Color management is a term that describes a technology that translates the colors of an object (images, graphics or text) from their current color space to the color space of the output devices like monitors, printers, ...
One word: Consistency.
Color management is about making sure that your images look the same on your screen, as well as on your friends' screen as well as on the print. Now as well as in a few years.
People see color. Machines (camera, computer, printer) see 3 numbers.
What are the difference or similarities here?
You might call a certain color "deep red", while a friend of yours would call it "kinda orangy-red". So, two names for the same color. Which is is?
Likewise, not all machines will name the same color with the same numbers:
Here's how this color is "called" in different color spaces:
Also, when you and that same friend get sent to buy a "green" T-shirt, you might get home with two different colored T-shirts.
Likewise, not all machines will display the same color if the same numbers are sent:
That's where color management comes in: It tells the machines what the numbers mean.
It does that with the help of ICC profiles.
ICC profiles "describe" a color space. They tell the machine what a certain number means.
ICC profiles are either a working space ("standardised" profile, describing a fixed range of colors) or a device profile (specific for your display or printer for instance).
Color management needs three legs to stand:
- An image with an embedded icc profile;
- A color managed application;
- A device profile for the output device.
If one of these three goes missing, so does color management.