Macworld Masterclass: Colour managed workflows

An overview of the art and science of colour management

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  • ColorSync logo no tetx Intro
  • mw cmw 01 1. Colour space
  • mw cmw 02 2. Why colours donundefinedt match
  • mw cmw 03 3. Rotate the space
  • mw cmw 04 4. Get the picture
  • mw cmw 05 5. The digital darkroom
  • mw cmw 06 6. Setting preferences
  • mw cmw 07 7. Assumption isn't bad
  • mw cmw 08 8. When to make changes
  • mw cmw 09 9. Setting application preferences
  • mw cmw 10 10. Why?
  • mw cmw 11 11. Multiple settings
  • mw cmw 12 12. What does it all mean?
  • mw cmw 13 13. Unifying colour policies
  • mw cmw 14 14. WYSIWYG?
  • More stories
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Intro

For creative folk, the great news is that out of the box modern Macs and peripherals such as scanners and printers will connect easily and start communicating and managing colour. While even the cheapest inkjet printers can knock out stunning images, there is, of course, a but – a user needs to check and adjust system and application preferences as part of the workflow setup.

And once that’s done users may feel the need to refine the factory settings. In both the initial setup and refining process there are opportunities for disaster. This tutorial takes you though a basic colour management workflow setup.

It should help anyone who has to make high-quality prints, prepare artwork for reproduction, or make work for on-screen display.

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Next Prev ColorSync logo no tetx

For creative folk, the great news is that out of the box modern Macs and peripherals such as scanners and printers will connect easily and start communicating and managing colour. While even the cheapest inkjet printers can knock out stunning images, there is, of course, a but – a user needs to check and adjust system and application preferences as part of the workflow setup.

And once that’s done users may feel the need to refine the factory settings. In both the initial setup and refining process there are opportunities for disaster. This tutorial takes you though a basic colour management workflow setup.

It should help anyone who has to make high-quality prints, prepare artwork for reproduction, or make work for on-screen display.

 

Step 2 of 15: 1. Colour space

Back up your system before starting, and have a notepad ready to jot down your settings as we go. You need to adopt a logical mindset when managing colour. First, open the ColorSync Utility in /Applications/Utilities. Select the Profiles tab from the top of the application window.

 

Step 3 of 15: 2. Why colours donundefinedt match

In the Profile list select System/Adobe RGB (1998). Now Control-click the 3D Graph image and select Hold For Comparison. In the Profile list locate Displays and choose your default monitor profile. The Adobe RGB (1998) graph greys out and your monitor profile is seen as the coloured graph.

 

Step 4 of 15: 3. Rotate the space

Click on the graph to rotate it and see how the colours of your display fit inside Adobe RGB. Without deselecting anything Control-click the graph again and select Hold For Comparison. Experiment with different profiles. We’ve selected profile for a paper on our printer. Note how they mismatch.

 

Step 5 of 15: 4. Get the picture

This is the problem in a colour management workflow. The colours have to be translated from device to device, and as device spaces don’t match, colours get compromised. Note that the Mac is already managing colour; your monitor and its settings is often the cause of the greatest problems. Let’s calibrate.

 

Step 6 of 15: 5. The digital darkroom

Apple’s Display Calibrator Assistant can help calibrate and profile your monitor, but a colorimeter such as ColorMunki will give more accurate results, especially across several displays. (If your monitor is too old or basic you won’t be able to tune in the colour properly.) It’s also important to work in low light.

 

Step 7 of 15: 6. Setting preferences

With the monitor calibrated, profiled, and set in suitable ‘darkroom’ conditions you can concentrate on checking that the best profiles are being used. In System Preferences > Displays select the Color option. In this example, two profiles are shown, the factory profile and our custom setting.

 

Step 8 of 15: 7. Assumption isn't bad

The Mac has chosen the last monitor profile made; Macs tend to pick the right profiles for peripherals. Some peripherals ship with poor profiles, but we’ll assume your devices have good profiles. Back in the ColorSync Utility you can review the profiles in use by various peripherals. Don’t change anything!

 

Step 9 of 15: 8. When to make changes

Changes here should only be for refinement. However, in your colour-aware applications (such as InDesign and Photoshop) you’ll need to set options for your region and discipline. Photographers in the US will use different settings than graphic designers in the UK. If you have Photoshop, launch it.

 

Step 10 of 15: 9. Setting application preferences

Go to Edit > Color Settings. It’s important to make a note of the current settings as what you’re about to do can upset things. Click More Options. For general photography and on-screen work change Settings to Europe General Purpose, and graphic design for print should be Europe Prepress.

 

Step 11 of 15: 10. Why?

With more space we’d demonstrate why Step 9 is correct. Though the quick answer is that the settings in Step 9 help you comply with ISO. Europe Prepress currently sets Coated FOGRA39 as the CMYK workspace. Your printers may not comply with this ISO, so liaison is required to set a CMYK standard.

 

Step 12 of 15: 11. Multiple settings

Once you change options, the European setting will change to Custom. This allows several presets to be made for different workflows: photography for photo-labs; photography for fine-print and editorial; graphic design for print in Europe; and so on. Ask your providers for their colour requirements, so these can be set.

 

Step 13 of 15: 12. What does it all mean?

Generally, it’s OK to accept defaults for colour management policies and conversion options. Profile mismatches and missing profiles should be checked. This will generate warning messages, but it’s good to know when the software is guessing colours for you. Take note of colour warnings but click OK.

 

Step 14 of 15: 13. Unifying colour policies

So far we have illustrated how to check and set system and application colour preferences. We’ve dealt with just Photoshop, but using Adobe Bridge can unify colour policies across Creative Suite. Open Bridge, then go to Edit > Creative Suite Color Settings…

 

Step 15 of 15: 14. WYSIWYG?

Choose your settings and click Apply. Your colour management workflow is now set but there are two weak points: the quality of the profiles used, and your monitor darkroom setup. The foundations of a sound workflow are in place. Follow monitor and printer manufacturers’ instructions to complete the process.

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