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Traditional Approaches to Colour Management  
Traditional approaches to colour management have relied on manual adjustments or trial and error to compensate for differences in colour between devices, whether they be scanners, printers or monitors. This method relies upon on having very skilled staff and is wasteful of both time and materials. At Acrylic Pictures we have a much more reliable scientific solution.

The Problem
Each and every colour device that you use sees, displays or outputs colour differently. Some devices like scanners and cameras use sensors sensitive to Red, Green or Blue colours, monitors use RGB phosphors to create colours on screen, and most printers use Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black inks. However each scanner will see slightly different RGB values from the same original, each monitor will give you a slightly different image from the same data and if you output the same CMYK values to two different printers you will get two different colours. RGB and CMYK colours are device dependent. Every colour device has its own colour gamut, its own range of colours that it can reproduce, so it isn't very surprising that colours don't match.

The Solution

In 1993 a group of companies including Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Agfa, Kodak and others formed the International Color Consortium (ICC). Their aim was to create a system that would enable all their various software and hardware to give reliable colour results across all devices. To do this they used a system of defining a colour that is device independent, it is based on how we see colours not how they happen to be made up of RGB or CMYK values. ICC colour management involves measuring how a device handles colour and saving that information in a file called a profile. This profile can then tell software like Adobe Photoshop how to optimise colours to suit that particular device.

By using ICC profiles you can get predictable, consistent and better colour. Apple's Macintosh operating system, Windows and most graphics applications all use profiles. Profiles often come with scanners and printers and these are a good starting point but the best way to get better colour is to create your own profiles of your own colour devices, this is what we do at Acrylic Pictures.
 
Scanner & Camera Profiling
To create an ICC profile for a scanner or a digital camera you have to give it an eye test. You have to either scan or photograph a special target and then put that image into a profiling software package. The profiling software then compares the RGB values in the image to a measurement file supplied by the> target manufacturer.

This file contains information on the exact colours in each of the patches on the target and enables the profiling software to know how your scanner or camera sees colour. The profiling software then creates an ICC profile for the device that can be used in your scanner or camera software or applications such as Adobe Photoshop to get much better colour results. Typically you will get an image that virtually matches the original photograph you scanned or the object that you photographed. You will have to do little or no retouching.

One of the most common complaints is that an image displayed on a computer monitor bears no relation to what comes out of the printer. Monitor profiling is the easiest, cheapest and most effective area of colour management. A piece of hardware called a colorimeter measures the colours that are displayed on screen and the monitor profiling software takes these readings and builds a profile for the monitor, a description of how that monitor displays colour.

Monitor Profiling

Monitor calibrator

Most monitor profiling applications will also calibrate the monitor so that it looks the same as another and also matches the lighting that you use to view your proofs or originals. What you see on screen will be what you get in print so you can then make editing decisions on screen with confidence. The most common problem that Acrylic Pictures faces is that customers often don't profile their monitors and as such alter the colour balances of each image manually to create a look that they like on screen. Sadly if the screen is not colour managed then what you see on the screen and what you save onto disk are not the same.

 

Printer Profiling

Printer calibrator

To profile a printer you have to output a series of colour patches and then measure those colours with a spectrophotometer, a highly accurate colour-measuring device. Profiling software will then take those readings and create a profile for the printer, whether it is an Epson inkjet or a million pound printing press. A printer profile is created for each combination of printer and media.

This means that when we print direct to primed cotton canvas the balance of inks is such that what we see will be as true to the colour managed screen as can physically be managed. Likewise if print the same image to a brilliant white paper or a yellowy Hessian the image will be as close to the artists intention as possible.

The Benefits
For our customers who have colour managed screens they send us images safe in the knowledge that they will get what they expect. When we print an image today and then again tomorrow they will look the same. In fact whenever we print it, regardless of the time elapsed the product will be the same and as true as physically possible.

Limitations
Sadly the 'colourspace' occupied by monitors and each different printer is different. Where the colour requested is outside of the colourspace of a printer nothing can be done but to print the closest possible match. This is the reason that litho printers use spot inks to exactly match particular references. We don't use spot inks so our customers are limited to the 16million colours that we can mix using Cyan Magenta Yellow and Black. It has to be said that the service that we offer cannot be beaten by anyone in the industry. So we are confident that you will be satisfied.

Set Up Guide
If you have any doubts go to FAQ then click on File Set Up where there is a much more detailed explanation of the process, that is available for download.

Or, alternatively, request a PDF copy from info@acrylicpictures.com