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Color Management Critical To Profiting With Digital Services



Color Management Critical To Profiting With Digital Services

by Mike Antoniak

The reputation and livelihood of every imaging services provider depends on the ability to deliver consistent quality in color output. In the digital realm, accurate color management is one of the determining factors in how well the lab can meet customer expectations.

"The key to color management is not just managing one device, but making sure the entire workflow is done," states Wade Stevenons, spokesman for Imaging Technologies Corporation, publisher of the ColorBlind color management software solutions.

It's a complex challenge made more difficult by the range of products plugged into a digital workflow. "Labs have historically assumed the responsibility for making the color right," when they produce a print, notes Wayne Huelskoetter, president of Pictographics International, publisher of the iCorrect family of color management solutions. "Today they are getting images in from a variety of digital cameras," introducing new challenges to color management.

Ideally, color management should be an easily implemented solution for mastering the complex challenges involved in the digital workflow. Since no two digital devices capture or display color in exactly the same way, the color management solution must take all these differences into account, profile each device, and make whatever file adjustments necessary so what the technician or client sees on a monitor or proof print accurately represents the final output.

An Invisible Solution
"Essentially, we're striving toward an invisible color management solution," says Stevenons of the company's ColorBlind software. It's an observation which aptly describes the guiding philosophy in the range of color management tools now available. Despite differences in products and focus, the shared goal of all color management vendors is to automate as much of the process as makes sense by giving operators the combination of tools, software tools and device profiles required for efficient, accurate color management with minimal involvement in the process.
There's still work involved, and an imaging professional's trained eye remains critical to ensuring optimum results. What the solutions do is simplify the process of evaluating and adjusting the entire workflow, from input to output devices, using ICC or user defined profiles, to guaranteed consistent and accurate color reproduction. The strengths and weaknesses of every component on the workflow must be taken into account: the camera or scanner where the image file originates; the monitor on which the client or operator views the image; the range of printing devices which render the output; even the special properties of the media and inks used for printing
Once all devices are profiled, lab personnel can focus on the final output, confident the color management system has made the adjustments required to ensure what's proofed or approved on screen is an accurate and exact representation of the colors in the printed product.

A Range of Options
There's a variety of products and approaches for achieving this goal. ITEC recently upgraded its entire family of ColorBlind products to make them easier to use, yet more sophisticated tools. "We've tried to make it as painless as possible for the user," says Stevenson. "There's still some work they have to do on their part, profiling devices, and learning the different features of the software."

The company just released version 5.0 of its ColorBlind Professional for Windows. The software offers a solution for creating profiles for monitors, scanners, printers, copiers and other output devices. When creating profiles of output devices, users can create target patches varying from 300 to 1400 color patches.

For the monitor, where critical decisions are made about the image, the package includes an updated version of ColorBlind Prove It! It supports CRT, LCD and flat panel monitors and can be used with the company's Sequel Prove-It Meter or X-Rite DTP-92 USB device to calibrate and create profiles for the range of monitors found in workflows. ColorBlind Elite offers a color management solution focused on the large format print market, according to Stevenson. It also includes the latest version of ColorBlind Prove It!, an improved graphical user interface and special black generation, gray scale control tools.

For capturing the color data required to create accurate color profiles, X-Rite has just released a USB version of its DTP41 Series II AutoScanning Spectrophotometer. Like all USB devices, it offers hot swapping.

DTP 41 is bundled with other products for a complete color management solution available as the X-Rite Color Ensemble. The bundle was put together to serve the distinct color management needs of those working in graphic design, pre-press and photo workflows. Included are the DTP41/UV, DTP41UV/T or DTP92 monitor optimizer with serial or USB port; the MonacoPROOF color management software; and a USB Keyspan adapter for connecting to a Macintosh.

ColorVision also offers several packages for calibrating monitors and color incorporating the company's Spyder optical sensor and monitor calibration software. For professional labs, the company has put together bundles with combine the monitor calibration tools with printer profiling software for color management. The Spyder Master Suite, $966, includes the Spyder, OptiCAL monitor calibration software, and ProfilerPRO printer calibration software.

Monaco Systems offers a family of products for color management. Its MonacoProof for photo labs, commercial photographers and small print shops, gives users the tools for creating ICC based color profiles of the hardware devices found in the typical lab. The package also includes profiles for LCD color monitors, and support for the Gretag Macbeth Eye One color spectrophotometer.

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