely determine how much you need to lighten your deep shadows by printing a target. While they vary a little, most media settings lose shadow detail around a value of 96% on a grayscale. If you print patches of values between 100% and 90% you’ll see exactly where you lose shadow detail. Printed results will vary slightly with each different media setting, so you’ll need to adjust files slightly differently for different media.
You can download my targets here.
Next Adjust Your File


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Capture & Calibrate For The Cure !

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“X-Rite is very excited to announce a limited edition “Pink” promotion!
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Limited Time Offer Supporting the Cure
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re supporting the Breast Cancer ResearchFoundation (BCRF), the highest rated breast cancer organization in the U.S. We’ve developed two limited edition products with 20% of sales donated to theBCRF!
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Capture for the Cure Limited Edition ColorChecker Passport Photo
For more than 40 years, ColorChecker Targets have delivered accurate and repeatable color results in photography and filmmaking with targets right for every shoot. This handsome and convenient ColorChecker Passport has a custom image with The Cure’s pink ribbon imprinted on the case and a pink lanyard.
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Calibrate for the Cure Limited Edition ColorMunki Display
You know ColorMunki Display as advanced display calibration made simple. This handsome ColorMunki features side panels in the signature pink that is recognized around the globe as a symbol of efforts to find the Cure to breast cancer. 
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Each of these products is limited to 2000 pieces.
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20% of the proceeds go to the BCRF.
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Watch Me Demo Softproofing & Proofing


Recently on TWIP’s (This Week In Photoshop) The Fix I spoke with Jan Kabili about the power of printing your photographs. Then I demonstrated how to get the best results possible with Softproofing & Proofing practices. Watch this and you’re sure to get better prints in less time with less waste.
Find more useful videos on TWIP’s The Fix here.
Read more with my free Color Management and Printing resources.
View more in my DVD series R/Evolution.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Using Color Management For Color Adjustment – Synthetic Profiles

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How can you change the appearance of a digital image without changing the numbers that assign the color values? Change what those numbers mean by changing the image’s ICC profile. Using abstract or synthetic profiles, you can make massive changes to an image with little to no cost, changes that ordinarily would cause big problems using standard methods, such as posterization and noise. It’s a practice known to color geeks and few others. When you’ve got a big job to do, it can get you out of a pinch in a hurry.

In most cases, we think of using color management to accurately match colors when moving between different color spaces; ICC profiles are used to describe different color spaces and to make precise transformations to values moved from one to another to maintain consistent appearances. In very rare cases, when profiles are assigned to image files without a color conversion, the appearance of the image changes; values stay the same, but their meaning changes, so the image looks different. So when you use this unorthodox method of color adjustment, you get a change in appearance without changing the values in the file, and this is particularly useful when you want to pay a very small price for making very big changes.

Am I saying that ICC profiles are used to change values so the appearance stays the same? Yes. Am I saying that a color space is just a recipe for color, and that there are many different RGB recipes? Yes, but while they’re the standards, sRGB, ColorMatch RGB, Adobe RGB (1998) and ProPhoto RGB are just a few among many.

With just a little experimentation, you’ll find you, too, can make big changes to your images and pay a small price using synthetic profiles. Using synthetic profiles is color adjustment without editing values; they change no values, but they do change the meaning of those values—and thus their appearance. Don’t believe it? Check your histogram when you assign a profile. You won’t even see it move! It’s kind of unbelievable. Try it. See it with your own eyes. You’ll quickly become a believer, too.
Learn the steps you need to take to make your own synthetic profiles …
Read more on Digital Photo Pro.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Profile Your Printer

Prints made with default (left) and custom (right) profiles compared.


Good printer profiles help make good prints. Better printer profiles help make better prints. So, logically, you’ll want to use the best printer profiles to help you make the best prints.
How do high quality printer profiles contribute to print quality? A good printer profile helps render optimum shadow and highlight detail, gradation, neutrality and graybalance, as well as color rendition and saturation. (Remember, printer profiles characterize the combination of a printer’s hardware, ink, media setting, and the substrate you choose. You’ll need different profiles for different substrates on the same printer.)
How can you get good printer profiles? Look to three primary sources. One, use profiles provided by printer manufacturers; they’re free. Two, hire a printer profiling service; profiles cost approximately $100 each. Three, make printer profiles yourself; printer profiling systems run between $400 and $1000. (Profiles supplied by substrate manufacturers are of uneven quality; a few are good, many are bad.)
Which solution is right for you? It depends on both your printing conditions and needs.
If you’re using substrates supported by the manufacturer of your printer, try using the profiles they provide first; they’re often quite good. Years ago, Epson raised the bar on the quality of printer profiles provided by manufacturers. The highly sophisticated routines they use to produce their printer profiles processed by supercomputers are truly state-of-the-art. It’s arguable that you can produce better profiles, even with the most sophisticated profiling solutions available. Their profiling routines factor in subtleties like dot structure or screening frequency. One of the reasons a solution like this works is because the technologies and manufacturing standards they use are so consistent that the unit to unit variation between individual printers of the same model is extremely low. (It’s less than a Delta E of 1 or the minimum variation the human eye can detect.) Some, printer manufacturers, like Canon, provide a large number of profiles for substrates made by other companies; their quality is generally quite high with only a few exceptions. Other printer manufacturers, like HP, produce self-profiling printers. They need to be self-profiling, as the state of the printer is constantly changing; when nozzles clog, new nozzles come on line; when ink cartridges are swapped nozzles are replaced. One advantage to a system like this is you can quickly profile a new substrate on a printer with no additional equipment. The quality of the profiles is often good, but there will be times where you’ll want to improve upon it.
No manufacturer provides a comprehensive set of profiles that will cover the entire spectrum of fast-evolving substrate industry. A little experimentation with new media is advised, sometimes a lot. If you experiment with many medias or use more exotic substrates, you’d be well advised to have someone make custom profiles for you or do it yourself.
Read More

Controlling Your Environment


One critical aspect of color management has nothing to do with either hardware or software. It’s the environment you work in. Control your environment and you’ll control the color you see. Desktop, walls, decorations, fashion, viewing light, secondary light sources, ambient light – it all matters.
Keep It Neutral
Color influences color. This is sometime physical, when filtered or reflected color alters the appearance of another. This is always perceptual, when our eyes adapt to the presence of multiple colors. That’s right. Surround one color with another color and you’ll experience the color differently. You can’t measure this change in the physical world because the change takes place inside your eye/brain. Simultaneous contrast is a perceptual adaptation that you can’t turn off, but you can be aware that it’s happening, understand how it’s influencing you, and minimize it’s effects.
How? Surround yourself with neutral colors; they influence our experience of other colors least. Neutral colors produce the least contamination and the least adaptation. And, medium gray values produce the least brightness compensations of all neutral colors.
You may be tempted to make the appearance of your computer desktop colorful and lively. That’s fine for many non-color-critical tasks. However, when you’re adjusting color, make your desktop neutral. You won’t be able to see the color you’re adjusting accurately unless you do. If you don’t want to change your desktop use Full Screen mode, to hide the desktop and surround your image with a neutral color. (One downside to this is you’ll only be able to view one image at a time.)
Walls and decorations of any significant area should be neutral in appearance too. Make walls and decorations neutral. For the purposes of controlling your environment, any neutral color is better than a saturated color. You could opt for white, gray, or black. Don’t opt for designer whites, grays, or blacks, which contain trace amounts of hue and saturation that can still influence your perception enough to be significant. Choose neutrals. (If you’ve got a favorite image (poster, photograph, painting, etc) that’s colorful, position it out of your field of vision while you’re adjusting color.)
Don’t forget fashion. Wear neutral colors. If you wear bright colors, they’ll influence your perception too, especially if light reflects off of them and onto your surroundings or images.

Light It Well
The most important thing to control in your environment is light.
After all, light is what produces your sensation of color.
Viewing light, secondary light sources, ambient light
It stands to reason, for viewing color accurately, you want white light not filtered or colored light. (Don’t wear sunglasses or tinted glasses when adjusting color.) But what many people don’t consider is that not all white lights are created equally.
You’ll want to consider the amount of light – measured lux. It’s better to have too much light than too little light; colors will appear dull if you don’t use enough light; just don’t produce glare or make viewers squint. A CRI of 90 or higher is recommended.
Next, consider the color temperature of light – measured in Kelvin degrees. While 5000K is the industry standard (most viewing boxes and printer profiles are built for the 5000 K standard), in real world situations very few people view printed color under 5000K light. More typically, prints are viewed in galleries and museums in some form of halogen (3300K – 3800K) or in homes under tungsten (2800K) with a mix of daylight which varies with time of day, weather, and season. Viewing light for the end user is often highly variable. So, what do you do? Make prints for a specific lighting condition if practical. Otherwise, standardize on a viewing light temperature that can be least adversely affected in as many real world situations as possible. More people prefer the taste of 3600K than any other light temperature.
Finally, consider a light’s spectral distribution – smooth or spiky when graphed. White light can be mixed with different combinations of colored lights. This rarely affects the appearance of neutral colors, but it may have a significant affect on saturated colors. Light sources that contain only a few spectral frequencies (spiky or limited) will increase the apparent saturation of the colors they contain and decrease the apparent saturation of the colors they don’t. Light sources that contain all spectral frequencies (smooth or full) will render all colors without bias and won’t produce relative saturation distortions. Full spectrum light (sunshine, tungsten, some halogen) makes colors appear clearer and more saturated. (See my free ebook review on Solux lighting at www.johnpaulcaponigro.com.)


Secondary light sources should also be considered. Avoid backlighting; don’t position your monitor or proofs/prints with bright light sources behind them. Eliminate reflections; use blinds for windows and reposition lights that reflect off monitors. Reduce glare and flare as much as possible. New colorimeters (like Ax-Rite’s i1Display Pro and ColorMunki Display) compensate for these factors during monitor calibration and constantly measure and adapt to changes in these factors over time. Make your viewing experience as easy as possible. If you’re serious about color, you’ll plan to look a lot.
With a few careful choices you can make sure your environment supports your efforts to see and adjust color precisely everyday. It’s time well spent. Without this attention to detail, even the most sophisticated color-management systems may be compromised. With this attention to detail, you can rest assured that you’ve done everything physically possible to control color. In a controlled environment, your color will truly shine.
Read more in my color management ebooks.
Learn more in my digital printing and digital photography workshops.