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What s most important is the plain truth about color: Color is not color is not color That is to say, no two devices digital camera, scanner, printer, computer monitor, or even the human eye see color the same way And when you expect these devices to talk to each other about color in the same way, well, things can get a little complicated In fact, some very smart people have been looking long and hard for a solution to this problem that s easy to apply to our digital lives And while they ve made great strides, the proposed methods vary and the results are unreliable If we can agree that becoming a scholar of color theory and a technician in color management to make all of our devices agree is unlikely, then we can agree to call close enough close enough Because unless you re dealing with commercial printing or high-end equipment, as far as color goes, close enough is close enough Sure, professionals might see the differences, but for the average Joe or Jane, it all comes out in the wash That said, it doesn t mean we have to surrender completely to our computers and other digital devices when it comes to color With minimal effort, we can quiet one squabble in this color tug-of-war: the one between our eyes and our computer monitors
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Calibrate Your Monitor
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There are a couple of things you can do to improve the results you get with color in Elements The first thing is to check your monitor s color depth setting (consult your computer s manual) and make sure it s set to display either thousands or millions of colors If the most your monitor can display is 256 colors, then you might be better off working exclusively with grayscale or black-and-white images, since the range of color your monitor can see is quite limited
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Figure 3-1 To see color more accurately, set your monitor to display thousands or millions of colors
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AS A MATTER OF FACT Before you calibrate it, make sure your monitor has been on 30 minutes or more to sufficiently warm up
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Next, you should calibrate the computer monitor By now you know that each link in the chain eyes, monitor, software, printer, digital camera has its own way of describing color The easiest variable to control is the monitor, and calibrating it will help Elements display color consistently, especially if you calibrate your monitor regularly (say, every month or so) To calibrate a monitor, you can use the Adobe Gamma utility that Elements installed on your computer
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AS A MATTER OF FACT If you re using OSX, you don t need the Adobe Gamma utility; Apple provides its own calibration helper Find the Display Calibrator utility in the Utilities folder on your hard drive Double-click it and follow the onscreen instruction
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Before you use the Adobe Gamma utility, it s good to know that you should calibrate your monitor under the same lighting conditions you normally work in For instance, if you usually work at night with some lights on, those conditions
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will affect the way you see the color your monitor displays So, wait until dark, turn on the lights you normally use, and then calibrate your monitor: 1 Choose Start | Control Panel (Windows) or Apple Menu | Control Panels | Adobe Gamma (Mac OS9x) 2 Double-click the Adobe Gamma icon 3 Select the Step by Step Wizard, click Next, and follow the onscreen instruction
Figure 3-2 Adobe provides the Gamma utility to help you calibrate your color monitor
With a calibrated monitor, you re ready to make corrections to the contrast and color of any image Of course, Elements provides plenty of ways to fix an image without a lot of fuss, so it s important to be cautious when altering images Have a plan, because once you start adjusting color and tonal range, it can be the start of a messy chain reaction: make a change to fix a problem and another one pops up somewhere else; fix that problem, all heck breaks loose; in the end, you re left with a mess that s irreparable Have no fear though, because Elements offers the Quick Fix window, where adjustments are quick and easy It also combats the chain reaction pitfall, by offering options to undo changes and reset images
AS A MATTER OF FACT Don t let the potential pitfalls dampen your enthusiasm to experiment You can create some great effects by pushing the limits of the things we show you here So don t be afraid; just be sure you know how to undo a change or make a backup of the original file before you start