Color management is a complicated task, and you shouldn't expect an easy solution to getting predictable color output on your monitor or printer. Yet this is the promise of Pantone ColorReady, a set of plug-ins for matching colors in QuarkXPress, Macromedia FreeHand, and Adobe Illustrator. The $139 package enables consistent reproduction of spot and process colors, but its clumsy approach may prove daunting.
ColorReady employs standard ColorSync device profiles along with Pantone Named Color Profiles to identify the color-reproduction characteristics of various monitors and printers. The ColorSync profiles handle process colors, and the Pantone profiles manage Pantone spot colors.
The software, consisting of a QuarkXTension, a FreeHand Xtra, and an Illustrator plug-in, appears in each host program as a small tool bar with three icons. First, you click on the Color Palette icon to select the colors you want to match. Next, click on the Setup icon to choose your monitor, a comping devicesuch as an ink-jet printerand a final output device. The third icon opens a Color Information window, which simulates how the color will look on each device. ColorReady assumes you're using a calibrated monitor.
Once you've selected a color, you can modify it or create a new color from scratch. You save the colors in a ColorReady palette and then export them back to the host program. You can save ColorReady palettes in one host program, and then open them in another to ensure that colors print consistently in each.
It sounds easy, but ColorReady requires some extra steps that complicate the process. In QuarkXPress, you must set up your color-management profiles twicein the host software and in ColorReady. The program's three windows clutter the display and make for clumsy operation as you jump from one to another.
All the tools are here, but a clear, intuitive approach is not. For example, the icons in the main tool bar don't follow the same sequence as the ColorReady workflow. However, ColorReady makes great use of Apple Guide to walk you through the program.
ColorReady is RAM-hungry. Pantone sets the minimum system requirement at 32MB, but we had to allocate 50MB to the host software to get acceptable performance. We also found a conflict between the FreeHand Xtra and Extensis VectorTools: the Pantone software sometimes failed to load unless we removed the Extensis plug-in.
If you can wade through ColorReady's myriad palettes, finer adjustments, and extra steps, it will produce consistent and predictable color. But some users may balk at the program's byzantine design.
RATING: PROS: Affordable approach to color management. CONS: Clumsy interface; RAM-hungry. COMPANY: Pantone (201/935-5500, http://www.pantone.com ). LIST PRICE: $139.
March 1999 page: 59