What is colour?
Reviews, articles and a brief look at Colour Management
Seeing the right colours
Keith is often asked to give a quick explanation of colour management.
This article gives a short overview of why it matters, and has links to the many detailed articles and equipment/software reviews on the site.
What is Colour Management?
This explanation was written after numerous conversations with people, discussing why they should look at colour management to improve their printing, whether for photos, or products in a catalogue.
The basics of colour management
Any particular colour in your computer is usually represented by three numbers, that represent proportions of red, green and blue light. When mixed, these will correspond to a particular colour we see.
This is based on the way our colour vision works and these three numbers together gives what is known as a RGB value for each possible colour.
But what are these colours…
Is there a ‘pure’ green? Does this actually mean anything?
What does the ‘red’ number in an RGB value represent?
Is it the red of a UK Telephone box?
How about the red of a London bus?
Well, there are international standards which define ways of measuring colours and can give absolute values and meaning to the numbers in a RGB value.
These numbers are completely independent of any device (screen or printer) that may be used to display the colours represented.
However, consider your computer monitor – does its version of red match up with a standard?
No, and what’s more, if you have a second monitor, its red probably won’t match the first one.
The red (or any other colour) produced by your monitor is said to be ‘device dependant’. One ‘R’ value may produce one colour red on one monitor and a different version on another.
What about your printer? Here it’s even more difficult, since you are trying to reproduce red from coloured inks, none of which is (usually) red.
So many reds to choose from…
How do I even know that my camera has captured the ‘correct’ colour red?
Colour management is all about trying to relate all these device dependant colours to standards in a consistent and useful way.
It’s about trying to make sure that the picture I took of the red bus looks correct on my screen, your screen, my printer and your printer — and they all match (as best as they can) to the bus I saw in the street at the time.
Typically, things called ‘icc profiles’ provide the translation between what an actual physical device can do, and the standards. Fortunately you don’t have to worry too much about about how they do their work, since most of what they do is taken care of by your computer’s operating system.
Colour management helps you get colour right more often…
It can get a bit more complicated though…
If you’re looking for calibrators or profiling kit then we have reviews of most of the currently available kit listed below, along with more detailed articles about colour management.
For most people, the first step is to get their monitor calibrated – as easy task with modern measuring devices and software.
Many of the reviews also include explanations of why you would use the products, not just tests of how well they work.
All our colour management related articles
See the main colour management page for more information.
- Large prints – The Photography Show 2017 All about making bigger prints. Articles and reviews that expand upon issues covered in Keith Cooper's talks and presentations at the Photography Show at the NEC in Birmingham in March 2017
- Datacolor Spyder 5 Elite Plus review Spyder 5 Elite plus upgrade to Datacolor's Spyder 5 Elite monitor calibrator and profiling. Add-on software upgrade for soft proofing, improved grey balance and a wider range of customisation options.
- Datacolor Spyder5PRO monitor calibrator review Review of the Datacolor Spyder 5 Pro monitor calibrator. Calibration and profiling of your monitor/monitors for reliability and optimal display quality
- BenQ SW320 32inch 4k monitor review Keith Cooper reviews the SW320 BenQ 31.5 inch 4K high resolution monitor. The wide gamut monitor has Adobe98 coverage and supports hardware profiling with a 14 bit 3D LUT. The supplied profiling/calibration software supports different measurement devices. Comes with a display shielding hood and individual factory calibration certificate.
- Impressora pro photo media review Review of six different papers from the Impressora range of photo media, from Canvas to cotton rag paper to glossy metallic finish. All tested on the Canon PRO-2000 printer
- Datacolor new profiling software updates Datacolor have announced new upgrade options for their Spyder 5 PRO and Spyder 5 Elite monitor calibrators. We've full reviews of the Spyder 5 PRO (and upgrade) and Spyder 5 Elite and will be adding details about the Spyder 5 Elite+ update in due course.
- Pinnacle Premium Photo Lustre 300 paper review Review of Pinnacle Premium Photo Lustre paper, by Paper Spectrum. A bright lustre photo paper that is our go-to choice for commercial and decorative prints. 300gsm weight and available in a full range of sheet and roll sizes
- BenQ announce new 32″ 4k HDR monitor BenQ announce their new SW320 4k HDR monitor, to be shown in the US at Photo Plus. There is also the Technicolor Colour Certified 27-inch QHD PV270 and the 32-inch PV3200PT 4K UHD
- Innova Fabriano Art papers review Paper review: Two new Innova mould made heavy matte fine art rag based papers from the Fabriano paper mill. IFA-107 and IFA-108. OBA free archival papers
- Spyder5 Capture Pro reviews A new Datacolor bundle with ColorCheckr card, SpyderCube, LensCal and Spyder5 Elite in a hard storage case. Article looks at the collection and includes full reviews of all the individual items.