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Introducing iccMAX

New: iccMAX draft specification and reference implementation available

ICC color management meets the goal of creating, promoting and encouraging the standardization of an open, vendor-neutral, cross-platform color management system architecture and components. While the current architecture works well in many areas, new potential applications are emerging and it is believed that tomorrow's color comunication will require a more flexible and extensible system. Within ICC Labs, ICC has developed a new specification, iccMAX, that will address many of these new requirements.

iccMAX is not intended as a replacement for ICC.1, the existing architecture, but as an extension or alternative where requirements cannot be fully met by ICC.1. Currently the areas covered by ICC Labs include:

  • Multi-spectral
  • Medical Imaging
  • Image Capture/Digital Photography
  • Package Printing
  • Color Management on Internet
  • Fine Art
  • Color Information Archiving

ICC welcomes input from vendors and users on areas that are not covered well by the current ICC architecture.

Work in ICC Labs has resulted in a preliminary specification, together with supporting implementations. These will include a reference CMM that provides a baseline interpretation of iccMAX profiles.

What is iccMAX?

iccMAX is a new color management system developed in ICC Labs, primarily by members of the Architecture Working Group, that goes beyond D50 colorimetry. The new specification will be known as iccMAX, and will initially be released as a preliminary document for public testing, before being published as a new ICC standard and proposed as a new part of ISO 15076.

iccMAX profiles will show v5 in the header to distinguish them from v4 and v2. iccMAX profiles will also have class, sub-class, versioning and header information that differs from v4.

Users and developers are encouraged to make comments on the preliminary specification.

Backwards compatibility

iccMAX will provide a significant enhancement to the functionality of the current v4 specification. It is recognised that in many industries, v4 (and even v2) meets existing color management needs and in these industries there will be no drive to move to adopt the new specification.

An iccMAX CMM will be completely backward-compatible and will recognise and correctly process v2 and v4 profiles. However, iccMAX profiles are not expected to be compatible with v4 CMMs. The reference implementation provided by ICC will help with iccMAX adoption.

How will iccMAX profiles be different?

The full list of iccMAX features is still to be decided by ICC, but at present some of the main changes you will see are:

Profile Connection Space

ICC v4 has fixed D50 colorimetry, considered necessary until now to ensure interoperability and prevent ambiguity in colour transforms. iccMAX will allow flexibility in the selection of illuminant (currently D50) and color matching functions (currently the CIE 1931 Standard Colorimetric Observer). It will support spectral communication of colour information through an optional spectral PCS, and will support the use of color appearance processing in the PCS, with the facility to store appearance attributes in a v5 profile.

Support for extended CMM functionality

A variety of new types of information can be stored in an iccMAX profile to support run-time transform creation of a smart or dynamic CMM. Examples include:

  • a new gamut boundary description (GBD)
  • spectral data
  • measurement data using the CxF format
  • a new encoding of Named colors to support tints

Programmable transforms (e.g. direct encoding of device models) will be supported, with functional operators, conditional evaluation, persistent variables and vectorized operations for improved performance.

Future extendability will be provided through support for hierarchical data encoding, allowing optional data to be added later without requiring changes to the tag parser.

Abbreviated profiles

CMMs will be able to select or define a suitable transform by referencing the color encoding standard (such as those listed in the ICC Three-component Registry) which can be specified in an iccMAX profile in place of a complete transform.

Check the current status of iccMAX.


Comment on the changes.

If you wish to comment on iccMAX, please email the ICC Technical Secretary.


Participate in iccMAX.

If you are interested in developing or testing features being developed as part of v5, please contact the ICC Secretary to find out about individual membership of the Architecture Working Group.