Building Your Own Virtual Colour Managed Workflow

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Apple has announced a new website, www.apple.com/pro/color to help designers and print professional who want to understand and integrate color management into their workflow. Thanks to Apple, getting started with virtual color proofing is easier than ever. Virtual color proofing used to require many different hardware and software devices and constant intervention and fine-tuning. Today, digital technology has refined the process.

What You Need to Get Started

At the heart of Apple’s color managed workflow is the Mac OS X  Panther operating system — a prerequisite for accurate virtual color proofing. Mac OS X Panther takes a system-wide and always-on approach to color by integrating ColorSync, based on the International Color Consortium (ICC) standard for color management, into every phase of the workflow: capture, edit and output. This ensures that color accurately translates from one device to another across your entire workflow. You will also need to run your application programs on a Mac G5.

Apple Cinema Displays

There are three models in Apple’s display line. The 20-inch Apple Cinema Display features Apple’s innovative wide screen format, offering a large workspace for design use. Customers working with multipage layouts and video find the 23-inch Apple Cinema HD Display ideal, while the breakthrough 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Display meets the needs of the most demanding professional users. Today’s best LCDs deliver about twice the brightness, sharpness and contrast of a CRT display. They are also flicker-free and resistant to many of the environmental factors that affect the visual performance of CRTs.

Calibrating Your Monitor

The first step in good virtual color proofing is to verify that what you see on your Apple Cinema Display is actually correct. This means that your display must be properly calibrated and profiled to ensure that what you see on the screen matches what you and your clients will see in virtual proof and final output. The Apple website www.apple.com/pro/color, will provide you with a step-by-step sequence. Your Macintosh will automatically query your display for industry-standard information. Based on this data, ColorSync automatically creates and assigns a factory display profile. This means every Mac running Mac OS X 10.3 (or later versions) can display color accurately without any effort on your part.

Advanced Monitor Calibration

For even better color results, consider calibrating and creating a custom profile for your particular display. For the ultimate in color accuracy, consider investing in a hardware device for calibrating and profiling your display such as the MonacoOPTIXxr. The MonacoOPTIX colorimeter calibrates and profiles your display by mimicking how the human eye sees the color on your display. Onscreen help in the software package guides you through the process of calibrating and profiling your display using hardware devices. The software offers predefined settings and automated processes if you don’t want to develop customized settings. Experienced users can create their own custom settings for brightness, white point and contrast using Advanced Mode. Once the profiling kit has calibrated your display and created a custom profile, Mac OS X makes your display’s custom profile accessible throughout your system to all of your applications.

Next you will have to ask your clients to calibrate their displays as well so that they, too, can trust what the color they’re viewing exactly matches your intent.

Embedding a Printer Profile

Once you and your clients can mutually trust what you see on your displays, it’s time to “tag” your image or layout to an output device profile for the printer, proofer or other device. You can acquire this device profile from your commercial printer or call me for a color technician to come on-site and provide this service.

Once this stage has been completed, the Apple website will guide you through the next steps to follow in setting up Photoshop, QuarkXPress and InDesign applications. Now you can easily create a virtual proof by converting the color in the source document or image to reflect the color capabilities specified by the profile of your output device.

Once you’ve established a virtual color proofing workflow to share your projects with your clients, you should set yourself up to work with commercial print providers to complete the all-digital workflow.

Connecting With 3rd Party Virtual Color Proofing Solutions

The world’s largest print service providers are leading the trend toward virtual color proofing. They are taking advantage of Apple Cinema Displays, ColorSync and Mac OS X to deliver software applications and systems that let you reliably evaluate color images and documents online, annotate soft proofs and approve them. Whether you use built-in Mac OS X applications such as Preview, or new applications from print service providers, accurate virtual color proofing is easier, more reliable and more accessible than ever. Once again Apple’s new website illustrates proprietary software that is being offered by ShareStream, ICS Remote Director and Matchprint Virtual Proofing System to help to complete the workflow.

Benefits of Virtual Color Proofing

Apple presents us with a strong presentation in the area of virtual color proofing using their Mac OS X Panther, a dual-processor Power Mac G5 and an Apple Cinema Display. The ultimate decision will be up to you, but I would highly recommend you looking at Apple’s new website to help you explore these new opportunities.

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