February 1, 2017

A Closer Look at Version 4.4 Features – Color Management

unsharpened pencils

We announced the availability of V4.4, a release loaded with some great new features and capabilities, about a month ago. Over the next couple of months we’re going to take a closer look at specific features to better understand what the benefits are, how they work, and in some cases, what might be coming in the next release.

Our starting point in this series is color management. Last month’s press release included a single statement on color management – “Color matching can be automated with new color management capabilities that allow users to map color spaces during conversions using ICC profiles.” However, there’s a lot more to this straightforward sentence.
What is an ICC profile?

Let’s start with a simple definition. Wikipedia tells us that “…color management is the controlled conversion between the color representations of various devices, such as image scanners, digital cameras, monitors, TV screens, film printers, computer printers, offset presses, and corresponding media.” By understanding and characterizing the color gamut of each input and output device used to produce print, the final results are predictable and are as accurate as possible.

The ICC (International Color Consortium) has defined a specific set of data and a format so that profiles can be developed for various devices, thus standardizing the mapping of color from an application to an output device, factoring in numerous variables such as color space, paper, originating applications and more.

Device manufacturers and application providers have relied on ICC profiles for a number of years, and is becoming more important for transactional documents. With the rapid adoption of production color technology, providers need to ensure that they’re taking advantage of the full capabilities of their color devices, that they’ve factored in differences in appearance caused by the selected paper, and are producing a color document that is essentially accurate and true to the original intent.

Introducing ICC Color Management Features!

With Version 4.4, the PRO Transform suite of products now fully support color management capabilities. What that means to a user depends on the type of input file being converted, and the type of output file being created.

Default color profiles can be assigned to the input file. ICC profiles embedded or attached to images in the input file are identified and tracked.
In order to get output printed correctly, when the resulting file is sent to the printer or press, the correct ICC profile supplied by all press vendors, needs to be associated with the print job. That way the printer will correctly map from the input color space (based on the embedded ICC profile) to the output device so that the unique characteristics of that device, substrate and inks are understood and accommodated.

If the output format is one that does not natively support ICC Profiles (i.e. IJPDS), then the PRO Transform software has built in technology to apply ICC Profiles to the document while it is being converted. In order to do this properly, the proper ICC Profile for the output press/substrate/ink combination needs to be provided to the transform task. That way our customers can be assured of color consistency in their output documents.

Getting a device ICC Profile that is tuned to the substrate and inks being used may involve a process of calibration. Proper calibration allows you to create ICC Profiles that ensure you the following benefits:

• Consistent color - print matches the original

• Reduced time to obtain good color results

• Images look the same on different printers and presses

• Much better chance of reproducing accurate colors in the future (better archival properties)

There’s a lot of science under the hood when working with ICC profiles, but the best thing about this capability is that it’s easy to implement and manage. All you need to do is to specify the names of desired profiles, and indicate whether or not they should be embedded in the PDF via your configuration settings.

Many good color management resources are available online and from your printer and press vendors, or you can contact us for more information about color management and other features in version 4.4.