Feeling a little overwhelmed with color gamuts, icc profiles, color profiling, etc, etc? I feel your pain. Getting your prints to match your screen seems like such a trivial matter until you actually try doing it. Printers and monitors have different color characteristics. It’s amazing we can even get some semblance of our images on to a print!
Fortunately and unfortunately, technology helped us with this challenge with sophisticated color management systems. This may sound complicated but the concept is quite simple. It’s just a way to identify colors and accurately use them when we want…like a box of crayons.
Close your eyes, go back in time and remember your first yellow and green box of Crayolas. Ah yes, it was your first experience with a magic box of color and wonder. Maybe it sparked that visual creativity in you. I still have warm and fuzzy feelings about my big box of 64 crayons. Who can you forget Cerulean, Aquamarine and Hot Magenta?
Every color output device is essentially a box of crayons. Monitors and printers paint images with their unique set of crayons known as their color gamut. The size of these color gamuts differ between brands and models—much like different boxes of crayons. These colors need to be identified and cataloged so they can be reproduced faithfully. The colors of your crayon collection are identified with unforgettable names like Periwinkle and Midnight Blue and placed nicely in a box of 24, 48 or 64 piece sets. In your computer, your output device’s colors are identified and saved as an ICC Profile which is a standardized color catalog, developed by the ICC (International Color Consortium).
So how are the colors produced by your output devices identified and cataloged? By a process called profiling. Crayola has their own way of identifying their crayons. We use devices, called spectrophotometers, and profiling software to measure and to identify colors of our output devices. You probably saw one of these devices for monitors. It looks like a mouse that you hangs on face of your monitor. It measures the color values of your monitor and then records it’s color gamut into a file (a.k.a. ICC Profie) on your computer which now has an accurate idea of how your monitor displays color.
Once this process is done for the printer as well as the monitor, you’ll be able accurately reproduce colors on your monitor onto a color managed printer just as easily as you would grabbing a Cerulean crayon to color the sky.