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The Iso50 Field Guide to Color Management

Calibration, color space, and color profile management.


I am always brushing up on my technical knowledge of the printing process and color management, so I obviously have found this little field guide to be most helpful. Alex Cornell and Scott Hansen of ISO50 have put together an impressive and definitive Field Guide to Color Management.

Though there are literally thousands of guides on the web like this, ISO50’s is not only replete covering everything from lighting to print settings but also comes from a trusted resource plenty experienced with color management and printing.

Consider this advice for workspace color management:

An additional step you can take to ensure ideal lighting conditions in your workspace is to paint the walls with Munsell 8 Gray. This paint is specially formulated to have a flat spectral response with no color bias. Unlike other hues, this type of gray will not affect your perception of other colors in the spectrum. It creates a “pure” and neutral viewing environment. You may have noticed this color on the wall of photo studios and print shops.

Common misperceptions about RGB and CMYK are cleared up:

Illogical as it may sound, when working at home, you want to send your printer (which is a CMYK device) RGB images to print. The conversion occurs within the printer and the software addresses the printer as an RGB device. This is where — at least amongst the student population — much confusion is generated. Given the fact that the printer is technically producing CMYK output, it sounds like the logical mode to use is CMYK. This is not the case. Not only is the printer designed to receive RGB output from the software, but you would also be shortchanging yourself of certain colors that both RGB and the device can address that are outside the gamut of the CMYK color mode (within the software).

Calibration, color space, and color profile management are also covered. The guide concludes with specific instructions for printing Photoshop artwork on a local printer.

Hats off to Alex and Scott for covering the topic extensively and authoritatively.


James Donaldson

While he swears he won’t design for internet explorer and is unable to breathe without his iphone, James is generally an easy-going guy who can be convinced to do almost anything if there’ll be food involved.


One thought on “The Iso50 Field Guide to Color Management

  1. Erik Shultz says:

    Great mention of RGB files for CMYK output. Our printer does an amazing job at converting files in the print rip that photoshop will ever be able to do. There is always some piece of color detail lost.

    I have always tried to explain to students, if you take photography with a digital camera for print, keep the file in the RGB color mode. Why, it’s because it prints better within the rip of the printers software.

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