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Ground Zero: Color Calibration

Color Calibration with the Photocal colorimeter.


Y ou’re headed to the beach and

bring along your laptop with the
intention of doing some work color-
Photoshop comes with software that
lets you analyze the hardware charac-
teristics of your monitor. This software,
correcting images for output to your Adobe Gamma, which is accessed
large format printer. You figure — hey, though the Color Management assis-
it’s a beautiful, warm, sunny day, why tant in the Help menu in Photoshop,
not catch some rays while I’m will set the characteristics of your mon-
working? itor with only limited accuracy because
You arrive at the beach and pull your the adjustment is based on your ability
Armani sunglasses out of your Gucci to see color variations. The human eye
bag, pop ’em on your head and shuffle is an excellent optical device; however,
toward the dunes. You set up your the possibility of different interpreta-
beach chair and umbrella, smear on tions can effect the accuracy of the
the sunscreen, pour out a cool piña measurement.
colada from your thermos, launch If you are interested in a more accu-
Figure 1 Adobe Photoshop® and start hitting rate system you might consider using a
Select monitor from the Photocal folder to begin the Calibration the keys. colorimeter, such as the PhotoCal mc7
process. What’s wrong with this scene? made by Color Vision, priced at
Aside from the possibility of getting around $300. A colorimeter, is an
sand in your piña colada and sunscreen instrument intended to measure
on your keyboard, there are some radiant energy emitted, transmitted,
serious consequences with trying to do absorbed, or reflected under controlled
color adjustments in the beach work- conditions.
space environment. I found the system to be compact,
First, intense sunshine provides way accurate and user friendly. It is available
too much ambient light for good color for both Windows and Macintosh
correction. It reduces the brightness environments. It comes with a hard-
and contrast of what you see on-screen. ware device that attaches to your screen
You’ll barely be able to see the image. that measures the temperatures of its
Furthermore, sunglasses filter the phosphors.
colors that your monitor displays. No, The software component, called
everyone knows that the beach is not Photocal, presents an interface that
the ideal location to perform color cor- walks you step by step through the cal-
Figure 2 rections. ibration process and uses the hardware
Photocal’s Gamma selection window. However, it’s almost as bad as per- measurements to write a custom RGB
forming color corrections on an un- profile for optimum display.
calibrated monitor!
STABLE AND OPTIMIZED The first step is to turn your monitor
Calibration is the ground zero of on at least one half-hour prior to cali-
color management. A monitor that has bration to allow the colors of the mon-
been stabilized and optimized will dis- itor to stabilize.
play a screen image that can be After you’ve installed the Photocal
adjusted with confidence. Adobe software, you can access the interface
by choosing the Monitors file in the The sensor analyzes the temperatures
Photocal folder (see Figure 1). That of the red, green and blue components
will launch the Calibration Assistant of your monitor (see Figure 5) and
you will use to create a custom mon- feeds the information back to the soft-
itor profile. ware where your custom profile is
The windows guide you through the written. In the last step of the process
process of selecting parameters for you are directed to save your profiles
brightness and contrast (black and to your Colorsync folder on the Mac
white point brightness), the gamma or the Monitor Profiles folder in
(midtone lightness) and the color tem- Windows.
perature (the warmth and coolness of
Figure 3 white). There are clear, succinct expla- EVALUATION
Photocal’s color temperature selection window nations for each step presented as you I found the PhotoCal mc7 col-
proceed. orimeter to be an easy-to-use, fairly
The calibration process begins by inexpensive instrument. It’s equal or
optimizing the brightness and contrast better than other instruments costing
controls on your monitor. For contrast a lot more. It assures accurate, stable
you simply set the control at its color on your monitor from session to
highest setting. session.
For brightness you are presented It is superior to software calibrators
with a box with four swatches of dark because it measures and profiles
gray to black. You are instructed to the monitor’s actual characteristics.
adjust the brightness control on your Because the color on monitors shifts
monitor so that you can see the slight over time, the manufacturer recom-
variation of shade between the mends that you perform this proce-
swatches. dure every two weeks.
Other windows direct you to choose Color Vision has a website you can
Figure 4 between two color temperatures — access to learn more about the system
The sensor measuring the monitor’s phosphors 5000K for print or 6500K for multi- at
media, web or video applications (see
Figure 3), and Gamma, 1.8 for Mac
or 2.2 for PC (see Figure 2). The one Stephen Romaniello is
window that is confusing asks you to department chair of the
identify display controls. You’ll need to Visual Communications
consult your monitor’s documentation Department of the
to determine if it has separate RGB Communications
color controls. Graphics Program at
Once the parameters are set, you Pima Community
attach the hardware sensor to the College in Tucson, Ariz., and a certified
screen (see Figure 4) and the rest of instructor/authorized trainer of many of
the process is virtually automatic. today’s computer design software packages.
The sensor is a 2.5" square object He is the co-author of Mastering Adobe
that attaches to your screen with suc- GoLive (sybex) and the author of Mastering
Figure 5 tion cups. The sensor feeds into the Adobe Photoshop (sybex) to be released in
The sensor analyzes the temperatures of the red, green and blue computer via either the SCSI or USB November 2000 DG
components of your monitor. port, depending on the model you