As you may have discovered through painful experience, computers aren't great with
color. Each device you use to create and print digital images "sees" color a little bit
differently, which explains why the deep amber captured by your scanner may be
rendered as chalky brown on your monitor, yet come out as a fiery orange on your Epson
inkjet printer. Since every gadget defines and renders color in its own way, colors are
often inconsistent as a print job moves from design to proof to press.
ColorSync attempts to sort out this mess, serving as a translator between all the different
pieces of hardware in your workflow. For this to work, each device (scanner, monitor,
printer, digital camera, copier, proofer, and so on) has to be calibrated with a unique
ColorSync profile—a file that tells your Mac exactly how it defines colors. Armed with
the knowledge contained in the profiles, the ColorSync software can compensate for the
various quirks of the different devices, and even the different kinds of paper they print
Most of the people who lose sleep over color fidelity are those who do commercial color
scanning and printing, where "off " colors are a big deal. After all, a customer might
return a product after discovering, for example, that the actual product color doesn't
match the photo on a company's Web site.
14.8.1. Getting ColorSync Profiles
ColorSync profiles for many color printers, scanners, and monitors come built into Mac
OS X. When you buy equipment or software from, say, Kodak, Agfa, or Pantone, you
may get additional profiles. If your equipment didn't come with a ColorSync profile, visit
Profile Central (www.chromix.com), where hundreds of model-specific profiles are
available for downloading. Put new profiles into the Library ColorSync Profiles
GEM IN THE ROUGH
The Coolest Feature?
Deep in the ColorSync Utility program beats one of the coolest Mac OS X
features that no-body's ever discovered.
On the Profiles tab, you can click the name of a color-device profile and view a
lab plot of its gamut (the colors it's capable of displaying). What you might not
realize, however, is that this is a 3-D graph; you can drag its corners to spin it in
But that's not the cool part. The tiny triangle in the corner of the graph is a pop-
up menu. If you choose "Hold for comparison" and then choose a different color
profile, you'll see both lab plots superimposed, revealing the spectrum areas
where they overlap—and the yawning gaps where they can't display the same
You'll find out, among other things, that some printers can't display nearly as
many colors as your monitor can, and that inkjets are much better at depicting,
say, cyan than green.
And while we're discussing features you might have missed: You can double-
click a profile's name to view a dizzyingly complex scientific description of its
Blue colorant tristimulus, anyone?
14.8.2. Default Profiles
In professional graphics work, a ColorSync profile is often embedded right in a photo,
making all this color management automatic. Using the ColorSync Utility program (in
Applications Utilities), you can specify which ColorSync profile each of your gadgets
should use. Click the Devices button, open the category for your device (scanner, camera,
display, printer, or proofer), click the model you have, and use the Current Profile pop-up
menu to assign a profile to it.
Tip: In the Displays pane of System Preferences, you'll find a Color tab. Its Calibrate
button is designed to create a profile for your particular monitor in your particular office
lighting—all you have to do is answer a few fun questions onscreen and drag a few
14.8.3. More on ColorSync
If you ache to learn more about ColorSync, you won't find much in Mac OS X's Help
system. Instead, search the Web. At www.apple.com/colorsync, for example, you'll find
articles, tutorials, and links. Going to a site like www.google.com and searching for
ColorSync is also a fruitful exercise.