Color Management – IV


OK, let’s try to wrap up this up and get back to some hiking and what not.

I was just about to make a print when I stopped last time. As I said, I generally use Paint Shop Pro XI for editing and printing (I can’t even begin to justify the cost of Photoshop for what little editing I do to my images). The color management settings in PSP let you set things up so that what I see on the screen is close to what I will get when I print it out.

The settings in PSP do not actually affect the printing process. This fact is not well documented and took me a while to realize. The printer driver is going to handle everything related to printing. PSP just passes the file off. That means that you need to be careful to choose the same printer color profile in PSP and in the printer driver.

If you choose the standard printer profile that comes with the Epson printer in the PSP color management dialog, then you should use the standard printer settings in the printer driver. On the main tab of the printing preferences for my R1800 I check “Color Controls” and choose “Epson Standard” in the color mode drop down. I usually do not make any other changes except to select the correct paper type. The output is pretty darn good.

If we want to get tricky we can download a profile for the specific paper that we’ll be using from its manufacturer. Since I’m using Moab paper I pulled down the paper profiles for the R1800 printer. I select that profile in my PSP color management. In the printer driver, I check “ICM” under color management and set the ICM Mode to “Driver ICM (advanced)”. On the advanced page I choose either Adobe RGB or sRGB (the same as my color working space in PSP) as the input profile. I choose Perceptual as the intent. I choose the paper profile as the printer profile. I think the output is better than using the standard settings, but you gotta look real close so the hassle may not always be worth it.

So I’ve got my workflow for printing down pretty well. My prints look like my screen – pretty much. Remember that a screen is shining light into your eyes while a print is using reflected light – two completely different media. Ain’t no way they are ever going to look EXACTLY the same.

Now what about posting the image to the web for viewing? This is a whole other animal. Sometimes images posted on the web look way different depending on what machine you view them on. I personally find this very annoying.

I can never completely control how every viewer sees my images. You may use a CRT or you may use an LCD – I think LCDs show more contrast. You may like your monitor very bright or very dim – too bright and the whites might blow out, too dark and shadow detail is lost. You might not have the colors tuned too well and white becomes blue and blue purple.

On the other hand there are a few things that I can do to give my image the best chance. I’ve ignored this stuff up until recently and I’ve paid for it with some really uneven image quality.

One source of confusion for Windows users like me is that you can go to the properties of the desktop and assign color profiles to the monitor. I naively assumed that this meant something and that anything that I brought up on my monitor (including web pages with pictures on them) would be color managed for optimal viewing. Forget about it!

As far as I can tell the only reason to add color profiles to devices in Windows is so they will show up as choices in drop down boxes in applications. It doesn’t do squat for viewing images.

So when I would save images for display on my web site or my blog, I would dutifully embed the color profile that I had been using for editing into the files. I would put them on the web assuming that everybody’s computer would see the profile and adjust the colors accordingly. In reality the vast majority of visitor’s computers were ignoring the embedded profile and falling back to sRGB as a least common denominator thing.

This was OK as long as I was using sRGB as my color space. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, I decided to get crazy and start using AdobeRGB during editing. When visitor’s view my images now and the browser ignores the embedded AdobeRGB, weird color shifts often appear as things are seen through the sRGB lens.

Here is a link to a site that demonstrates the situation. The guy that published it kind of goes ballistic over the issue, but it’s a very good demonstration anyway:

I have downloaded the Apple Safari web browser for Windows that is mentioned in the article. It is color managed and it indeed handles images as they should be handled. Apple stuff has always been better than Windows for graphics type applications.

Of course because of the incredible market dominance of Internet Explorer, it would be wise, as this guy Ballard suggests, to always convert images to sRGB before posting to the web. Embedding a profile is optional. It does waste space if everyone is going to default to sRGB anyway, but I personally include the profile just in case there are some nuts out there using color managed browsers and they default to some other profile. So far I have not been that tight on space.

So there you have it. Certainly there is a lot more to color management than what I have presented. That’s what makes it such a pain in the butt to deal with. You have to watch it all the time and any time you change a device in the chain, you have to be sure it plays well with the other kids.



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3 Responses to “Color Management – IV”

  1. fencer Says:

    I think what I admire most about your prints in this blog are not so much the colors but the darkness, and how you get a rembrandt kind of feel for the colored shapes emerging from that… It helps, I guess, that often you’ve got the silvery white quality of the water to set off the image.


  2. forestrat Says:

    Thanks, fencer. I have been into the darkness thing lately – well actually more of the juxtaposition of light and dark. Water scenes, especially those down in the shade of the woods, lend themselves to this kind of thing. I’m interested to see what I can do this winter when there is snow and ice all around.


  3. Bernie Kasper Says:

    You ought to write a newsletter Mark, this was a very informative and well thought out piece, some very useful info in here.

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