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Book Review – Real World Color Management: Second Edition by Bruce Fraser, Chris Murphy, and Fred Bunting

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No matter how much thought and preparation a photographer, artist, or designer puts into the color scheme for a project, unless that color is transposed to the correct output, all of the work is for naught. If your results do not meet the expectation, you may as well not waste your time, money, and energy.

The goal of Real World Color Management, the revised second edition, is to ensure that you know everything that you need to know about color management so that whether your final output is print, web, or film, your expectations will be met and you will achieve the color fidelity that you need to get your job done. Real World Color Management Second Edition is 608 pages in length, contains 18 chapters and divided into four parts. I will highlight the breakdown of the four parts

Part I, "Introduction to Color Management," encompasses the first four chapters and it lays the groundwork for the remainder of the book. Here you will explore topics such as what is color? Computers and color, color management, and examine what profiles are. While you don't have to be a color expert to use color management, you do have to have understanding of the fundamentals to understand the problems that color management addresses.

You also must understand the fact that computers know nothing about color except what people tell them. Because computers understand numbers, to get devices to understand what you mean when you say "red" you must learn to communicate to these different electronic devices with kind of numbers that they understand. To do this you will learn about color management and how they relate to device profiles; a file that correlates device color values with corresponding device-independent color values that represent the actual color that people see.

Part II, "Building and Tuning Profiles," explains the fact that color management succeeds or fails based on the accuracy of the profiles that we use to describe the way our color reproduction devices behave. In these next five chapters you will look at real world techniques for creating, evaluating, tuning and maintaining device profiles. You start by learning about measurement, calibration, and process control. Then you learn about building display profiles so that you can see the correct color on your display.

Next you will see how to build input profiles; a profile for an input device such as a digital camera, or scanner, because until you are sure that what is coming in is correct there is no way to really measure what is going out. Then you move on to the output profile which is what is used to calibrate devices like printers, or profiling devices. Next you learn how to evaluate and edit your profiles. By learning to evaluate, you see how far off you really are from the desired output. Getting good profiles requires attention to detail and persistence. Getting a great profile takes even more work.

Part III, "Applications and Workflow," now gets into the fact that color management is only useful if it can be integrated into a working production system. Here the final nine chapters look at color management workflow both from an analytic standpoint and the then from a practical standpoint. You begin with the major principles that govern how you configure your applications from capture through editing to final output. Next you see how the flow works through your operating system and how things are handled there.

Then you will spend several chapters looking at how products like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, CorelDRAW, and QuarkXPress handle the color technology. Next you will learn how to automate process' using scripting to speed up your work, and finally you will pull it all together by building a working color management workflow

Part IV, "Appendices," contains supplementary material that gets to more detail than would be possible if trying to contain them within some a chapter. One item is getting into the down and dirty details of an ICC profile structure. Here you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about building a profile. Then you are provided with workflow template that you can use to model you own workflow around. Finally there is a twenty page glossary of terms that give better understanding to the terms used throughout the book.

Real World Color Management is not for the timid who wants to get better prints without any work or thought. In fact it is subtitled "Industrial Strength Production Techniques." But, if you are willing to spend some time and effort on learning these techniques, it is probably the most thorough, and easy to understand book on color management on the today.

Granted the Real World Color Management is a couple years old, but it still retains the fundamental knowledge that you need to produce high quality profiles. The other thing is that you do not have to read every word and learn every theoretical discussion to get a lot from this book. Getting the basics from part I, learning to calibrate and do print profiles from part II and discovering a workable workflow from part III will fill many needs. The nice thing is that when you want to learn more, it's here. I very highly recommend Real World Color Management.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
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