Colour management on Ubuntu

Any good photographer will tell you that colour management is important in ensuring that your photographs look their best regardless of where they appear, be it on screen or in print. Making sure that the screen you are using is calibrated to display colours correctly is the first step.

The Windows and Mac software that came bundled with my Gretag Macbeth i1 (now available in its second model) is really rather nice. A simple GUI with large, friendly buttons guides you through the process of characterising your display, then creating and installing a profile. The offerings available on Ubuntu at the time were complex and pretty unintuitive in comparison. There was Lprof, which is competent but very complex to use and doesn’t integrate the resultant profile easily with other applications. Then there’s Dispcalgui, a front-end to ArgyllCMS which is closer in functionality to the bundled Windows & Mac software, but still a bit of a maze to get through.

Fortunately things got a lot better in Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty). Gnome Color Manager is a much more simple application for characterising output devices, including monitors, and supports a range of measuring devices, including mine! I connected my device and selected the “high quality” measurement. After about 20 minutes of flashing squares on the screen, the profile was generated. A tickbox let me toggle it on and off, just like the Windows version.

You can make your new display profile the default for both the current and other users of the system, but at the moment it doesn’t apply to the login screen. This interview with Richard Hughes shows that further developments are planned which will make colour management available more easily for all devices and users on a system.

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