For three weeks now, I’ve been working on a blog about color correction for digital and print publications. I think I’ve developed decent skills in this area during my many years of work in graphic design and production, so I thought I could provide some tips readers might appreciate when left to fend for themselves while producing a publication.

I began by wrestling with ways to describe how to attain accurate reproduction of original artworks and display their images consistently across a variety of media. This brought me to consider the astonishing range of displays on which people can presently view the same, single image, and how widely color and contrast is likely to shift with each of those displays. Always developing printing capabilities skew things even further.
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Then I considered how millions of people, like me, spend hours in front of computers, being deluged by countless images. When you contend with that kind of visual saturation on a daily basis, the only chance an image has to grab your attention is if there is something really wrong with it. Even then, I expect that such an egregious error would also need to be engaging enough to keep the viewer from scrolling and clicking.

As you can see, color correction had taken a back seat to a consideration of what it presently means to look at art.
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On the print side, my company produces catalogs for museum exhibitions and collections as well as other kinds of books that deal with fine art and architecture. We share with our photographers, production managers, prepress techs, and printers the responsibility for controlling consistency and delivering accurate reproduction. While there is much room for error, the variables are manageable, and we all have the common goal of producing an accurate printed page. At every step along the way, we spend a great deal of time comparing and adjusting each piece in order to provide readers with a collection of images with which they will also want to spend time.

Lately, we have been considering how the great shift from print to digital publishing will affect our niche market of fine art publishing, and how best to utilize these new, always evolving technologies. We’ve met with  firms that adapt picture-driven books to e-book format. To date, the most successful of these are instructional titles (e.g., cooking, craft, and DIY books and magazines). But, chances are that the reader who spends time studying specific images or text in such books is doing so to clear up confusion about the subject rather than out of appreciation for the pictures.

I’d really like to know if some people would prefer to study a fine art reproduction on a monitor rather than on the printed page. I expect there are many who do, and no doubt I will find their reasons surprising.

I recently talked with a gallery owner who specializes in contemporary and vintage silver print photographs. We talked about how the tiny, rarified market for fine art photography books continues to shrink. He  suggested that the flood of digital images that has become available to everyone, everywhere could cause people to forget the pleasures of viewing photographic prints “in the flesh,” which could easily lead to a wholesale loss of interest in attending photography exhibits at galleries or museums. An excessively gloomy forecast, perhaps, but it does cause me to wonder if we are all progressively losing our capacity for sustained visual attention.

Topics: illustrated books, illustrated-book producer, illustrated book design, printed books, print versus digital, e-books, art books, fine art book publishing