adobe photoshop colour management

Now, before I write anything thing, I should say that I am a big fan of Adobe products. And it’s hard to think of a company that has done more to progress colour management than Adobe. At the Leeds University’s School of Design, where I teach, we use many Adobe products and Photoshop and Illustrator are virtually standards in their respective fields.

However, I don;t like the way Adobe presents its colour management options.

Colour management is difficult and certainly imperfect. For those users who don’t know or care about colour management the efforts of companies like Adobe and many others (especially those that constitute the ICC – http://www.color.org/index.xalter) have made colour fidelity much better over the last couple of decades. Open source profiles and the use of, for example, the sRGB colour space have ensured that even for users that don’t care or know about colour management, things pretty much work ok. And for those that are experts and know the difference between an input gamut and an output gamut; well, the colour management facilities provided by Adobe, for example, in Photoshop provide excellent tools and resources.

But I can’t help thinking that there is a huge gap between the naieve user and the expert user. Most of the design students in our school, for example, are not colour-management experts but, then, neither are they naieve users. However, the way that most software is designed (and this is not specific to Adobe, to be honest) is that it’s either all or nothing. As soon as you click on colour management options you are presented with a huge range of options (working spaces, rendering intends, colour temperatures, etc.). It just seems to me that this presents the user with a bit of knowledge with a problem since by fiddling with these settings they are more than likely to make things worse rather than better.

If I ruled the universe, then I would have software that is adaptive – that is, it would present colour management options in levels. It would be great if the software could work out your level of colour knowledge and present options accordingly; but if this is too difficult – or unpopular – then at least it could provide a number of levels: naieve, casual, knowledgeable and expert, for example. This way, users would be presented with an appropriate array and range of options.

As it is, I can’t help thinking that the software writers enjoy showing as many options as possible – as if they are shouting,  “Look how many features we have!”  – without regard for whether it is helpful to the user.

One thought on “adobe photoshop colour management

  1. Great point, Steve! I am faced with these kinds of challenges very frequently and we are continuously trying to improve the ease of getting the right color out of our printers. The idea of the interface being adaptive to the user’s needs is very attractive and I hope we will be able to deliver it in the future.

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