How to use the macOS ColorSync Utility

Maintaining color consistency between applications and devices and when printing can be a challenge. If you're unfamiliar with color matching in macOS, learn how to use the ColorSync Utility.

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Image: EMIL IMARIETLI/Getty Images

Some Mac users, especially those working within marketing, graphics, and image production industries, must ensure colors replicate properly between applications, on various devices, and when printing. macOS' ColorSync Utility permits creating profiles that, when applied, modify images to match the corresponding presets and maintain color consistency.

SEE: 10 essential apps and utilities for your Mac (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Access the macOS ColorSync Utility by opening Finder, selecting Applications, double-clicking Utilities, and double-clicking ColorSync Utility. Next, open an image by clicking File, selecting Open, and locating the image you wish to use, then clicking the Open button. The image will open within the ColorSync Utility (Figure A).

Figure A

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The ColorSync Utility enables configuring color profiles to maintain color matching across multiple devices, applications, and when printing.

Using the drop-down menu (the menu displays the Match To Profile option by default), select either Match To Profile, Assign Profile, or Apply Profile. The Match To Profile setting adjusts the image's colors to match the ColorSync profile, modifies the image, and assigns the new ColorSync profile to that image. Assign Profile applies the ColorSync profile to the image but does not modify the image. Apply Profile adjusts the image's pixels so that the colors match the new model and ColorSync profile and assigns the original ColorSync profile to the image.

Next, click the middle drop-down menu (the menu defaults to None) to select a specific profile. Options here vary depending upon the hardware connected to the Mac and the Mac's configuration. Choices include Abstract, Color Space, Display, Input, Named Color, and Output, each of which possesses their own sub selections; for example, Display offers myriad options, including connected external displays, Adobe and Nikon configurations, and generic profiles.

Using the third and last drop-down menu, specify the color profile's intent, such as whether the color profile is being applied to assist in generating a photograph or logo; five options exist: Automatic, Perceptual, Relative Colorimetric, Saturation, and Absolute. Each option associates different treatments with a profile. Automatic uses the default intent, while Perceptual corrects for life-like colors. Relative Colorimetric enforces color accuracy, and Saturation enables more vivid colors. Absolute, the last of the five options, adjusts the color based on white points variations. As a result, Perceptual is often used for photographs, while the Relative Colorimetric setting is used with logos. 

Once you enter the three parameters, click Apply to save the changes. Note: Additional adjustments can still be made to an image. Click the Image Correction icon found on the ColorSync Utility's top-right menu bar (the icon consists of a wrench laid diagonally across a hammer). Among the elements, Image Correction adjusts, via slider bars, are Exposure, Gamma, Saturation, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, and Sepia. Icons are also present for adjusting both an image's white and black points.

Should you need to confirm a pixel's color value within an image, the ColorSync Utility can help you there, too. Open ColorSync Utility, then click the Calculator tab of the ColorSync Utility System Preferences window (Figure B).

Figure B

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The ColorSync Utility Calculator helps identify specific pixel colors.

After you click the magnifying glass icon, wherever you place the cursor, the corresponding pixel color values are displayed within the ColorSync Utility Calculator window. To suspend the pixel color mode, press the Escape key or click anywhere on the screen. The ColorSync Utility Calculator will freeze, displaying the pixel information for the last highlighted color.

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