Color Management & Quality Output, by Tom Ashe | Review

Tom Ashe’s Color Management and Quality Output is a comprehensive and authoritative book on the complex issue of color management, from creation to display.

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Color Management & Quality Output: Working with Color from Camera to Display to Print, by Tom Ashe Title: Color Management & Quality Output: Working with Color from Camera to Display to Print
Author: Tom P. Ashe
Publisher: Focal Press
Publication Date: February 14, 2014
Total Pages: 456 pages
ISBN-13: 9780240821115
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Why don’t my prints look like what I see on the screen is one of the most common questions in digital photography. And it can also be very complicated to troubleshoot.

It comes down to color management, a topic far more involved than its simple name might suggest. There are a lot of links in the color chain going from taking the photo to sharing the photo, and each can potentially be a weak one. The ultimate objective is to have consistent, accurate, and predictable results when you go from camera to editor to screen to print in a fully color-managed workflow. But that takes some doing.

ICC Profiles, colorimeters, gamuts, additive and subtractive color, CMYK, and RGB. This is not a book for someone with a casual interest in colorspaces. If you’re just trying to figure out whether to use sRGB or AdobeRGB or how to calibrate your monitor, this book is overkill, although it will give you detailed answers to both, and then some.

But if you’re looking to take a deep dive into color or your job depends on accurate color, this is an excellent resource. It’s no accident that this book is in Focal Press’s Digital Imaging Masters Series. It’s written as a reference source, not as something most people will read from cover to cover. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect this might be used as the textbook in the author’s Digital Printmaking and Color Management class at New York’s School of Visual Arts. It’s an outgrowth of his Masters thesis project that has further evolved from teaching those color management classes.

Color gives form and life to our images, and it also has the power to give mood and meaning. Since color is such a pivotal component of a visual artist’s work, it’s important that we, as photographers, have an understanding of how color works. [p.6]

The reference approach is reflected in the structure and the granularity of the table of contents. If you’re not using Adobe InDesign, you can safely skip that section. If you already have a colorimeter, you can skip the comparisons between different models. But the book is organized in such a fashion that you can easily find the section you want just from the table of contents. Want to know how to improve the quality of black and white inkjet prints? Head straight to page 308.

One of the reasons we have trouble making the images from our monitor and the printer match is because they reproduce color in two very different ways: our monitors use the additive mixing of light, and our prints use the subtractive mixing of dyes, inks, and pigments. [p.28]

The topics you’d expect to be covered well, are–topics like output profiling, soft proofing, and profile optimization. Sections on raster image processors and print labeling will be overkill for most photographers but very useful for working in an imaging lab.

And it takes a fairly broad approach to the topic and even includes sections on basic color correction in Lightroom and Photoshop using levels and curves and extensive coverage of preparing files for collaborating with print labs and service bureaus.

Author Profile

Tom P. Ashe, the author, is the Associate Chair of the Masters of Professional Studies in Digital Photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York. His background is in the science behind photography and he has deep experience working with a number of the biggest commercial players in print making and color management.

Structure and Content

The book is divided into two sections. Section 1 focuses on the basics of color when it comes to creating, editing, and viewing your images. Section 2 focuses on different types of output–things like inkjet prints and CMYK printing or sharing on a website or your iPad.

Color, as well as photography is not possible without light. [p.6]

Table of Contents

Section 1: Color and Color Management

  • Chapter 1: Color and Color Vision
  • Chapter 2: Color Measurement, Reproduction, and Management
  • Chapter 3: Evaluating Image Quality, Print Quality, and Test Pages
  • Chapter 4: Display Environments, Technologies, Calibration, and Profiling
  • Chapter 5: Input Profiling: Scanners and Digital Cameras
  • Chapter 6: Color in Photoshop and Lightroom
  • Chapter 7: Basic Color Correction and Image Rendering
  • Chapter 8: Output Profiling and Soft Proofing
  • Chapter 9: Output Profile Optimization and Editing
  • Chapter 10: Color Utilities and Troubleshooting
  • Chapter 11: Raster Image Processors

Section 2: Digital Printmaking and Output

  • Chapter 12: Digital Output Technologies and Print Labeling
  • Chapter 13: Inkjet Printing
  • Chapter 14: Black-and-White Digital Printmaking
  • Chapter 15: Resizing and Sharpening
  • Chapter 16: Collaboration With Printmakers and Service Bureaus
  • Chapter 17: CMYK Output: Printing Presses and Short Run Photo Books
  • Chapter 18: Color Managing Adobe Indesign, Illustrator, and PDFs
  • Chapter 19: Preparing Files for the Web and Tablets
  • Chapter 20: Digital Print Permanence and Longevity
  • Chapter 21: Print Finishing, Editions, and Documentation

Companion Website

The book’s companion website offers screencasts that illustrate some of the material covered in the book.


This is basically a textbook. As a reference on color management, it’s comprehensive and authoritative. It’s overkill for those looking for a quick guide to locking down your color workflow, but if you’re looking to take a deep dive into the world of color and how it applies to photography, it’s hard to beat.

Where to Find It

This is a specialist book that probably isn’t going to turn up in most local bookshops. I bought the paperback version at Amazon, where it’s also for Kindle.

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David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a professional freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

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