Buyer's Guide 2009: Color Management

Without a solid color-management system in place, what you see on screen isn’t necessarily what you’ll get in the final print. Dry? Technical? Yes, but worth paying attention to if you’re looking for vibrant, knockout color every time you print. Whether calibrating your monitor or a whole system of devices that includes your camera, printer and projector, there are options to suit your needs and budget.

Your monitor is the most important device to calibrate. Without a calibrated monitor, you may make unnecessary or undesirable adjustments to your image files. Monitor calibration basically ensures that your monitor is a color-neutral workspace, so when you’re looking at images on screen, the actual colors and tones aren’t distorted. Monitor-calibration packages typically include a colorimeter or a spectrophotometer. If you’re looking to create printer profiles too, a spectrophotometer is a better option because it’s more versatile. The good news is that printer manufacturers often supply color profiles, so monitor calibration may be all you need.

X-Rite ColorMunki. An all-in-one spectrophotometer delivers display-to-print color matching for achieving consistent color throughout your entire workflow. Simply plug the device in via USB and hold it over the targeted area shown on screen by the supplied software. ColorMunki runs through a sequence of color and black-and-white patches. Using new printer-profiling technology, ColorMunki can optimize specific colors, black-and-white and flesh tones based on your images. List Price: $499.

Datacolor Spyder3 Elite. A powerful 7-detector color engine and a 27mm light aperture allow this device to precisely calibrate your LCD, CRT, projector and notebook displays. An embedded ambient light sensor automatically measures the ambient light within a room and adjusts your monitor’s settings for the most accurate color reproduction. With user-defined options for setting the white point (color temperature), gamma and white and black luminance, you’re in full control of your color workflow from import to output. List Price: $249.

Pantone huey. Taking a different design approach to calibration devices, the huey sits in a cradle on your desk and continually monitors changes in ambient light using a high-precision sensor. If a change is detected, the marker-size device updates the profile used by your system to maintain consistent color, contrast and brightness. This affordable option works with all types of LCD, CRT and laptop displays and comes with step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow. List Price: $89.

X-Rite i1Display 2. Calibrate multiple monitors using the Workgroup Match feature in i1Display 2. A detachable ambient-light head checks lighting conditions in different work environments and adapts color profiles accordingly. Advanced functions include unlimited gamma, white-point and luminance settings along with higher sensitivity in dark areas, which delivers more neutral and better-defined grays. There’s also one-step, push-button profiling for popular monitors. List Price: $259.

Pantone huey PRO. Just like the huey, the PRO version measures changes in ambient light throughout the day and makes adjustments automatically. The difference here is that you have options for controlling brightness, contrast, gamma and white point. Advanced help instructions walk you through the calibration process, showing you how to make these changes and what to do next. During the initial step-by-step calibration process, the software prompts you to make custom adjustments along the way. Enhanced LCD calibration allows you to zero in on shadow detail. List Price: $129.

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