What is a color management system?

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Color-matching problems result from various devices and software using different color spaces. One solution is to have a system that interprets and translates color accurately between devices. A color management system (CMS) compares the color space in which a color was created to the color space in which the same color will be output, and makes the necessary adjustments to represent the color as consistently as possible among different devices.

A color management system translates colors with the help of color profiles. A profile is a mathematical description of a device’s color space. For example, a scanner profile tells a color management system how your scanner “sees” colors. Adobe color management uses ICC profiles, a format defined by the International Color Consortium (ICC) as a cross-platform standard.

Because no single color-translation method is ideal for all types of graphics, a color management system provides a choice of rendering intents, or translation methods, so that you can apply a method appropriate to a particular graphics element. For example, a color translation method that preserves correct relationships among colors in a wildlife photograph may alter the colors in a logo containing flat tints of color.

Note: Don’t confuse color management with color correction. A color management system won’t correct an image that was saved with tonal or color balance problems. It provides an environment where you can evaluate images reliably in the context of your final output.
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