Color Profiles for the Masses

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Software developers are seeking to demystify the arcane science of color management by introducing inexpensive products that make it easy to create your own color-device profiles. These profiles, designed for use with Apple ColorSync and other color-management systems, provide information about the color-reproduction characteristics of specific monitors, scanners, and printers.

Monaco Systems (978/749-9944, ) has introduced MonacoEZcolor, a $299 profiling package that's also bundled with Epson's expression flat-bed scanner as MonacoProfiler Lite. To create a scanner profile, you simply scan a standard IT8 target; the program analyzes the scanned color values and compares them with the known values in the target to determine the scanner's color characteristics.

Creating a printer profile is a little more complicated: you print a page from the program that includes a set of color swatches in the upper half, then you attach the same IT8 target to the bottom half and scan the page. You can profile monitors by adjusting a series of on-screen images; the program also accepts data from Monaco's $199 MonacoSensor, a hardware device that measures the actual colors that the monitor produces.

Color Solutions (760/436-6593, ) has introduced ColorBlind Prove-It, a monitor-profiling package for local area networks. In addition to creating monitor profiles, you can use the program to view the color characteristics of any monitor on the network. A software-only version will sell for less than $50; a version with a monitor sensor will set you back $299. Color Solutions also offers a $999 package called ColorBlind Matchbox that combines a colorimeter with color-profiling software for scanners, monitors, and printers.

ProfileEditor from Color Partnership (800/554-8688, ) is a $245 program that lets you create profiles for printers and other output devices by visually comparing a printed sample image with one displayed on a calibrated monitor. You adjust the on-screen display to match the print, and the program generates a profile.

Hexachrome Help It's not a color-management product, but Pantone's (888/726-8663, ) new $129 HexVector plug-in for Adobe Illustrator makes it easier to match spot colors by giving Illustrator users access to the company's Hexachrome system. Macromedia FreeHand already offers built-in Hexachrome support.

In any print job there are two ways to specify a spot color: you can simulate it using CMYK process colors, or produce an extra plate for the spot-color ink. The former makes it difficult to get an exact color match, but the latter is typically more expensive and cumbersome. Pantone says that Hexachrome, which uses six process colors rather than the standard four, can accurately reproduce 95 percent of Pantone Matching System colors, compared with about 50 percent in CMYK.

Certification Setting up a reliable color-management system, especially in a high-volume production environment, can still be a challenge. The Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (800/910-4283, ), a nonprofit trade group, has teamed with Apple Computer to provide a certification program for color-management specialists.

To be certified, printing companies and service bureaus must pay a fee and pass a one-day audit in which they show proficiency in using a ColorSync-based color-management system. The foundation says certified companies will be well positioned to help customers by educating them about color management and providing customized device profiles.

June 1999 page: 30

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