What is color management?

In a traditional photo-to-print workflow, color has to travel through multiple devices – the camera, the monitor, the design program, and the printer – leaving many opportunities for color to shift. Even when using the best quality devices, color can shift if they don’t speak the same language. Color management ensures each device captures and displays color correctly so photographers, designers, and printers can work quickly and with confidence.

What is ICC color management?

An ICC color-managed workflow uses hardware and software to calibrate and profile input devices (cameras), display devices (monitors), and output devices (printers) so they are optimized to transfer color data. The resulting ICC profile includes data that characterizes the behaviors of the input, display, and output devices in a color workflow to ensure they are all speaking the same color language. ICC color space characteristics are defined and managed by the International Color Consortium.

Why is color management important?

Incorrect color can lead to poor editing decisions for photographers and designers and expensive rework for printers. Even with top-of-the-line equipment, color can go wrong if each device is not calibrated and profiled. Color management ensures that the colors captured by the camera are the same colors that will appear on the monitor for design editing, and the same colors that will print; essentially removing the guesswork from color control.

What makes color management so tricky?

Each device used to capture and create digital images uses slightly different CMYK or RGB formulas to create the same color. Digital cameras, scanners and displays use the additive color model, rely on different gamuts, and vary between manufacturers. Printers can be RGB or CMYK and use a variety of different inks and papers. Applications like Adobe® Photoshop® or InDesign® used to prep images and files must also be set up to handle color management. A color-managed workflow helps all devices speak the same color language so they can share accurate color information. Learn more about the four key steps in setting up a color-managed workflow in our ICC profiling for print and packaging blog.

Would you like to learn more about color management?

From novice to professional, X-Rite offers a range of color management solutions that are easy to set up and offer excellent results even, for those without a lot of color knowledge. We’ve also compiled a wealth of color education and industry knowledge in our Resource Center to help you create and successfully control your own color program. Get in touch if you’d like to speak with a Color Expert about your color workflow, or take our free Color Control Freak eLearning course to learn more about color management.  

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