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Color Management in Macromedia FreeHand 10: Capable but Quirky

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If your workflow is to design in RGB and convert to CMYK at output time, FreeHand's color management can serve you well. Likewise, if you do all your work in final CMYK, FreeHand can provide you with good on-screen previews, and pass the CMYK values unchanged to output. This chapter tries to steer you clear of the shoals of confusion and guide you to the safe harbor of well-functioning color management.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Capable but Quirky

Macromedia must have a whole bunch of customers with an interesting variety of legacy needs, because Macromedia FreeHand doesn't have just one color management system. Exactly how many it has depends on your point of view, but we'll concentrate on the ones that use ICC profiles, with a brief overview of the others—if only so that you can wonder, as we do, why they're even there.

FreeHand has many strengths, but we can't count color management as being among them. The main limitation of FreeHand's color management is that it only performs conversions on output, and it only supports one CMYK source profile at a time.

FreeHand honors embedded profiles in imported RGB images, and lets you assign profiles to imported untagged RGB images, but both imported and native CMYK elements are always assumed to be output CMYK. If your workflow is to design in RGB and convert to CMYK at output time, FreeHand's color management can serve you well. Likewise, if you do all your work in final CMYK, FreeHand can provide you with good on-screen previews, and pass the CMYK values unchanged to output.

For any other workflow, all bets are off. And even in these two simple workflows, FreeHand offers plenty of opportunities for mistakes—so in this chapter, we'll try to steer you clear of the shoals of confusion and guide you to the safe harbor of well-functioning color management.

FreeHand's Color Preferences

The Preferences dialog has a series of categories on the left-hand side. When you select Colors, a dialog box appears that looks like the one in Figure 13-1.

Figure 13-1 Figure 13-1 FreeHand Color Settings dialog box

Color Management Types

On Windows systems, the dialog box offers four possibilities: None, Adjust Display Colors, Color Tables, and Kodak Digital Science. Mac OS offers the same four and adds is a fifth option, Apple ColorSync (see Figure 13-2) We strongly recommend that you ignore the first three options and choose either Kodak Digital Science or Apple ColorSync, which offer identical options and functionality in FreeHand But for those who must know, here are the ramifications of the first three options.

Figure 13-2Figure 13-2 Color management types

None. This option offers no user control for either output conversions or on-screen previews. The conversion from CMYK to RGB for either display or for RGB output devices is controlled by a built-in and non-modifiable table, as is the conversion from RGB to CMYK output triggered by the "Convert RGB Colors to Process" option in FreeHand's print dialog (discussed later). Needless to say, we don't recommend this type of color management.

Adjust Display Colors. We have two problems with this option—one philosophical, one practical. It lets you change the behavior of your monitor, for FreeHand only, in an attempt to match printed output—the approach that Bruce calls "messing up your monitor to match the print" (though he usually uses a stronger term than "messing").

The philosophical objection is that it negates one of the major strengths of color management. Back in Chapter 3 we pointed out that color management reduces the number of device-to-device links from n-m to n+m. This approach goes back to the n-m method, because you need to mess up your monitor in a different way each time you change output processes.

The practical objection is that it simply doesn't work very well. Even when we adjust the display to match printed versions of the swatches, we find that the swatch colors are just about the only things that match between display and print—everything else is off, sometimes a long way off. And to add insult to injury, this method only compensates for native FreeHand elements—imported images preview inaccurately.

Color Tables. This type of color management is pointless. It depends on Kodak Digital Science or Apple ColorSync, and builds Color Tables based on existing ICC profiles. Since you have to base the tables on ICC profiles anyway, you might as well just learn to use ICC color management. We see no advantage to this method, and would be glad to see it removed from FreeHand.

Kodak Digital Science and Apple ColorSync

Referring back to Figure 13-1, we need to cover two checkboxes before getting to the Setup dialog, the meat and potatoes of this course.

  • Color manage spot colors lets you color manage just their on-screen preview. You don't manage their CMYK values for output, because they're hardwired based on FreeHand's built-in Pantone tables. (In FreeHand 10, these are the older pre-May 2000 tables.) See "Named Colors" in Chapter 18, Building Color-Managed Workflows.

  • Rebuild Color Tables uses the settings in Setup to build color tables for use with the Color Tables type of color management previously mentioned, but since we told you not to use this feature, let's move on to the contents of the Setup button.

The Color Management Setup dialog box offers seven options (see Figure 13-3). FreeHand isn't particularly assiduous in looking for profiles—on Mac OS X, it only looks in the /Library/ColorSync/Profiles folder. On other platforms, it ignores both subdirectories and aliases in the usual directories for profiles—so it doesn't, for example, find display profiles stored in the Displays subfolder in the Mac OS 9 ColorSync Profiles folder.

Figure 13-3 Figure 13-3 Color Management Setup dialog box

Monitor. This is where you select your current display profile—FreeHand doesn't get this information automatically from ICM or ColorSync.

Monitor simulates. The options offered are None, Composite printer, and Separations printer. "None" literally means do no display compensation. If you use this option, neither embedded profiles nor assumed profiles get used for on-screen display, though they may be used for output.

If you use either of the other options, RGB images are displayed by converting from their embedded profile or the "Default RGB image source" profile to the Composite or Separations printer profile, (depending on which one you choose in the Monitor simulates pop-up), then to the display profile.

CMYK images, however, are always converted for display using the Separations printer profile as source, even if Monitor simulates is set to "Composite printer." If you set Monitor simulates to "None," FreeHand uses its built-in unmodifiable table as the source for display conversion of CMYK instead.

Separations printer. This setting lets you choose a CMYK profile, which becomes the assumed source profile for all CMYK content, including imported images, even if they have an embedded profile—FreeHand simply ignores embedded profiles in imported CMYK. As the CMYK source profile, it affects on-screen preview of CMYK native elements and placed objects. If you print from FreeHand to an RGB device, the profile you select here is used as the source profile for all CMYK content. The only CMYK-to-CMYK conversion FreeHand performs is to a composite CMYK printer when "Composite simulates separations" is turned on—again, the Separations printer profile is used as the source.

Intent. This pop-up lets you specify a rendering intent for all conversions. It affects RGB-to-CMYK conversions at print time, and also affects RGB-to-RGB and CMYK-to-RGB conversions when the Composite printer is an RGB printer (and the output device is non-PostScript). This is the only rendering intent control FreeHand offers.

Composite simulates separations. This checkbox only affects the output, not the on-screen preview. It makes the composite device simulate the separation printer by converting all non-CMYK content to Separations printer CMYK, assigning the Separations printer CMYK profile to all CMYK content, then converting the resulting Separations printer CMYK to the composite printer space.

All the conversions use the rendering intent you specify under intent, so it's impossible to use perceptual or relative colorimetric rendering to go from the source profiles to Separation printer CMYK, then absolute colorimetric rendering to go from Separation printer CMYK to the Composite printer space. If you want the composite printer to produce a reasonable simulation of the final separations, we recommend that you set the Intent to Relative Colorimetric.

Composite printer. Here you may select an RGB or CMYK profile for a composite printer. If you select an RGB profile, the "Convert RGB to process" check box in the FreeHand print dialog is ignored, though it isn't grayed out. But selecting an RGB profile here is quite dicey when it comes to printing—see "Printing," later in this chapter, for more information.

To select a profile here, you must check the "Composite simulates separations" checkbox previously described. There's no logical reason for this; that's just the way it is. You can temporarily check the box to change the profile, and then uncheck it to ensure separation simulation does not occur. Even though the selected profile is grayed out when this box is unchecked, it's still set as the Composite printer profile.

Default RGB image source. The profile selected here is automatically assigned to untagged imported RGB images rather than simply acting as the assumed profile. We make this distinction because images imported while profile "A" is selected will retain profile "A" as their source if you subsequently change the default RGB image source to profile "B." Only subsequently placed images will use profile "B." If you choose "None," the display profile, set in the Monitor pop-up menu, is assigned as the source.

The profiles automatically assigned to imported RGB images are referenced in the saved FreeHand document, but not embedded. If you open the file on another workstation that doesn't have the profiles installed, you'll get a cryptic warning dialog listing the missing profiles when you open the document (see Figure 13-4). The dialog says that the default RGB image source will be used instead—that means whichever default RGB image source profile is selected in Preferences at the time the document is opened.

Figure 13-4 Figure 13-4 Missing Image Sources

If you get this warning dialog, the prudent thing to do is make a note of the missing profiles, click the Cancel button, then go find the missing profiles and install them. Upon relaunching FreeHand and reopening the document, the warning will no longer appear.

Note that this setting applies only to imported graphics. Native RGB elements are always treated as untagged in FreeHand, assuming the display profile as their source profile. This is annoying because the same native elements on two different workstations have different RGB source profiles assumed, and will print differently. To avoid major differences when printing native elements, you need to calibrate all monitors to the same standard. Even then, there's typically enough variation from display to display that you'll still get minor differences.

Imported images will display and print the same from multiple workstations, but native elements probably won't. It's a major gotcha and oversight by Macromedia.

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