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Color Profile Basics

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Understanding Generic Profiles

Today, most color devices come with device profiles created by the manufacturer. These are known as generic, or canned, profiles because they represent averaged data from a particular device model as it behaved in the factory. The manufacturer will typically follow the process described in the preceding section and in other lessons in this book to create profiles for its devices.

While generic profiles are convenient, the challenge is that, well, they're generic. Each physical unit of any given make and model of device is going to be slightly different from the others, and environmental factors and age will affect the device's color-reproduction capabilities as well. Generic profiles do not factor in such unique characteristics. In some cases, generic profiles aren't bad, particularly those for some desktop printers that are linear in response (well behaved) or have built-in calibration utilities. Indeed, some printer manufacturers include different profiles for the various types of ink and paper they manufacture. Using these profiles will definitely improve the predictability and accuracy of color reproduction. But for other devices, such as displays, generic profiles are going to have a minimal impact on your results.

Obtaining Generic Profiles

The first way to acquire generic profiles, as just explained, is from device manufacturers. Scanners, displays, and printers typically come with generic profiles that are installed automatically with the device software. In some cases, however, you may need to download the profiles separately. Some vendors make profiles available for download from their Web sites, including profiles for different printer paper and ink combinations.

There are other ways to obtain generic profiles. First, from imaging-software application developers. Most imaging applications include a set of profiles for common working spaces and devices. A good place to start is with Adobe Photoshop, which is likely to be the most common color-management application you will use.

Adobe Photoshop ships with a variety of profiles, including

  • Adobe RGB (1998)
  • Apple RGB
  • ColorMatch RGB
  • U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2
  • U.S. Web Uncoated v2
  • U.S. Sheetfed Coated v2
  • U.S. Sheetfed Uncoated v2
  • Euroscale Coated v2
  • Euroscale Uncoated v2
  • Japan Standard v2

Another way to obtain generic profiles is through profiling services, service bureaus, and printers who have profiled their devices and presses and have made those profiles available on their Web sites. Other services offer a repository of profiles for different offset and digital photo printers. Dry Creek Photo, for example, offers a database of profiles at for digital photo printers around the country—a useful resource if you outsource image printing.

Finally, there's, you guessed it, the Internet. A variety of Internet sites offer profiles, typically a combination of free and for-sale profiles. For example, the Seattle firm Chromix has an area on its Web site ( where you can find and download profiles for a variety of devices, including printing presses.

Installing Generic Profiles

If you decide to use generic profiles to get your color-managed workflow rolling, choose one of the methods described in the preceding section to obtain one or more profiles for devices in your workflow and then perform the following steps to install them:

  1. Download the profile or profiles from the Internet to your Desktop, or if the profiles come as part of an installer, double-click the Installer or Disk Image icon, and the profiles will be installed automatically.
  2. If the profiles are not part of an installer, simply copy or drag them to the Macintosh HD > Library > ColorSync > Profiles directory, as shown in the following image. Installing in this location requires administrator privileges, and the profiles will be available to all users.

    After you complete the installation, use the Color Sync Utility to verify that it installed correctly.

  3. Navigate to Applications > Utilities and double-click the ColorSync Utility to launch it.
  4. Click the Profiles icon.

    The Profiles section of the ColorSync Utility displays profiles grouped by location, class, or space. For this exercise, click the downward-pointing arrow and choose “Group by class.” The ColorSync Utility groups installed profiles by the following classes: Input Profiles, Display Profiles, Output Profiles, Device-Link Profiles, Abstract Profiles, Colorspace Profiles, and Name Profiles.

  5. Click the triangle next to the type of profile you just installed, such as Output Profiles.
  6. Scroll down the list until you find the recently installed profile, and then click on its name to view information about the profile. A navigable 3D color model of the device's gamut is displayed on the right.
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