Implementing Color Management
Here are the overall steps necessary to implement color management:
- Determine every working color space in your workflow.
- Set all your applications to use the working color spaces you've determined.
- Implement a set of systems and procedures to deal with bringing outside-generated files and images into your color workflow.
- Calibrate and characterize (ICC profile) every device in your workflow in every condition with which you use it.
- Put each of the above-created ICC profiles in its proper place or places to use when needed.
- Set up all conditions in all your applications and print stations to use the workflow you've implemented.
You can loosely think of your color workflow as comprised of the color spaces that are its component parts. The actual progression of color spaces your image is going to go through are:
- Inception color space: The color space in which an image was created. This might be a camera profile or a scanner profile or simply the working color space of the application in which it was created.
- Working color space: The color space used to do any editing or alteration to an image.
- Output color space: Usually in a large format shop the final printer-media-resolution combination ICC profile.
These are the color space transitions your image goes through, but there are two other color spaces you’ll need to account for in a color-managed workflow as well:
- Viewing space: Your monitor profile.
- Proofer space: The color space of any printer you use to make proofs.
These color spaces are the color spaces you'll need to define, characterize and install in order to implement color management in your shop. So the first thing you have to do is make some decisions about what working color spaces you want to use, as they will become the backbone of your color workflow.
There's certainly plenty of confusion here, and many competing opinions, but basically you need to decide if you want to work mainly in RGB or in CMYK, and then you've got to decide which RGB and which CMYK color spaces you're going to use as your workflow color spaces. This is absolutely crucial. If you move from application to application and you don't have all your color spaces set up the same, you'll get color shift with each move.
Time to Profile
Once you've decided on your working spaces, the next thing you're going to need is profiles of all your printers in all of the conditions in which they print. And for that you're going to need to get hardware, software, and a lot of knowledge, or someone with hardware, software and a lot of knowledge to come and do this for you, or teach you how to do it.
If you want to wade in alone, the first thing you've got to consider is hardware and software. If you want to make monitor profiles, you'll need to get a colorimeter or a spectrophotometer. If you want to make printer profiles, you’ll need to get a spectrophotometer. There are several models of each out there from which to choose. Some are excellent, some are okay, and some suck.
Then there's software. There are a lot of ICC profile-making software engines out there; some are excellent, some are okay, and some aren't good at all. If you're using a RIP, it may have one of these engines bundled into it or it may not. If it does, then you can use that one. If it doesn't, then you've got to choose between one of the others out there, buy it, and use it.
Basic bottom line on all hardware and software is that it's pretty linear that you're going to get what you pay for. Spectacular color on the cheap is not an option.
Next you need knowledge. If you're serious about getting knowledge and doing color management right, you'll come out leaps and bounds ahead if you hire someone to teach you. There's a lot to it, a lot of it is going to be unique to your environment, and it all matters.