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Color Management Software: Using ICC profiles

Learn the ins-and-outs of ICC profiles to perfect color management.

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An ICC (International Color Consortium) profile is basically a set of data that ensures that when a specific color is selected on the computer screen, the designated color is consistently and correctly delivered on the substrate. Think of it as a color-matching program, as the screen color rarely produces exactly the same output color. A profile creates a link between specific screen colors and specific output colors. It doesn’t change the color, rather it ensures the correct output for a given input.

To use this method, you must work with ICC-compliant graphic software (Photoshop or CorelDraw). The profile will be placed in the output stage of printing and the manufacturer’s (OEM) printer driver will be set to No Color Adjustment. This setup will color correct the image and then send the data to the printer without affecting the colors further.

However, color correction profiles for dye-sublimation have their own unique challenges. Under normal profile creation, when a printer has printed out the color swatch for testing, the profiling software knows how to adjust the colors to print out the correct ones. When a dye-sublimation transfer is pressed onto a substrate, the ink turns into a gas, and while in this state, the colors change properties.

This change can be quite dramatic (some blues look like green on paper), and it is, therefore, impossible to judge whether the print is correct or not until it is sublimated onto the final substrate. Thus, it is necessary to create custom sublimation profiles and print management application of these profiles to create the correct sublimated color, not the color on the printed transfer.

-Robin Kavanagh, Sawgrass Ink

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