Myths & legends 1: Color Management
Over the next several weeks I will address many things that people believe about digital color printing that may not have a basis in actual truth, thus the title of “Myths and Legends”.
This entry will start with “Color Management”. First, what is it.
When a picture is digitally captured all the color and detail is converted into discrete, quantified elements. These are known as pixels. They are like atoms of a larger organization, the picture.
Each pixel is a tiny square of a defined color.
The problem that originally occurred was that there where no definitions of each quantified element. An RGB number of 027.125.189 did not represent the same thing anywhere but where it was generated. each computer, monitor and printer did something else with these numbers. This issue gave rise to the International Color Consortium, whose initials we all now know as they are associated with the color definitions they established as ICC Profiles.
These profiles map out all the colors and also provide a translation of the color definitions from each component of the system to the next, from the camera or scanner, to the editing software, to the monitor, and to the printer. The important thing to keep in mind here is that each component of the system still has to deal with color in a different way so there is always a difference in the colors between devices no matter what.
The most that Color Management can do at the current time is coordinate the best abilities of each device to produce accurate color. The camera captures color by means of a square grid of red and green, then green and blue filtered sensor sites, this data is passed to the computer in a “working color space” which is a kind of icc profile, most commonly sRGB or Adobe1998RGB.
The editing software, if it is icc compliant can use this profile to maintain colors. To properly view what the editing software is doing the monitor must have it own profile and the graphics system of the computer must be aware how to implement this profile correctly. Finally there must be a profile for the printer, it’s ink and the paper that will be printed on,
and this must also be correctly implemented by the sending computer system.
All of this must be happening for color management to occur and if any one part of this chain is broken, then there is no color management.
The most important idea I wish to relate today is that Color Management is not a silver bullet, it does not automatically make all your colors great, it is just there to level the field,
The most important part of the system is still the artist’s eye and the craft knowledge of the tools.
Come back next week for more.
Please don’t join the race to the bottom
This is my first entry to the new blog that is part of the new Lotuscolor website. Generally this will be used to provide
useful information on image making, editing and printing.
Today, however, I wish to rant a bit. There is a disturbing trend going on in the Art printing industry. Because of the
relatively low price of quality large format printer, many people are buying these machines and then “opening for business”
Besides hobbyists, there are frame shops,traditional print providers and corporate chains like kinko’s and costco. They all
have one thing in common, they are trying to bring you a print at the lowest price possible.
There are several things wrong with this approach. These places do not care if your print is the best it can be, they cannot
fix something and reprint, they loose money on such a practice, they will not use the best paper to print on, and perhaps the
most important, they do not pay for operators with the deeded skills and experience to even know what a good print is. The
hobbyist or even a more professional artist may get good at printing their own work, eventually, but have no experience with
all the various other types of work, like yours that will come their way.
A high end Art printing shop like “Lotuscolor” has a complete color managed system in place, make their own profiles, has
proper viewing conditions, includes a proofing cycle in their pricing and has a system for safe packaging of the final print.
The people who run these shops are passionate, dedicated professionals with many years experience producing fine prints, and
this costs more. Lets look at this a different way. If you are seriously involved in your photography, you’ve spent a lot on
a good camera, even more on quality lenses and then maybe you travel to exotic locations to take amazing photos. And then you
buy cheap prints? No! To fully realize your wonderful images, you must continue to spend appropriately and get the best prints
possible, to have something of lasting quality you can be proud of.
So, please do not short change yourself on the final and most important part of realizing you Art. Get great prints at a
high end quality art print shop from people who are committed to doing the best, like us, at Lotuscolor.