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10 Things to Know About Color Management & Color Reproduction

Posted by Martha DiMeo on December 30th, 2013 | No Comments

The end of the year brings a plethora of end-of-year lists. You know them: 10 Best Movies of the Year, Best Songs of the Year, Best Books of the Year, Top News Events of the Year. And, in the digital realm we have Google’s Top Searches of the Year, Best Tweets of the Year, and Most-Shared Stories–to name a few. Do you enjoy reading them? I do.

Moving Forward with Color Management—
An End-of-Year List for Graphic Professionals

Not to be left out of this year-end ritual, I compiled my own list for the graphic design and photography community on color. Instead of looking back, I offer you my list of 10 Things to Know About Color Management & Color Reproduction to help you move forward. Some tips will be a review, some may be new information. In either case, I hope they help you expand your understanding of color reproduction and color management and contribute to achieving superior color results moving forward in the new year.


Achieving the Color You Expect—10 Things To Know

  1. Calibrate your monitor. A calibrated and profiled monitor is the first step in a color-managed workflow. It’s your window to your artwork. If your monitor is not calibrated and profiled you are essentially working with a blind-fold over your eyes.
  2. Device stability is key. A profile—whether a monitor profile, printer profile, camera or scanner profile—is only as good as the stability of the device. If the device’s performance is fluctuating, it will seemingly appear that color management is not working. When in fact, it is a process control issue.
  3. Along those same lines, even the most stable devices change as they age. Therefore, profiling and calibrating is not a one-time task. It should be done on a regular basis.
  4. Honor embedded profiles in RGB images. An embedded profile communicates the intend of the image creator. Secondly, if an image does not have a profile embedded, give it one before passing it on to the next person in the production workflow.
  5. The Working Space settings in Photoshop—as well as in the other Creative Suite applications—applies to untagged images. Think of it as the default profile for images that do not have a profile embedded.  Again, if an image does not have a profile embedded, give it one.
  6. CMYK working spaces reflect some real combination of ink (or toner or dye) and paper.
  7. A printer profile describes the printer, driver, and ink and paper combination. Change any one of those variables and you will need a different profile.
  8. Workflow Best Practice: Keep a master file in Adobe RGB (1998) or ProPhoto RGB. Then, make media specific copies of the image converted to the color space for the media where the image will be used–i.e web, video, print.
  9. Color Gamuts: Adobe RGB (1998) has a wider color gamut than sRGB. Therefore, if you convert your images from Adobe RGB (1998) to sRGB, then to CMYK, you have potentially thrown out (clipped) important color data–depending on the content of the image.
  10. Color management is not color correction. If a photo’s color is “off”, a color-managed workflow will dutifully maintain the bad color. To learn more, read the blog post Color Management is not Color Correction.

Do you have photographs that need color correction, retouching, or image manipulation? Contact me, I provide complementary image evaluation and reviews. Lets have a conversation and make the photographs perfect for that important project.

© Martha DiMeo 2013


More on Color Management

Color Perception: Discover how our eyes trick us.  The Color Management Series–Perception & Our Environment

Color management’s goal is to maintain color appearance. Color correction is about changing color. Learn more in this blog post Color Management is not Color Correction.

Color Management Resources

Visit the Resources + More page for more information, helpful links, and PDF downloads on color perception, color management, and digital color reproduction.


Color Management Consulting Services

Frustrated with not getting the color you desire from screen to print? Want to learn more about color management? I work one-to-one with graphic designers and photographers. Visit the Services>Color Management Consulting page for information on my color management consulting services and to schedule a time to chat.


” ChromaQueen, lets talk…
I have a project and need your help.”

(Click the above link to be taken to our Project Form page, or visit the Contact Us page.)


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