Introduction to Rendering Intents

Different devices have different ranges of possible colors (different color gamuts), and often have different paper colors or white points. This creates special problems for color matching. The five rendering intents defined by the ICC are essentially "matching styles" that address these issues in different ways. You can read more about color gamut and mapping at What is Color Gamut and Gamut Mapping?

Wasatch SoftRIP allows the five rendering intents defined by the ICC to be specified in the Color Transforms window.


This rendering intent maps color smoothly, preserving relationships between similar colors. This prevents gamut clipping, with its potential loss of detail and "tonal banding" problems. Gamut clipping occurs when colors that are different in the input image appear the same when printed. The Perceptual rendering intent makes small compromises throughout the entire color space in order to preserve color relationships. It sacrifices some precision of in-gamut colors in order to ensure pleasing results. Click here to see what a gamut clipping problem looks like.

The Perceptual intent will produce the most predictable results when printing from a wide range of image sources. For example, when printing RGB images on CMYK devices, or when trying to match CMYK devices that are radically different from each other. We consider this "foolproof" setting to be best for users who handle the wide variety of images that commonly enter large format printing facilities. It is usually not precise enough for processes where input images are well controlled, such as color proofing and gicleé. The Perceptual rendering intent is the setting of the default color configurations shipped by Wasatch.

Absolute Colorimetric

When a color is not printable within the gamut of the output device, this rendering intent simply prints the closest match. It reproduces in-gamut colors without compromise, as faithfully as possible. This produces the most accurate matching of spot colors. Unfortunately, it can also result in gamut clipping where two colors that are different in the original are identical on the print. White points are similarly clipped, which tends to cause similar color relationship problems in the highlights of images. Such clipping, and the resultant problems, make this choice generally unsuitable for work involving anything but spot colors. Although Wasatch SoftRIP never sets it as default, you can choose it from Wasatch SoftRIP's user interface.

Relative Colorimetric

When a color is not printable within the gamut of the output device, this rendering intent prints the closest match along with an adjustment that maps white to the paper of the output. This white point mapping prevents the problems of Absolute Colorimetric when images (or anything other than spot colors) are involved. When producing color match proofs on inkjet printers, which typically have larger gamuts than the printing presses being simulated, this is a superior choice. When a pair of ICC profiles is loaded for run-time linking, one for the device to be simulated and one for the device being used, this rendering intent will provide good precision (minimal delta-E) for the match-proof process.


This preserves the saturation, or brightness of colors when transforming them for output. It maps fully saturated source colors to fully saturated target colors. This rendering intent is used where color matching and exact relationships between colors is less important than bright colors. This is a "pretty picture" intent that will produce brilliant spot colors, and although Wasatch SoftRIP never sets it as default, you can choose it from Wasatch SoftRIP's user interface.

Black Point Compensation

Black Point Compensation addresses problems caused by differences in the darkest level of black achievable on one device and the darkest level achievable on others. It is a powerful tool for correction of problems with "dusty blacks". Popularized by its use in graphics applications, Black Point Compensation is a pre-standard variation of the ICC-defined Relative Colorimetric rendering intent and is under consideration for inclusion in the standard by ICC. Black Point Compensation rendering intent can be selected for use within Wasatch SoftRIP.

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