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Eliminate color matching guesswork by using the right tool for the job

Added on Thursday 22nd of June 2006 06:45 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Even in a fine-tuned calibrated workflow, there’s no guarantee that the color you see displayed on the monitor is really what you’ll get when the image prints. By using the Info palette to check the numbers of your colors, you can’t go wrong—if you understand how to use it. We’ll show you how to eliminate color output surprises with a firm knowledge of reading your color with the Info palette.


To obtain more predictable color with the Info palette, we’ll:

     Show you how to set up the correct Info palette options for your workflow.

     Explore the relationship between the Eyedropper and Color Sampler tools and the Info palette.

     Explain how your color settings impact the Info palette readouts.

     Teach you how to reference your numbers to industry standard samples.


You’ve spent hours diligently attempting to color calibrate your system (causing you to fall behind on your deadlines), and yet you’re still having color problems with your printer. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone. In fact, it’s easy for even a color calibrated workflow to break down. For example, you could be working on an inaccurately calibrated monitor, which means you’re simply guessing every time you attempt to color correct your images. Don’t let a questionably calibrated workflow make you question the colors in your image. A better understanding of the Info palette will put you on your way to predictable color in your images every time.


It’s in the numbers

To access the Info Palette, choose Window > Info Palette. At first glance, the Info palette can be a little intimidating, but it’s an invaluable tool to analyze the specific breakdown of color in each pixel—or range of pixels—in your image. You’re in control of the readouts by customizing the settings in the palette.


Set your options

You can—and should—change the options in the Info palette to reflect your workflow. Our example in Figure A reflects a standard print workflow where the first reading displays RGB readouts, and the second reading displays what the CMYK breakdown of that image will be when converted.




To change the settings, choose Palette Options from the Info palette pop-up menu, which displays the Info Palette Options dialog box (Info Options in 7/CS) shown in Figure B. While some of the secondary options have changed a bit between versions (CS introduced the ability to Show 16-bit values and CS2 introduced the ability to view status information such as Document Sizes and Efficiency), the primary options remain the same.




        First Color Readout. The default is Actual color, which displays—as the name implies—readouts based on the color mode the document is in. It’s a safe option to start with, as it always displays information for the color mode your image is in. We selected RGB simply as a personal preference for our workflow.

        Second Color Readout. What you select here depends on what your target output is. For press work, CMYK is your best bet.

        Mouse Coordinates. Select a unit of measurement that the cursor will be tracked with. This is displayed in the Info palette as X and Y coordinates. We stick to pixels for our image editing purposes, but it’s really just a matter of preference.


Keep an eye on your color

When you move your mouse over an image, or anywhere around your monitor, the numbers in the info palette change to reflect the pixel information that the mouse is hovering over. While you don’t need a specific tool selected to display color information in the Info palette, the Eyedropper tool and Color Sampler tool are two tools that go hand in hand with the Info palette.


The Eyedropper tool

Use the settings on the Eyedropper tool options bar to set the sample size for the Info palette. The accuracy of the color sample is determined by the selection you choose here.


To set the sample size:

1.       Choose the Eyedropper tool eyedropper from the Toolbox.

2.      Select Point Sample, 3 by 3 Avera...