Colour management is a maturing technology, based on the International Color Consortium (ICC) specifications. Most graphic arts software uses ICC colour management to control the display, colour space conversion and output of colour.
These include desktop publishing packages such as Adobe’s CC suite, Quark Express and Coral.
Proofing rips from GMG, EFI, Print Factory and CGS.
Soft proofing solutions such as ICS Remote Director, Dalim Dialog and of course Acrobat.
In Computer to Plate workflows from Heidelberg, Kodak, Agfa, Compose, Fujifilm, and many others, which often will include proofing, both hard and soft.
It is used in production rips for small and wide format digital printing from some vendors above, and specialists in wide format such as Onyx, Colorgate, Caldera and Wastach
It is also used in specialist colour management software for ICC profile creation, automated colour servers, pre-flight utilities, etc.
So an industry wide solution, used in most graphic arts software and based on a common specification?
Well, yes, a common specification, but not using a common language for selecting and defining colour management settings within differing vendors software. This results in differing software’s menus and terminology used for a common purpose, which are in themselves are often not intuitive.
This lack of a common language within softwares and their menus is an area that is holding back the implementation and understanding of colour management in the graphic arts.
Many colour management professionals often have problems decrypting the differing buttons and descriptions, within these many software’s. Pre-media and studio managers, designers and prepress staff who may only use these menus once or twice a week or month are likely to become even more confused!
Just compare the colour management menus in Adobe CS and CC, common for InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator with the menus in Quark Express. Both do the same job. But there is no common approach. Yes, Quark Express and Adobe are competitors, but surely when implementing a common specification/standard such as ICC colour management the menus could have similarity?
This same issue can be found across many implementations of ICC colour management, in all types of software and solutions. Terminology within the software is often confusing. Terms such as, ‘Simulation profile; output profile; device profile; are used by differing vendors to describe the same function. Buttons to enable or disable a function are also often counter-intuitive. What appears to switch a function on, will in fact switch it off!
Also in some workflows, basic areas such as wither an ICC profile is used, ignored or replaced with a chosen default is unclear.
Rendering Intents are another area. The Perceptual intent is sometimes called ‘Photographic’! The Relative Colorimetric intent is some called the Media Relative Colorimetric Intent. This again is confusing to users.
The ICC is only just formally specifying Black Point Compensation, developed and first introduced by Adobe in Photoshop v5. Within Adobe CS and now CC it works best with the Relative Colorimetric rendering intent.
Other vendors have increasingly adopted it but due to a lack of standard specifications it is unclear if all implementations work in the same way with the rendering intents.
It would also be nice if Black Point Compensation was available in all colour managed implementations and workflows, as, in an automated system, it will give, when used with the Relative Colorimetric intent to best conversion for most images.
Also within some workflows other, proprietary rendering intents, in addition to the four specified by the ICC are available. Now this is not necessary a bad thing if, within the colour management system for the workflow, there are benefits to colour conversion that these intents offer, then it can useful. However, often the way these function in relation the four ICC rendering Intents is not well documented.
Then the menus and workflows themselves use differing terminology for the identical function. Simulation profile, output profile, emulation profile, source profile, paper profile, default profile and device profile, are among many used.
Simulation, emulation and output profile are terms used by some to refer to the required output printing condition required.
Paper, source, device and output profile are all used to refer to the profile of the printer, ink and substrate profile; the device profile in fact.
The default profile, commonly used to select a RGB or CMYK profile to assume is an image or vector object has no profile is often unclearly defined in colour management menus within workflows.
Other areas include lack of the latest RGB and CMYK profiles within these workflow systems. This is often combined with a convoluted path to load the required profiles as the workflow software often has a separate profile directory and cannot access system level colour profiles. In some cases a special profile-loading tool is needed!
So this is plea for vendors to use a common language within colour management tools and menus. Also to make the application of profiles not loaded with the software less difficult. Why should they not be simple loaded from their default folders in the operating system?
This lack of a common language with in software and menus will and is, holding back understanding and the correct implementation of colour management for users on many occasions.
- Paul Sherfield who runs the consultancy is well known in the printing and pre-media industry as having considerable knowledge on digital workflows, with a special expertise on the business reasoning behind such systems.
He has installed some of the most successful digital pre-press and pre media systems in the UK. For 2 years he worked on a number of medium term projects before starting the consultancy in July 2000. Before this he was a partner in what became one of the leading pre-press/printing companies in London.
He is active in a number of industry groups including the BPIF Technical Standards Committee, ISO TC 130 printing standards committees and is chair of the BPIF steering group for ISO 12647/2 UK certification, He is a regular speaker at seminars and conferences.