When you print your images on your own printer it’s important to get the color right. To help you with that, your computer system uses data files called Color Profiles to ensure that what is printed on the paper is a correct representation of the colors in the image.
You may have heard these files referred to as ICC profiles or ICC color profiles. We’ll let the OCD folks argue with semantics here. ICC is the International Color Consortium, an organization established in 1993 to create and promote a standardized color management system. Under the covers, the overall system is highly complex but the interface that you as a user sees is quite elegant and simple.
The goal of a color management system is to make color seamless between devices and documents. A herculean task when you consider the mix of technologies such as LCD screens and ink on paper. If you work at editing images on your computer you really must have a color calibrated monitor. Even if you use the cheapest color management system on the market, calibrating your monitor is essential.
Assuming that you’ve worked on a color managed system, you’ll have an image that you want to print and reproduce all the colors as accurately as possible. But every printer, paper and type of ink produces color differently. To ensure that the output matches as much as possible, ICC profiles are used.
To create an ICC profile, someone – usually the manufacture or paper supplier – will print a color target that is made up of known colors. Then, using a special device, these color samples are scanned and evaluated. If they vary from the known color, the software will calculate that adjustment must be made to correct the output to match the known color target. All these corrections are packaged up in a file know as – you guessed it – a Color Profile.
Now, whey you print using the same printer, paper and ink that was used to create the profile, your printed image will be corrected to ensure that all the colors are printed properly.