color introduction
whats color
color accuracy
color perception
color temperature
color models
icc workflow

Color Tools

Now that we have covered the basics of color management and an ICC color managed workflow, lets take a look at the tools used to help us manage color.


The two predominant hardware tools currently used to measure color and profile monitors, scanners, printers and even LCD projectors are Colorimeters and Spectrophotometers.

A Colorimeter is a device for measuring the quality of a color by comparison with standard colors or combinations of colors.

A Spectrophotometer is an instrument for measuring or comparing the intensities of the colors of the spectrum. It can be used to determine the colors of light a pigment absorbs and transmits.

In general Colorimeters are used for calibrating monitors and can only record emissive light. They are much less expensive than spectrophotometers and also less accurate. Spectrophotometers on the other hand are generally much more expensive and more accurate than colorimeters. Spectrophotometers are most often used to record reflective readings from printed test targets. These targets are made up of colored patches of known values that are printed with your printer and then measured. These measurements are used to create custom profiles for a particular paper, printer and ink set. This profile characterizes the color capabilities of your printer.

Colorimeters are all very similar in design and the way they function. Spectrophotometers on the other hand come in a variety of styles and prices. Some read one patch at a time, others can read strips automatically or manually and one will even read the entire target automatically. A recent product offering from GretagMacbeth, the "Eye-One" will read both emissive and reflective data. You can use this all in one device to calibrate your monitor and read reflective print targets for creating custom printer profiles.


All of these great hardware devices are completely useless without software to drive, manage and interpret the data they gather. There are again a variety of color profiling and color management software products available in today's marketplace. Some software applications, for example Monaco's "EZ Color" and Praixisofts "WYSIWIG" are very simple and inexpensive. In fact these two applications do not even require a colorimeter or spectrophotometer to calibrate and profile devices. They make use of a flatbed scanner and a pre-printed target to calibrate and profile your monitor, scanner and printer. A scanner however will not provide the color accuracy a colorimeter or spectrophotometer will give you and the results are most often unacceptable to the discerning photographer.

My recommendation is to invest in a good quality colorimeter and or spectrophotometer, these devices usually ship with their own calibration and profiling software. If you find that the basic software package your device comes with is still lacking and you can afford the next level of software then by all means take the plunge. All of these hardware devices and software packages continue to improve, they have become more powerful, accurate and easy to use and although the price may be steep for some, prices are finally coming down as well. In fact many of these packages are now well within the budget of working and even advanced amateur photographers.

Software and Hardware Links:

As previously noted, there are a variety of hardware and software devices available to fit various needs and budgets. The manufacturers of these devices and software for the most part do an excellent job of describing their products and even providing helpful instructions and guides. In fact some of these sites now include not only .PDF instruction manuals, but also interactive documents and even short movies that cover the use of their devices as well as general color management information.








Congratulations, you have completed Section I of this tutorial, hopefully you have gained a better understanding of color management and the digital color workflow. Section II of this tutorial will walk you through step by step procedures for calibrating, characterizing and simply getting and maintaining good color with your digital devices.

Key Concepts and terminology....

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  • Colorimeter: A device used for measuring the quality of color, compares color to known values. Generally used for monitor calibration and profiling.
  • Spectrophotometer: Measures spectral response of reflective material. Accurate tool used to read test target color patches for printer profile creation.
  • A number of manufacturers have different levels (complexity and price) of calibration and profiling software packages to calibrate and profile digital devices.



Sect. I| ColorIntro.| WhatsColor|ColorAccuracy| ColorPercept.| ColorTemp.| ColorModels| ICCWorkfl| ColorTools|

Sect. II| Monitors| Scanners| Printers| Photoshop|

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