In response to a post by Jason Santa Maria http://www.jasonsantamaria.com/archive/2007/12/12/gamma_gamma_hey.php
Wow – so many different opinions on this topic. Reading some of the above responses I realize more and more just how important this topic is to the design community. Our agency is completely color managed and I teach this stuff for a living for X-rite, the Owner of Pantone and the i1 Spectrophotometer and Colorimeter. Here is my take on all of it. Before we begin – color is and will always be subjected to the individual observer and your viewing conditions – geeky I know, but it had to be said.
1. All devices produce color diferently (we color geek types call it ‘device dependent color’), even the same device from the same manufacturer next to each other will look slightly different. This is hell.
All applications treat color differently – Mac OS X apps built using Aqua, i.e Mail, Preview, Safari, and iPhoto all use the default display profile and recognize embedded profiles. Windows applications like Picture Viewer and Outlook don’t use a color management engine. Adobe Applications all have a common color architecture and if you synch working spaces will all look the same – but only in the application. IE 7 has an color management setting however the user has to enable it, and the current release of Firefox does not include a color engine. So no matter what, if you plan to implement a color managed workflow your images will look right in Safari but wrong in everything else. (I am not sure about Opera). Finally, if your display is not calibrated and profiled you will have even more trouble – so no matter what it’s best to at least have a calibrated and profiled display. The questions then becomes one of application implementation.
2. Color measuring your display is crucial if you want consistent appearance. If you do not, you’re experimenting with color rather than managing it. All of our displays (5 Mac – 2 Win) are all calibrated with a sprectrophotometer to the same settings – D65 (6500 Degrees Kelvin), Gamma 2.2, and 130 cd/m2 Luminance. When we share files they all appear similar (taken into consideration individual viewing conditions) – regardless of platform. We run Mac OS 10.4 (Design) and Windows XP (Web Production). We all share the same color settings file (.CSF) in our Adobe Apps. sRGB is the Working Space for Web work and Adobe RGB for Print. When a designer prepares an image for the web we like most “save for web” via image ready and embed the icc profile when we really need to match colors and don’t embed when it’s not as crucial. We then brief the client on real world expectations based on Browser implementations and uncalibrated displays.
3. When we embed sRGB it is only is useful for Safari (by default) since Safari has color management enabled by default. It does not help us with Firefox, unless you’re running Firefox 3 Alpha 7 and you run gfx.color_management.enabled to true (via about:config) * How lame is this? Very Lame Indeed!
Conclusions and thoughts:
The idea of ICC (International Color Consortium – http://www.color.org) is still somewhat young in it’s discipline. It was written to be open in terms of implementation, meaning the OS, Applications, and Devices use profiles differently or not at all. This makes it a nightmare for everyone. Apple at least has taken a huge step forward with Colorsync and Aqua and Windows Vista has a new color management system called WCS (Windows Color System) but is has been slow to implement fully. This is the current state of affairs with this stuff. If you want any control you have to give up some and live within the limitations of this imperfect discipline. I would rather we all follow an imperfect standard rather than try to invent a new one. It really comes down to setting expectations within your devices and with the client.
We have color issues – but they are minor – most of the time we are spot on. We are Pro-ICC and I recommend all designers and photographers follow. If you decide to go this route you should do the following:
1. Calibrate your display to a standard, i.e D65, G 2.2, Luminance 120 cd/m2 – recalibrate at least once a quarter.
2. Use sRGB as a working space (for the web) and make sure all your applications do this same (although this can be challenge for some applications).
3. When you save your images embed sRGB – in the short term they wont look right in IE 7 and Firefox but there will come a time soon when all of the major browsers will have color management turned on as the default, like Safari.
Reading Real World Color Management by Peachpit Press is great but I fear too much for most designer. Take a seminar. Xrite and I will be launching a seminar series in March and we will discuss many of these issues. Check out http://www.xrite.com or contact me directly at http://www.encompus.com