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ColorSync is Apple’s system-level software to help you manage the color of your documents and devices. Mac OS users can streamline their publishing process using a control panel, AppleScripts and profiles. The result is powerful control over color matching at every step of the workflow process.


ColorSync is the industry-standard tool for managing color across input, display, and output devices. This system-level software developed by Apple Computer works with scanners, digital cameras, monitors, printers, copiers, proofers, and presses. ColorSync is also supported in all leading image-editing and page-layout applications.

Anyone responsible for creating print or electronic materials knows how important accurate color can be in conveying information and creating desired responses. They also know how difficult it has been to manage color. A shift in color can seriously damage the effectiveness and accuracy of a product photo or design. Incorrect colors can cause lost sales; mail-order customers often return items because they don’t match the colors in the catalog or on the web site.

ColorSync saves time and money by enabling you to accurately capture, edit, preview, and output color documents. It gives you powerful control over color matching at every step of the workflow process by using unique "profiles" to describe the difference in color performance between what an input or output device does and what we know it should do. These profiles are usually stored as part of an image file (in the file’s header or "table of contents") and provide a description of how this image was captured, what its color space is, and more.

ColorSync calls upon the computational power of "CMMs" (color matching modules) which convert images from one color space to another—for example, from RGB to CMYK—and simultaneously apply the information in the profile to correctly render the image.

In each step of the workflow, ColorSync compensates for any deviations in the image-capturing systems of scanners, the display anomalies of monitors, and the color imaging components of printers and output devices. The CMMs from such highly respected color partners as Heidelberg Prepress, Kodak, and Agfa are packaged in each version of ColorSync along with a unique CMM from Apple Computer.

ColorSync also includes a powerful but easy-to-use monitor calibration system which corrects any irregularities in the monitor’s age, phosphor set, ambient light, white point, or monitor type. ColorSync lets you calibrate your computer’s monitor so that the colors of a displayed image correspond to the original photograph or digital capture. You can even view an image as it would appear on different paper stock or output devices (called a "soft proof"). And, when you use ColorSync to simulate a specific printing press or film recorder, the proof prints you make on a color desktop printer can be amazingly close to the color of the final output.

ColorSync is not "all or nothing." You can choose to only calibrate your monitor, or only calibrate your scanner, or you can implement an entire ColorSync workflow. Each incremental step means time savings, reduction of waste, and added profits.

With ColorSync software, anyone who works with color content can maintain quality throughout a wide array of output media including newspaper photographs, magazines, catalogs, books, web pages, videos, QuickTime movies, photo transparencies, and more. Because ColorSync works directly with the Mac OS and has an open architecture, hardware and software manufacturers have been able to add ColorSync support to their products easily. In fact, more than 100 products ranging from inexpensive scanners to top-of-the-line printing presses now take advantage of the powerful ColorSync color management capabilities. With ColorSync, any color-aware application or device can communicate with any other. With so many products for Mac OS systems now supporting ColorSync, you can finally achieve consistent color at every step of your workflow, from input and output.

The Basics of Color Systems and Color Management

Traditional printing professionals will most likely tell you that they have been doing color management for years. They’ll say they’ve been getting customer-correct color off their printing presses and scanners, that they’ve been proofed accurately by a highly experienced press operator.

Traditionally, designers have sent their color projects to the printer. What did the printer do with these projects? They reworked and translated the designer’s intended colors into the capabilities of their printing facility. Color management has been a sort of imprecise magic.

Enter ColorSync: ColorSync puts the color control back in the hands of the designer, while offering an unprecedented level of color fidelity across media.

Rotating ColorSync ColorSync is system-level "digital glue" which allows peripheral devices, the operating system and applications to communicate. ColorSync acts as a common interpreter of color—from scanner to display to application to printer.

To accomplish this requires system-level knowledge of the color characteristics of each device. These characteristics are described in the device's profile. Profiles are used to show, for example, how a monitor displays a particular color, and this information can be used by a proofing device or printing press to reproduce that same color.

Scanner operators no longer need to stand in front of a large, expensive device, tweaking buttons to get as close as possible to the proper color. Now you can buy off-the-shelf, affordable products that’ll create the profiles needed by ColorSync to produce correct color.


ColorSync is system software that provides a comprehensive framework for exchanging and matching color information between input devices, displays, applications and output devices, all of which have quite different methods for representing color information.

To truly understand this process, it is necessary to have a basic knowledge of color.

The Evolution of Color

Rotating cs.gif

In 1984, desktop publishing started a revolution in the production of artwork for printing.

As creative people began adopting the Macintosh, their artistic abilities blossomed. They used more images and better type fonts; they added graphics and illustrations to their documents to make everyday work look dramatically better. As quality work could be achieved more easily than ever before, the business of design flourished.

Where a document would have been typed in 1984, it was typeset in 1985, illustrated with compelling graphics in 1986, had photos added in 1989 and was printed in full color in 1991.

Food Color commands attention and gets better results. Color is very much a part of the fabric of commerce. Yet color alone is not satisfactory. We want quality color, color that matches the original, color that is reliable, color that is affordable.

When you add ColorSync to your production methods, you are turning the management of color into a new business. With this new business, you’ll meet new customers and be able to do more work for your existing customers.

Managed color makes for work that is more profitable, more repeatable, and much easier to achieve than ever before.

See Also