One of the frustrations of using a desktop scanner is that a scanned image can look different on screen than it does when printed, and both can vary quite a bit from the original. The solution to this problem is color calibration (or color matching) software. With an appropriate color calibration system installed on your computer, an orange in an original image should appear in the exact same color on screen and on paper.
Though that would seem a simple task, the complexities of color and human perception have made calibration a daunting challenge. As a result, there are several different solutions available, with more on the way.
Kodak Color Management System (CMS)
One of the most comprehensive systems is the Kodak Color Management System (CMS), which uses its own color definitions together with profiles for each different scanner, monitor, and printer in the system to translate and standardize colors. Elements of the Kodak system are bundled with Adobe Photoshop and other software, and CMS is rapidly becoming the favorite of graphic artists and others who depend on closely matched colors.
Proprietary Profile-based Systems
Other systems have been developed by individual scanner manufacturers and software publishers. These proprietary profile-based systems can also do the job, provided that they include profiles for all of the different devices that will be used for scanning, viewing, editing, and outputting the final image. Before you commit to a system from a particular scanner vendor, make sure it is comprehensive enough to meet your needs.
A final approach is known as output-based correction, and involves scanning and outputting a standard calibration target, and then making adjustments to color profiles in order to standardize colors. This is a less sophisticated process, and is probably inappropriate for users who want to continually re-calibrate their systems for optimum results. For basic color scanning, however, output-based correction is often sufficient.
The Bottom Line
One thing to keep in mind when evaluating color calibration systems is that they are really valuable only for scans of high-quality images (transparencies, professional-quality prints, etc.) that need to meet rigorous quality standards. For most people using a desktop scanner, accurate color is not as important as fast, pleasing color. Before you choose a scanner based on color calibration software, or invest substantial time calibrating your system, reflect on how important color precision is to you.