Color can be described conceptually by a three-dimensional HSB model:
RGB (Red, Green, Blue) and CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) are other common color models. CRT monitors use the former, creating color by causing red, green, and blue phosphors to glow; this system is called additive color. Mixing different amounts of each of the red, green or blue, creates different colors, and each can be measured from 0 to 255. If all red, green and blue are set to 0, the color is black, is all are set to 255, the color is white.
Printed material is created by applying inks or toner to white paper. The pigments in the ink absorb light selectively so that only parts of the spectrum are reflected back to the viewer's eye, hence the term subtractive color. The basic printing ink colors are cyan, magenta, and yellow, and a fourth ink, black, is usually added to create purer, deeper shadows and a wider range of shades. By using varying amounts of these 'process colors' a large number of different colors can be produced. Here the level of ink is measured from 0% to 100%, with orange, for example being represented by 0% cyan, 50% magenta, 100% yellow and 0% black.
The CIE (Commission Internationale de l'Eclairage) was formed early in this century to develop standards for the specification of light and illumination and was responsible for the first color space model. This defined color as a combination of three axes: x, y, and z, with, in broad terms, x representing the amount of redness in a color, y the amount of greenness and lightness (bright-to-dark), and z the amount of blueness. In 1931 this system was adopted as the CIE x*y*z model, and it's the basis for most other color space models. The most familiar refinement is the Yxy model, in which the near triangular xy planes represent colors with the same lightness, with lightness varying along the Y-axis. Subsequent developments, such as the L*a*b and L*u*v models released in 1978, map the distances between color co-ordinates more accurately to the human color perception system.
For color is to be an effective tool, it must be possible to create and enforce consistent, predictable color in a production chain: scanners, software, monitors, desktop printers, external PostScript output devices, prepress service bureaux, and printing presses. The dilemma is that different devices just can't create the same range of colors. It is in the field of color management that all of this color modeling effort comes into its own. This uses the device-independent CIE color space to mediate between the color gamuts of the various different devices. Color management systems are based on generic profiles of different color devices, which describe their imaging technologies, gamuts and operational methods. These profiles are then fine-tuned by calibrating actual devices to measure and correct any deviations from ideal performance. Finally, colors are translated from one device to another, with mapping algorithms choosing the optimal replacements for out-of-gamut colors that can't be handled.
Until Apple introduced ColorSync as a part of its System 7.x operating system in 1992, color management was left to specific applications. These high-end systems have produced impressive results, but they are computationally intensive and mutually incompatible. Recognizing the problems of cross-platform color, the ICC (International Color Consortium, although originally named the ColorSync Profile Consortium) was formed in March 1994 to establish a common device profile format. The founding companies included Adobe, Agfa, Apple, Kodak, Microsoft, Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, and Taligent.
The goal of the ICC is to provide true portable color that will work in all hardware and software environments, and it published its first standard - version 3 of the ICC Profile Format - in June 1994. There are two parts to the ICC profile; the contains information about the profile itself, such as what device created the profile and when and the second is colourmetric device characterization, which explains how the device renders color. The following year Windows 95 became the first Microsoft operating environment to include color management and support for ICC-compliant profiles, via the ICM (Image Color Management) system.