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Using a Wacom Cintiq in a Color-Managed Workflow

Using a Wacom Cintiq in a Color-Managed Workflow

Get the Best Color from your Display in Four Easy Steps

Kevin O’Connor, Color Publishing Workflow Consultant

In today’s fast-paced work environments, you must be able to trust the color on your screen—there’s no time for redoing work to get the color right. Great color starts with a great hardware design, but needs direction from you so everything works together for best results. Managing your display’s color to professional standards is an essential part of today’s workflow, whether editing photos, evaluating X-rays, proofing a print layout or editing video. Use the following four steps to get the best color possible with your Cintiq.

Step 1—Use your display in the best environment for color

You’ve already started well, choosing a display that does quality color. Now put it where it can do its best work. The best environment for great color on your Cintiq is one where no light strikes your display directly, and light in the room does not overpower the light coming from the display. Stray light bouncing around degrades the quality of images on any display, and can cause you to make faulty decisions about color, brightness and contrast in your work. This requires expensive correction(s) later.

For best color, set your Cintiq in an area without strong lighting or lots of windows. Cover or turn off large light sources, such as windows or strong overhead lights. Controlling light is a critical part of getting great color on your display. Change any lights in the room to daylight color temperature bulbs whenever possible. These bulbs are available at hardware stores and from specialty color and lighting retailers, and are worth the investment. Where possible, using the supplied DisplayPort connection as opposed to the standard DVI connector to yield the widest color range. Consult the Cintiq User Guide for instructions on using the DisplayPort.

Step 2—Make Your Color Consistent Day to Day

We calibrate displays to make sure they work the same way consistently, similar to tuning cars or musical instruments. We need consistent color—the same this week as it was last week, and each week going forward. Calibrating makes that happen. Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture, among other programs, assume you have calibrated and profiled your display, and act accordingly. If you haven’t calibrated and profiled your display, each application will use defaults fine for consumers, but not precise enough for professionals.

For professional work, we calibrate using an instrument and software to insure precise results. For best results, Wacom provides software for display calibration with each Cintiq 24HD Touch shipped, on the installation disks. You provide the color-measuring device. For Cintiq displays other than the 24HD Touch, use software provided with your color-measuring device. Install this software or the Wacom Color Calibration Software and plug in a compatible color-measuring device. While you may already own a color-measuring device, for best results, a contemporary device will support the latest technology for calibrating and profiling your display, giving the best results.

If using the Wacom Color Calibration Software, it will do the work for you. You simply tell the software what type of workflow you want to use, as shown in the figure at right, and click the Calibrate button (second figure, outlined in red). The software does the work of adjusting the hardware for you automatically. This software allows you to switch on the fly between different settings for different uses, moving quickly and easily between photo editing, medical editing, or editing for print, web or video, without having to recalibrate or reprofile. For multiple use workflows, this is a significant timesaver.

When using other modern display calibration software, follow the software’s step-by-step directions to make manual hardware adjustments. Be sure to use the display’s built-in controls to set the display to use the full color setting. After deciding whether to use the recommended settings in the software or customize for your particular workflow, use the software to calibrate and profile your display.

Whichever tools you use, the process of calibrating and profiling is quick and easy—and delivers superior results. Once finished, the calibration software installs the new color profile in the operating system to use your new color information automatically.

Step 3—Tell your Applications to Do Great Color

Different devices deliver different versions of the same color, rarely matching. A photo displayed on-screen rarely matches an original object, and a print rarely matches the display. Modern applications and operating systems solve this problem by using color management, built into contemporary software—but it has to be turned on and set correctly to give great color results.

Contemporary applications and operating systems use ICC (the International Color Consortium) color management, a modern system for assuring color consistency. This system uses a snapshot of each device’s color ability called a color profile to synchronize color between devices. Modern devices come with factory profiles, but for best results, custom profiles are the best choice.

For each device’s color to work correctly, two things are needed—you have to turn the system ON in each application, and you have to give it current color information specific to your workflow’s needs. Both are easy to set up with a little care. (Note: If you work in a corporate environment, you should check to be sure these recommended changes are consistent with your corporate workflow standards.)

Correctly setting your software for good color produces three great results:

  1. It preserves more original color.
  2. You can preview how color will change as it moves through your workflow(s).
  3. You will match color as closely as possible between each step of the workflow, given the limits of each device’s color.

Start at the front of the workflow

It’s important to get color right at the beginning, while editing original images. Once color has been damaged in original images, it’s almost impossible to repair it later. Though it’s tempting to jump in and just start editing, configuring Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture for great color will save time and grief later.

Color Settings for Photoshop

Photoshop has color management turned ON by default, unlike the rest of the Adobe Creative Suite, but needs to be configured for best results. Configuring is easily done, and it’s even easier to make color match between Photoshop and the rest of the Creative Suite.

To configure color correctly in Photoshop, select Color Settings under the Edit Menu. A window will appear, looking like the one on the next page. The default setting (North America General Purpose) will differ, depending on the region of the world in which Photoshop is installed. In all regions of the world, your color will be better with customized settings matching your particular needs. (Note: These instructions are for Adobe Creative Suite 6, for North America. If you are in a different geographic region, you may see other options, and should choose the setting that best matches your workflow.)

To customize your settings:

  1. Click on the Settings pull-down menu, and change the setting to North American Prepress. Changing this setting provides three important changes:


  1. The RGB working space changes to Adobe RGB, which allows you to preserve more original color for use later in your workflow.
  2. When converting color, you will control how the color is changed, instead of letting default choices deliver less color than you would like.
  3. Photoshop will communicate with you so you make informed color choices. For color as in medicine, our first goal is always to do no harm, so this communication helps you make the best possible color decisions.

The first change you’ll notice is that the amount of RGB color available to you changes from sRGB to the larger Adobe RGB, as shown by the bigger outline shown in the image to the right. This is a better working space for almost everyone, even if your final destinations mostly use sRGB or will be used primarily on the Internet.

  • Next, click on the CMYK Working Space pull-down menu, and review the choices. If you don’t have a custom profile from a print provider to use as a default, choose U.S. Sheetfed Coated v2. This setting preserves more color than the default setting, and can be overridden for custom color work. You can see the amount of extra color preserved in the larger outline shown in the image at right—not huge, but sometimes essential, esp. in the yellows, greens and reds.
  • Understand Rendering Intents. Selecting the correct intent is essential to converting color correctly. The default rendering intent for the Creative Suite is Relative Colorimetric, a good starting point. To understand the differences between rendering intents, see the section in this document headed Soft Proofing in Photoshop.
  • Save and Name your Custom Settings. When you change any of the -choices in the default settings, the title of the Setting changes to Custom. Click on the Save button and give your custom setting a custom name. Pick one that’s easily understood and chosen again when you need to understand it later. You can make multiple different custom named settings, as many as you need for different workflow requirements.

    It’s a good idea to name your presets in such a way they’re easily identified. If your print provider gives you custom output profiles, install them on your system and choose them in same way to create new named workflows. See the Appendix in this document for instructions on how to install new profiles.
  • Make Color the Same in Other Parts of the Adobe Creative Suite

    Adobe has provided a quick and easy way to synchronize color. It only takes four clicks, and color will match between Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat Professional. The steps are:

    1. Open Adobe Bridge.
    2. Go to the Edit Menu, to the last item (Creative Suite Color Settings).
    3. Find the same setting you chose for Photoshop’s color, whether a standard or custom setting.
    4. Click on this setting and select Apply. The window will close, and voila! Your Creative Suite applications will manage color the same way. This applies for Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop and Acrobat Professional.

    Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

    Adobe’s choice to use this space in the Develop module ensures that you will get all the color possible out of your original; what you do next with all that color depends on your choices for setup and destinations for your images. See the next section for information on how to preview your color output.

    Apple Aperture

    Configuring color management in Aperture is easy. When opening and processing images in Aperture, the program uses a very large color space, wide enough to accommodate all colors captured by digital cameras. No action is needed to choose this wide space; it’s hard–wired in Aperture. In order to set up best color management in Aperture, open Aperture’s Preferences, and select Export. Select an external editor color space, such as ProPhoto RGB, Adobe RGB or sRGB, to match your standard workflow. This will be your default color destination when exporting images, either for final output or to an external editor such as Photoshop. You will always be able to override for a different destination when needed.

    Step 4—Preview your Color Correctly

    Once you’ve completed the steps above, one last step remains. Different light sources (sunlight, shade, fluorescent, LED, etc.) change the color of an object being viewed. The kind, quality and amount of light on the object being viewed changes its appearance, so the original may or may not match the display unless viewed under correct lighting. For most consistent results, when comparing an original to the display, view your work in an industry standard light box as shown. The amount of light in the light box needs to be balanced against the light coming from the display, so that one doesn’t overpower the other, preventing an accurate preview.

    Use the Built-in Preview Tools in Software

    With color correctly configured in software, you can now preview on-screen the color of an image as it will appear when converted for various destinations, such as print or the web. You will need to tell Photoshop or other applications that you are previewing an image on-screen. This is called soft proofing. Here’s how to soft proof in various applications.

    Soft Proofing in Photoshop

    For Photoshop, use these instructions:

    1. Under the View Menu, select the first item (Proof Setup).
    2. If your default (working) CMYK setting matches the destination you want to preview, select Working CMYK; alternately, if you’ve already created a named preset, scroll down to this named preset and watch the color change onscreen. Sometimes the change is very dramatic; other times, it will be very subtle. You can toggle the preview on and off easily by typing Cmd/Ctrl-Y.
    3. If you need to use another destination, select Custom and then select the device you wish to simulate for your on-screen preview. Install the ICC color profile for the desired paper and printer combination if needed.
    4. Try a different Rendering Intent. Directly below the Device to Simulate menu, you’ll notice the pull-down menu for Rendering Intent. This is a very powerful (and little known) setting you use to control the math used by Photoshop to change the original color to its destination. By changing the Rendering Intent, you change how Photoshop prioritizes one type of color over another. The default setting is Relative Colorimetric, chosen by Adobe because this setting most closely matches each shade of color to the nearest possible color in the destination. You can also use Absolute Colorimetric to simulate the paper color around the colors printed, Saturation to pump up colors at the expense of accuracy, or Perceptual to maintain perceptually pleasing color, which is not always an exact match but may look better for certain images.
    5. You may wish to create a named preset for each of the rendering intents you use with certain profiles on a regular basis, as it’s more convenient to use. To do this, click on the Save button at bottom right and give the preset an easy to understand name, including device, substrate and rendering intent.

    Best practices for rendering intents include making presets for Perceptual and Relative Colorimetric rendering intents with the same profile, and using these two presets on a calibrated, profiled display to preview how each intent converts color from original to destination. You will usually find that sometimes you prefer one intent for some images, another intent for others. Testing on a trustworthy display is the best way to be sure before converting.

    Whichever rendering intent you choose to preview, be sure you use the same rendering intent when you convert the color after previewing, whether to print or convert your file for other destinations, such as the web, a different paper in the same printer, or a press.

    Softproofing in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

    To take full advantage of Lightroom’s color capabilities to soft proof an image, go to the Develop module. At the bottom left, there will be a check box that says “Soft Proofing”. When this box is checked, a “Soft Proofing” panel appears at the top right of the Develop module window. In this panel, you will choose which profile you’ll use to preview how an image will look when converted to another profile. Click on the name of the profile to show a pull-down menu with other profiles. If you need a custom profile that is not installed, you’ll need to install it first and restart Lightroom.

    This proofing function can be used to see how an image will look when converted to sRGB for the web, to Adobe RGB when clients request your files be submitted in this color space or converted to other RGB profiles used for inkjet and other printers. Lightroom 4 does not support soft proofing using CMYK profiles for presses, RIPs or other destinations.

    Just as Photoshop assumes you have calibrated and profiled your display, and are managing the amount of light in the room which will affect the display, so does Lightroom. Editing your images on an uncalibrated, unprofiled or light-blasted display can cause serious problems when printing images or sending them elsewhere to be viewed by others on calibrated, profiled displays in controlled lighting.

    Soft-proofing in Apple Aperture

    As in Photoshop and Lightroom, edit your image for optimal quality first. When you’re ready to preview how the image will appear when converted to its destination colorspace, first choose View -> Proofing Profile, and then choose which profile will be used for your preview. Next, select View -> On-screen Proofing. Watch carefully to see how the screen changes; sometimes soft-proofing changes are subtle, but still important. Toggle this preview on and off as much as needed to see the effect of the destination you’re previewing.

    After you’ve adjusted a copy of the image to match its intended destination, Choose File -> Export -> Versions. In the dialog box that appears, select a preset that matches most closely what you want, including the color profile. If none of the presets are exactly what you want, adjust a preset until you get what you need, and save these adjusted settings as a new preset for use in the future. Add as many presets as you need, and delete those unused.

    Maintain Great Color

    When you first calibrate and profile your display, the software sets a reminder to recalibrate on a regular interval, usually two weeks. If you are using the Wacom Color Calibration Software, it’s very quick to update your calibration. Launch the software, put the sensor on the display when asked, click Calibrate and let the software work. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it guarantees you’ll see color on your display consistently.

    For super critical color workflows, you can check the calibration using a validation tool built into the Wacom Color Calibration Software. This lets you make sure your Cintiq 24HD Touch is still delivering the best color. If you use the validation tool and discover you need to calibrate more often, simply change the frequency of the reminder in the preferences.

    Great Displays for Great Work

    Great color demands great displays. Whether you’re a photographer, illustrator, video editor or designer, you (and your eyes) need a first quality display to make you most productive and help you do your best work. The Wacom Cintiq 24HD Touch is the perfect color partner, though this document will help you improve color using any Wacom Cintiq.

    Display Quality

    Working in color or grayscale, the Wacom Cintiq 24HD Touch is designed to help you judge critical values on-screen easily and effectively, starting with the matte finish of the display. Unlike high gloss screens, which distort perceived color values and cause annoying reflections, the Cintiq’s matte finish simulates real world color more closely, supporting critical color matching. The color gamut of this screen exceeds the range of color which can be printed on a standard printing press or displayed on the Internet, so that, when correctly configured, you can use this display to proof your work before you print or post to see how it will appear in its final form.

    A great display starts with an excellent panel used to make the display. The panel used in the Cintiq 24HD Touch uses one of the best display technologies available, and one of the highest quality, called In-Plane Switching. In-Plane Switching (IPS) is used by display manufacturers to deliver an advanced color experience. This technology was invented to improve the quality of color and contrast on display, as well as improving consistency from side to side and top to bottom—critical when judging critical color on-screen. The Cintiq 24HD Touch provides a 178° viewing angle, making it easier for a group of people to see the same color while gathered around the Cintiq, as well as helping to make sure the color is consistent. Trustworthy collaboration is only one of the benefits of this technology—better quality displays are easier on your eyes, delivering more faithful color, when color is managed correctly.


    The Cintiq 24HD Touch is a superb color display, for all your professional color needs. Advanced color technology and bundled software join with beautiful ergonomics and design to support multiple color workflows. The addition of touch support to direct on-screen stylus input makes you even more productive in both comfort and style. Add in a full range of professional color tools for matching multiple Cintiq 24HD Touch displays as well as multiple workflows quickly and automatically, and it’s clear the Cintiq 24HD Touch is the perfect choice for great color. If you have another model in the Wacom Cintiq line, the steps outlined above will give you the best color possible with your display. Whichever Cintiq you choose, here’s to great color on your display.

    Appendix A: How to Install Color Profiles

    Profiles you create for your display are automatically stored in the right location by the profiling software. However, you may receive profiles from an output provider, or you may download profiles from paper and printer manufacturers. These profiles must be installed in the correct location in order to use them for your work. Here’s how to do this quickly and easily. Once you’ve installed a new profile, restart your application to use it.

    Mac OS

    In the Mac OS, copy profiles to one of two destinations:

    /Library/ColorSync/Profiles, or
    By default on Mac OS 10.7 (Lion) and later, the user Library folder is hidden. To reach the folder, hold down the Option key and select the Go Menu. Choose Library.


    In Windows, right-click on the profile to be installed and select Install Profile. You can also copy the profile(s) into: WINDOWS\system32\spool\drivers\color