Print Publishing Secrets

Print professionals rely on ColorSync for accurate color, but that doesn't mean we like its complexity. Color-management menus crammed with head-scratching options like Generic P22 1.8 Gamma Monitor and Euroscale Uncoated are hardly user friendly. Although color management may never be easy, I can help you weed out unnecessary profiles and cut through the clutter.

ColorSync Basics

ColorSync is the part of the Mac's system software that addresses the problem of color mismatches between different monitors, scanners, digital cameras, and printers. For example, when you send the same set of RGB values to several monitors, each one displays somewhat different colors. (If you've ever watched a bank of televisions, you've seen this phenomenon--multiple monitors receiving the same signal but producing different colors in response to it.)

To compensate for differences between devices and make colors match, you have to send the appropriate RGB or CMYK values to each device. That's what ColorSync does--it changes these numbers in a file as it goes from one device to another.

Profiles are data files that tell ColorSync what numbers each device needs to reproduce a given color. One good rule of thumb is that you don't need profiles describing devices you don't own or use.

Profile Tracking

To begin the cleanup, go to your System Folder, open the ColorSync Profiles folder, and set it to List view. If your setup is typical, you could have more than 100 unnecessary profiles in the folder. Start by deleting recognizably named profiles that you don't need.

Don't own an Apple Color StyleWriter? Then you can safely drag to the Trash not only Apple Color SW Pro and Apple Color SW Pro SN, but also files such as Color SW 1500 Pattern, Color SW 1500 Scatter, Color SW 2000 Series Pattern, and so on--all the way up to Color SW 2500 Scatter Best 2. Repeat the process with all other profiles for devices you don't own or use.

Don't forget to look inside the Display Profiles folder nested in the ColorSync Profiles folder. If you don't own a PowerBook 540C, for example, you can get rid of PowerBook 540C Standard. Ditto for all the profiles for monitors you don't use, with a couple of exceptions. Don't delete Default Display Profile or Display Profile 256--ColorSync needs these. (And don't assume you're missing something crucial if these items aren't in the Display Profiles folder. If you haven't calibrated your monitor using ColorSync, these profiles won't exist.) And if you find an alias in the Display Profiles folder, don't delete it, either--the Monitors control panel uses these aliases.

If you're not sure whether you'll need a certain profile in the future, make a folder called Unused Profiles, which you can put anywhere outside the ColorSync Profiles folder.

What's in a Name?

It's not always easy to tell which profiles you need. One complicating factor is that profiles have two names. The external names, or file names, are the ones you see in the Finder when you open the ColorSync Profiles folder. The internal names, or descriptions, are the ones that appear in the ColorSync control panel and in the menus of applications such as Adobe Photoshop.

Apple-supplied profiles, such as Apple 13" RGB Standard or Apple Multiple Scan 20 - D50, use the same name in both cases, but many profiles from other sources do not, and sometimes the external and internal names are very different indeed. For example, it's not obvious that the profile that appears on menus as Epson Stylus Photo 1270 Premium Glossy Photo Paper is the profile that shows up in the ColorSync Profiles folder as SP1270 RC. Fortunately, ColorSync 3.X provides an easy way to discover which external profile corresponds to which menu entry.

The ColorSync Secret Decoder Ring

One little-known feature of the ColorSync 3.X control panel is its ability to reveal the file name of a profile when it differs from the internal name. To see this feature in action, open the ColorSync control panel, click on the Profiles tab, and choose Default Profiles For Documents from the top menu in the dialog box. Four menus appear: Default RGB, CMYK Default, Grayscale Default, and Lab Profile.

RGB Profiles &nbsp Click on the Default RGB menu to view RGB profiles on your system. When you hold your cursor over a profile whose file name differs from its internal name, a help balloon appears that reads, "Note: The file name of this profile is . . ." This reveals, for example, that the profile that creates the Kodak XLS 8300 Printer menu entry is actually xls830a7.pf, and that the one that creates the Generic EBU 1.8 Gamma Monitor entry is bug18a7.pf. If you don't own or use these devices, you can find xls830a7.pf and ebug18a7.pf, and then discard them.

CMYK Profiles &nbsp Repeat the help-balloon process for the CMYK menu. Here you may want to be slightly less ruthless: I recommend holding on to profiles for industry-standard proofing systems such as Imation Matchprint or Fuji ColorArt, because even if you don't own them, you may wind up delivering a job to a service provider that does. But unless you have, say, a QMS ColorScript 100 Model 30I, there's no point in keeping qms1030i.pf. Even if your service provider or print shop uses one for comping or proofing, it will almost certainly have tweaked the profile to its own standards. (Don't bother deleting Generic CMYK, Generic RGB, Generic Lab, or Generic XYZ--the ColorSync extension generates these profiles, and if you delete them, they will just reappear when you restart your Mac.)

Gray-Scale and Lab Profiles &nbsp You probably won't have unmanageable numbers of these profiles, but you may well have duplicates, so take some time and weed them out. When you've finished, you'll have much shorter and more-relevant profile menus, both in ColorSync itself and in applications that use it.

Adobe Recommendations

Adobe Photoshop 6 and Illustrator 9 offer another handy trick for simplifying color management. You can determine which profiles appear in the programs' Color Settings dialog boxes when the Advanced option is not selected.

To limit these profiles, go to System Folder: Application Support: Adobe: Color: Profiles: Recommended. Inside the Recommended folder, you'll see a list of eleven profiles. If you're a typical print publisher in the United States, you probably have little use for Apple RGB (it's based on the Apple 13-inch monitor), or for the Euroscale and JapanStandard CMYK profiles. Put them in an Unused Profiles folder so you'll still have them if you ever need them.

If you want to use custom profiles with Photoshop or Illustrator, you can move those into the Recommended folder so they will always show up in Color Settings. Although these profiles are located in a folder for Adobe applications, other applications can access them as well. (The Photoshop and Illustrator installers automatically put an alias of the Recommended folder inside the ColorSync Profiles folder, making the profiles available to any application that uses ColorSync.)

Making It Manageable

The many user-interface and functionality differences between applications still present plenty of opportunities for color-management confusion. And as print publishing applications migrate to Mac OS X, there will likely be new color-management wrinkles to smooth. But in the meantime, if you rid yourself of the raft of useless profiles that come with application installations and OS upgrades, you'll have taken an important step toward simplifying color management.

Contributing Editor BRUCE FRASER is a self-confessed color geek and a coauthor of Real World Photoshop 6 (Peachpit Press, 2001). You can reach him at bruce@pixelboyz.com.

Control ColorSync: The ColorSync control panel tells you the file name of a profile when it differs from the internal, descriptive name; this helps you identify unnecessary profiles that clutter your system.
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