However necessary, colour management is one of the least ‘sexy’ parts of digital design. With the ColorMunki Design, though, Pantone is trying to make colour more exciting – and it has largely succeeded. It’s a winning mix of cute hardware and ludicrously easy-to-use software with a unique mix of colour tools.
The ColorMunki Design is a tool that allows creatives to calibrate their monitors and printers (and projectors) for accurate output; ‘scan’ anything and use its colour as the basis for a colour palette; create palettes from these – or from images – using colour rules; modify these palettes based on Pantone’s own Goe ink systems or process colours, and export them to standard design tools such as those within Adobe’s CS3 or QuarkXPress.
The ColorMunki is a thick, palm-sized block of a device that connects to your Mac or PC via a long USB cable. The design owes a lot to Apple’s iPod, with a large wheel in its centre that moves the sensor around to one of four modes: ambient light measurement (for monitor calibration); projector measurement; self-calibration; and an ‘everything else’ notch for monitor, printer and object colour measurement. These aren’t labelled but the software clearly tells you what setting to turn the wheel to, and stops you if it’s on the wrong one.
Pantone wins no points for the software installation process. As soon as we launched it, it checked online for updates and downloaded a 267MB (Windows) or 168MB (Mac) installer file – which is annoying and makes you ask why the company bothered to include a disc in the first place. The manual is also poorly laid-out, but again the software is so simple to use that the manual actually makes using the ColorMunki more difficult – and is best used to line a hamster cage.
Monitor and printer calibration is a doddle, with video instructions included for the technologically inept. We were especially impressed with the printer calibration, as using such devices is normally trickier than rocking a rhyme (on time) and requires hardware costing twice that of the ColorMunki. Users don’t need to waste time monotonously scanning hundreds of individual swatches or use a clunky plastic frame. Run the ColorMunki by hand over printouts of lines of colours and the device will (usually) pick up the results easily.
If you want to incorporate the colour of a found object or favourite jumper, you can capture it using the ColorMunki. The device does pretty well with textured fabrics and other multilayered objects – though it can’t recognise metallics or other non-flat colours. Using this colour, the ColorMunki Design software can create palettes based on harmonics (such as complementary colours), variations and similar colours – à la Adobe’s Illustrator CS3 or online Kuler service. As with Kuler, there’s a website for users to share colour palettes.
The software will also show you how your colours will look using different printers, including both its own inks and common printer colour profiles such as Euroscale. It can also create colour palettes based around colours you select or, impressively, based on the overall colour tones of images.
These palettes can be used in design applications, with Pantone’s software automatically syncing your palettes with Photoshop, InDesign, QuarkXpress, and so on. However, the software found Photoshop CS3, but we had to add InDesign manually.