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Configuring Color Management – Part 1

In the past, configuring color management seemed to require a PhD in spectrophotometry. It’s much easier now in general, but especially if you use InDesign as part of the Creative Suite.

Bridge Color Management Sets

We’ve talked about Adobe Bridge a couple of times now primarily in the context of asset manager. It does much more, as I intimated, and Adobe’s intent is that Bridge become the central hub of
your Creative Suite experience—indeed, of your entire workflow. Toward that end, color management across all individual CS3 version applications is managed inside Bridge rather than within InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator, which keeps color display results almost identical between the individual applications.
On the Edit menu in Bridge, you’ll find Creative Suite Color Settings, which opens an extremely simplified interface to apply full sets of ICC profiles and color management options to all CS3 applications simultaneously In the Suite Color Settings dialog, click on one of the four friendly, plain language sets, and then click Apply. Behind the scenes, all applications will then be synchronized to use the following management settings.

  • Monitor Color: Used for onscreen and video projects without CMYK Colors.
  • North America General Purpose 2: Large RGB and CMYK gamut profiles compatible with (but not optimized for) typical print output devices in North America. Will not warm when profiles do not match.
  • North America Prespress 2: Similar to North America General Purpose 2 except that profile mismatches will generate warnings, it uses a very large RGB gamut profile, and CMYK colors in linked assets will be preserved to the exclusion of separate profiles assigned to the assets.
  • North America Web/Internet: Uses a large gamut RGB profile purportedly representative of the color values available to the upper average of all monitors in use to access the web. Any RGB colors will be converted from other profiles to the one defined as this set’s RGB Working Space.

The four sets shown in the Suite Color Settings dialog are the most common for those who can’t or won’t profile their devices to obtain specific ICC profiles. Just remember that there is no generic or one size fits all in color management. There’s no generic language to unite the delegates of the UN Security Council. The only way their discussion or color management works is if interpreters listen to input in native languages and then convert verbatim into the next delegate’s or device’s native language.

If you must have something that is a generic settings in a process that has no definition of the word, then use one of the four sets above – whichever comes closest to describing what you’re doing in InDesign and its brethren. And then hope really hard that the output comes close to the colors you envisioned.

Customizing Color Management

Monitor Color, North America General Purpose 2, North America Prepress 2, North America Web/Internet, and all the other color management sets are just that—sets; each one is a group of
preconfigured options activated all at once. Except for Monitor Color, which picks up your monitor profile from ColorSync or ICM, all the other presets are based on wide gamut profiles that may or may not cause color shifts with specific devices. They don’t take into account the color capture and rendering characteristics of the specific devices that created imagery or those that will put the
imagery on paper. You’ll want to change that fact, personalizing color management to the unique languages and dialects of your equipment.
Although you should be able to customize Creative Suite synchronized color management settings within Bridge, Adobe didn’t get around to building that in. Instead, you have to take a circuitous route. Back in InDesign, go to Edit > Color Settings. You’ll be presented with a rather intimidating dialog , but don’t let it scare you.


This is the list of saved color settings. The defaults examined above appear on this list, as do the expanded list installed with Creative Suite or a CS3 application and any settings you’ve configured and saved. On the right of the dialog is a Save button. If you manually configure any of the options discussed below, save a set for easy access later. Saving a set also writes the settings to a file on your hard drive so it can be backed up and even shared with other users or clients. If you’ve received a set of color settings from someone else and it doesn’t appear in the list, use the Load button to browse for it.

Advanced Mode

Check the Advanced Mode check box to toggle display of the Conversion Options section at the bottom of the dialog.

Working Spaces

Between Working Spaces and rendering Intent is the crux of color management and, assuming your profiles are well made, the real determination of the quality of your color output. A working space is the color profile used to define the document. In a new document, with natively drawn objects, the working space becomes the source profile as a scanner’s ICC becomes the source profile for scanned imagery. Any object in the profile not carrying its own separate profile will be considered created within the working space profile and thus within that color gamut or range of possible colors.

When a document is converted from RGB to CMYK, all the colors that fall in the black beyond U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2 have to be mapped to values that lie within it. Naturally, you lose many shades of color—pure blue, for one, pure red and green for others. How those colors go from outside to in is determined by the rendering intent, which we’ll discuss below. In general, you want to work within the largest RGB color gamut possible. The larger the gamut, the more shades and hues of color you have in your panel. While CMYK is a comparatively tiny gamut, and all printed output will be converted to CMYK (except spot colors, of course), you want to create using the most colors possible so that, when conversion does occur, the CMS can work to give you the smoothest possible tonal conversions. AdobeRGB (1998) is (almost) the largest RGB, so it’s a great working space to choose. ProPhoto RGB is the largest possible gamut, with so many colors that the human eye can’t interpret them all. Use ProPhoto RGB in individual image files for long-term archival, but it’s too large to work with in InDesign. In general, stick with AdobeRGB (1998) for your RGB working space. If you’re designing solely for digital distribution via Web or PDF, though, use sRGB, which limits colors to those Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard determined as the high
average capability of monitors surfing the Web.

Your CMYK working space should be the profile generated for the output device you’ll use, and on the substrate you intend to use. If you don’t have access to that or haven’t determined the output device or paper for your job—or you’re just designing something your client will arrange to be printed—use U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2. As CMYK gamuts go, it’s roomy and yet still close to the actual output gamut of many web presses. If you know this job is going to a sheetfed press, use the U.S. Sheetfed Coated v2 or U.S. Sheetfed Uncoated v2 profile for coated or uncoated paper stock, respectively. In Figure 10.4 you can see the gamuts of all three.

  • The filename of the ICC profile in Finder or Explorer is not necessarily the name that appears inside an application’s profile list. Instead, there’s a value inside the ICC file called Internal Name. Look through the Working Spaces list for something similar to the file name, or open the ICC/ICM file in a plain text editor and look for its name near the top.
  • Could the file have been corrupted? If it was emailed, ask the sender to mail it again, but this time inside a ZIP archive.

Color Management Policies

Policies are decisions you make, and directions you give to InDesign, about what to do in two situations: first, when opening InDesign documents created without embedded working space profiles such as when color management was turned off, and second, when placing images with and without their own profiles. Placed images can have their own profiles, which may differ from the working space profiles, and InDesign needs to know what you’d like done when this happens. You can specify different actions to take for RGB and CMYK and tell InDesign to prompt you with a dialog box about mismatches—checking either or both of the Profile Mismatches options—or to handle differences between image profile and document profile automatically according to your policy options by leaving the Profile Mismatches boxes unchecked. If an image doesn’t have a profile at all, the Missing Profiles option tells InDesign to ask you about it or not. Policy options include the following:

Preserve Embedded Profiles Honor profiles embedded in placed images (and InDesign documents). InDesign will manage the rest of the document and other images according to the
working spaces, but it will not alter the appearance of colors or profiles in images carrying their own profiles even if it must alter the CMYK numbers in order to preserve appearance. PDF,
being CMS and ICC aware, will also preserve embedded profiles when created via PDF export from InDesign. With this option selected, color conversion will be left to somewhere down the production line—usually the RIP. Because this option values appearance over CMYK numbers, it can sometimes turn pure black into rich black. Check your separations in Separations Preview (see later in this chapter) or by printing seps.
Convert to Working Space Colors in the placed image will convert into the working space defined above (either RGB or CMYK), using CMS to translate with the best possible fidelity as determined by the rendering intent chosen in Conversion Options. This will force all colors to use the working space profile.
Preserve Numbers (Ignore Linked Profiles) A CMYK only option, assigned profiles in the placed image will be ignored in favor of using the CMYK numbers. Such images will then be managed onscreen by the current CMYK working space profile but printed using only their CMYK numbers. Why would you choose Preserve Numbers (Ignore Linked Profiles)? If you have a reasonable certainty that all placed images came from the same CMYK profile—for instance, you did all the conversions from RGB in Photoshop, or they were scanned into CMYK by the same drum scanner, you’d choose Preserve Numbers. You might also want to use this if you have bad results with Preserve Embedded Profile.

You would not choose Preserve Numbers (Ignore Linked Profiles) if your CMYK images came to you from a variety of sources and they have embedded profiles. In that case, who knows where the CMYK numbers are? They could be completely off from where they should be and held in correct gamut solely by their embedded profiles.
Off InDesign will not color manage the placed image—in other words: all bets are off


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