Real World Color Management
Book Review

Real World Color Management
by Bruce Fraser, Chris Murphy and Fred Bunting

Peachpit Press
534 pages with many color illustrations
ISBN 0-201-77340-6
$49.99 (USA), $77.99 (Canada) £37.99 (UK)

For me, reviewing a book on color management is not a whole lot different that reviewing one on brain surgery. My perspective is not from one well versed in the subject but rather from your run-of-the-mill graphic artist with a smattering of understanding of the subject. That’s a caveat that needs to be stated in this case. Can’t say for sure whether the information imparted is accurate, current, etc., … but it sure looks good.

Those of us who work with color in a variety of media have to understand how color information is transmitted to and from the monitor. Color management is the means by which consistency is achieved from device to device. It’s not a subject we left brain types wade through easily but if we don’t get a handle on it, sooner or later it will come back to haunt us.

Real World Color Management is a comprehensive study on color, from how our eyes and brains perceive it to how it’s controlled. The subject matter requires pretty intense concentration to get through, but the effort is justified. The authors understand that a good portion of their market may be technically challenged and do an admirable job of gently easing us into the complexities of color science.

The primary focus of the book is on profiles: the means by which color information is communicated between various devices. There are input profiles for scanners and digital cameras, display profiles for monitors and LCDs, and output profiles for printers and presses. If you read all that’s available in the seven or eight chapters devoted to the subject, you’ll know more about profiles than normal people should, as the authors admit. I found this to be quite true; at times, there’s just too much information for anyone but the most ambitious color fanatic.

The book goes on to describe how color is treated and managed from documents as they are imported or exported from application to application and how the Mac and Windows operating systems provide appropriate services (ColorSync and ICM) for management of color. Real World Color Management continues with descriptions of some of the more important applications that deal with our artwork (from, for example, Adobe, Macromedia, and Quark).

It’s not a fun read. The subject matter is difficult at times but the authors do a great job of explaining it if you’re willing to stick with them. They even inject occasional humor to lighten the load. These three experts come across as a bunch of good guys who really know their trade well.

Real World Color Management will give you a greater appreciation of all that must happen for color to be properly transmitted from one device to another. We might be able to sneak by without such comprehension, but if we aspire to be knowledgeable professionals in this business, here’s a book that should be on our mandatory reading list.

MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5

Wynne Stevens

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