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Understanding Limitations

The most important thing to understand about color management is the inherent limitations of monitors, inks, paper, viewing conditions—even our own moods as we work on an image. We're all looking for prints that perfectly match our monitor display, but that goal is unattainable. Monitors and the printed page use very different methods of displaying an image. Monitors glow with light, producing an incredibly luminous image, similar to what you see when you view a slide on a light table. Prints, on the other hand, depend on reflected light for their illumination, and they will never have the same colors and luminosity as a monitor.

You also need to consider how the specific ink and print media you're using will affect the final appearance of the print. For example, glossy materials allow the inks to sit on the surface, enhancing color saturation, contrast, and sharpness. The images simply have more snap to them. Matte papers, on the other hand, will absorb the inks and reduce the vibrancy of the colors and contrast, resulting in an image with a more muted look. Color management will help you get consistent and accurate output, but prints of the same image on different materials will still look different.


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