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Thread: Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

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    Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    I'm trying to learn about using color spaces (e.g. work spaces such as Adobe, ProPhoto, or sRGB) to help me know what to expect from prints or projected images from other computers based on what I see on my monitor. Today, even when I seem to get the color right , the brightness often seems off when I have it printed. I did find great tutorials here. However, I'm still a bit unsure.

    First, I will be buying a Spyder3Pro or Display2 to calibrate my monitor. (Then I will no longer use the MacOSX Sys.Pref. calibration). I'll need to choose a Gamma of 1.8 or 2.2. The Mac screen looks better to me at 1.8, but for my goals, it would seem that Gamma 2.2 should be the setting - is that correct?

    Can you tell me if this is a good workflow ?:

    1) MyCamera (jpg, sRGB) --> LightRoom (non destructive edits) --> CS4 (Tif or psd, ProPhoto). So far, so good - I think

    2a) Now I want to save back to jpg for printing or projecting from another computer. In CS4, Edit> Assign to Profile> ICC profile for the target printer.

    or,
    2b) If I want it too look right on another computer or projected, for which I have no profile, I assume sRGB. In CS4 , Edit>Color Settings>select sRGB.

    3) Adjust the image brightness, contrast , color , etc. so it looks right on the display (again). Change the Mode to 8bit, Save to jpg. Send file to printer. I am careful not to save these changes to over-write the original Tif or PSD .

    Is this a good workflow ? Or since my camera only outputs jpg sRGB (not RAW), and I end up outputting to sRGB, should I just keep the whole workflow in sRGB?

  2. #2

    Re: Need help with color workspaces

    Dodgy analogy coming up...

    When I eat at indian restaurants, they try to be helpful and tell me how hot their dishes are. Some use some number of chillis on the menu, and I always assume that the more chilli symbols, the hotter the dish. Others use mild/medium/hot in words. The chilli icons and words each describe a coordinate system. They describe how the hotness varies from dish to dish. Call the chilli icons, and the hotness words chilli SPACEs.

    Now, at one restaurant, we can tell how hot a curry is. Each dish is given a value in that restaurants chilli space. (Analogy, the chilli spaces are like colour spaces, they basically tell you what units are used, and the range of hotness/colour.)

    Now, the problem comes when I go to a new restuarant. How does the number of chillis used at the new one compare to what I am familiar with. Perhaps what I am used to as a 1-chilli dish at my favorite indian will be too hot for me at the new restaurant? Or too mild? The problem is that Indian restaurants are not calibrated one to another. The values they use are unique to their restaurant. Sure the units (number of chillis or mild/medium/hot) are the same, but you cannot assume that mild at one restaurant is not medium at another.

    So, it'd help to have restaurants calibrated, so hot/3chillies meant the same thing everywhere. NOTE that this is independent of the chilli space.

    Imagine we had a probe we could poke into each curry, and it would tell us some number that uniquely represented the chilli-strength. Now we can tell how each restaurant compares strength-wise - we have a calibration curve per restaurant. Each restaurant can continue to use it's own chilli space, but we can use the calibration curve to adjust their space into a common one. Back to the analogy, each output device (monitor, printer) needs to be calibrated to check that when it is told to output a certain colour, it actually does.


    Onto your questions... Yes, I'd suggest that you keep in sRGB all the way. I fully expect that your printer and the other projector/computer can accept sRGB, can might well have been designed to only work with sRGB.

    A1) Been a while since I played with lightroom, but I'd expect most of what you can do there you could do with CS4. Don't use ProPhoto unless you have a compelling reason to. (I suspect that you don't).

    A2a) Do you need to save to jpeg for printing? Wouldn't think so. Perhaps you meant save to jpeg for projecting from the other computer? I'd choose my printer calibration from the printer driver, I'd select "Photoshop Manages Colors" and then select my printer profile from the Printer Profile drop down.

    A2b) The photo will already be sRGB, so nothing to do here. You'd need this step if you did work in the ProPhoto workspace.

    A3) Um, yes, make whatever edits you want in PS. Print the photo before you convert to 8-bit and jpeg. If you've gone to the trouble of adjusting things, why not save out the changes as a PSD for future use?

    How I work is:

    i) Open AdobeRGB RAW in CS4, choosing a 16-bit version from Adobe RAW.
    ii) Crop/edit/whatever and save out a PSD.
    iii) Print (telling the printer I am sending an AdobeRGB, and using the printer profile I have, as per my A2a above.
    iv) Resize for the web.
    v) Save out a jpeg, with the AdobeRGB colour space profile buried into the jpeg.
    vi) Resize for a thumbnail.
    vii) Save out a jpeg in a tn (thumbnail) folder, in sRGB and with no profile information.

    I don't overwrite the PSD, so my steps iii onwards have to be repeated if I change my mind. These steps are really output-format steps, I have done the hard work at step ii.

    Your mileage may vary. :-)

    HTH,
    Graham
    Last edited by dendrophile; 22nd March 2009 at 10:34 PM. Reason: Indented to make it easier to read

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    Re: Need help with color workspaces

    Hi, thanks for taking time to write up the analogy ! I get it. Yet I've struggled with how best to utilize these Spaces in my workflow. The reason I sometimes need a jpeg for printing is that I only have a modest printer at home. Some services I send files to for printing photos request jpeg, sRBG.

    Since my current camera only outputs sRBG jpegs, as you suggest, I should probably stay with sRGB through the entire workflow - even though I start out in CS4 in Tif or Psd.

    If I could import RAW, then I imagine there might be an advantage is using the other Spaces as you suggested.

    So perhaps I only need to pay attention to make final edits (brightness, color etc) to the image that I want to have printed using a particular printer's ICC. Often when I view my image in one of the printer ICC's, it looks much darker and I need to lighten it up, or correct the color. Then save this tweaked image to a filename so that I don't accidentally overwrite my original file. I also have saved a couple of printer ICCs so that I can do a Command-Y and view them as Soft Proofs in CS4.

    Does that seem correct? or at least reasonable ?

  4. #4

    Re: Need help with color workspaces

    Quote Originally Posted by qveda View Post
    The reason I sometimes need a jpeg for printing is that I only have a modest printer at home. Some services I send files to for printing photos request jpeg, sRBG.
    Oh yes, that makes sense!

    Quote Originally Posted by qveda View Post
    So perhaps I only need to pay attention to make final edits (brightness, color etc) to the image that I want to have printed using a particular printer's ICC. Often when I view my image in one of the printer ICC's, it looks much darker and I need to lighten it up, or correct the color. Then save this tweaked image to a filename so that I don't accidentally overwrite my original file. I also have saved a couple of printer ICCs so that I can do a Command-Y and view them as Soft Proofs in CS4.

    Does that seem correct? or at least reasonable ?
    What you say sounds perfect to me. The edits you are making are printer-specific, so, yes, either save them out with a name that indicates it's the version for that printer, or don't save at all, just make sure you keep the cropped/editted version.

    Guess what I will add though is once you have colour calibrated your monitor and printer, you should have the same results on the monitor and printer (within the ability of the two devices to produce the image). Then, there should be no need to adjust the brightness/colour uniquely for different printers.

    Post in some photos when you feel ready, we'd all love to see your work.

    Graham

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    Re: Need help with color workspaces

    Quote Originally Posted by dendrophile View Post
    Oh yes, that makes sense!
    Guess what I will add though is once you have colour calibrated your monitor and printer, you should have the same results on the monitor and printer (within the ability of the two devices to produce the image). Then, there should be no need to adjust the brightness/colour uniquely for different printers.

    Graham
    Hi Graham,
    thanks so much for the information.
    one more clarification, please....
    Assuming I remain the sRBG space, when I bring up an image that looks fine on my calibrated monitor, and I switch to the 'soft proof' view of a particular printer ICC, the image may appear dimmer, or undesirable in some way. If so, I would then need to make image adjustments so that it will print as I envision it on that particular printer? Correct?

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    Re: Need help with color workspaces

    Hi Qveda,

    If you're serious about colour management then the very first thing you need to do is pop along to www.amazon.com and pick up a copy of "Real World Colour Management" by Fraser, Murphy, and Bunting.

    With regard to colourspaces, a good way to look at it is to consider sRGB as being the lowest common denominator between cameras, monitors, and (most) printers; if you stick to sRGB you will miss out on a few colours (that you almost certainly won't miss) - but at the same time you'll also keep yourself out of trouble.

    The BIG issue with bigger spaces like Adobe RGB, ProPhoto etc is that that cameras can only capture a sub-set of the colours that it's capable of describing - monitors can only display a subset of the colours it's cabable of describing - and printers can only print a subset of the colours it's capable of describing - BUT - (notice that it's a BIG but) these three subsets are not all the same. Sure, there's a big overlap, but none-the-less there are colours that (for example) the monitor is capable of displaying, but the printer isn't capable of printing (and vice versa) - and this can cause BIG issues. Bright reds are a good case in point - the monitor can display them no sweat (because it has a pure red channel), but a printer can't because it doesn't have any red ink - so you end up with something bright and red on the screen and more orangy on the paper.

    Don't forget that even with colour management, you STILL can't display colours outside of the gamut of the device (printer or monitor) that you're trying to work with - it's just a physical impossibility, but they have to get rendered into "something", (just what depends on the selected rendering intent) and we end up with a situation I call "the map is not the territory"; what you see may look like what you want, but it's not what you're going to get.

    So ... my suggestion is to stick with sRGB until you've read the book, and want to experiment further ... remember, "the bigger the space, the more trouble you can get yourself into" - all for very little gain (unless you're a colour expert, most can't spot these kinds of issues).

    Hope this helps
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 10th June 2009 at 10:04 AM.

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    Re: Need help with color workspaces

    Quote Originally Posted by qveda View Post
    Assuming I remain the sRBG space, when I bring up an image that looks fine on my calibrated monitor, and I switch to the 'soft proof' view of a particular printer ICC, the image may appear dimmer, or undesirable in some way. If so, I would then need to make image adjustments so that it will print as I envision it on that particular printer? Correct?
    Maybe yes, maybe no - soft-proofing can be useful, but it's not an exact science (due in part for some of the reasons I've outlined above). I wouldn't put too much trust in the levels info it gives you - the most useful part I find is to turn on the gamut warning, and look for any gray (thus "problem") areas. Soft-proofing generally does a pretty lousy job of emulating canvas type media; also, keep in mind that when you're dealing with an active additive device (monitor) -v- a reflective subtracted device (paper) there isn't a 1:1 co-relation - levels especially suffer as most run their monitors much brighter than a piece of paper inside will look (and of course the opposite applies when you take it outside).

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    Re: Need help with color workspaces

    I'm so glad I found this forum! Thanks for the help, and the book recommendation ( I had not found this book by surfing on amazon).

    I'm saving this thread for future reference. In the meantime, it still seems to require a lot of trial and error - even to get photographic prints to come out the way they look on my monitor. Often I find the the images from my camera need little adjusting in LR or CS4. But I hardly ever get a photographic print or ink jet print to come out with the same saturation, color etc.

    Often my little HP deskjet printer gets very close. But I live in a rural area, and need to send files to services to have them printed and I seldom get what I want. sometimes they are way off. Hopefully the monitor calibration (should be getting one in about a week) will take care of most of this. It is sooo frustrating to love what I see on my screen and then have such difficulty printing it, or wondering how it will look on another computer when I enter in contest.

    again, I really appreciate your advice. !!

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    Re: Need help with color workspaces

    No worries - if you like the service, be sure to hang around and join in (the more we help you, the more we help others - and the more we help ourselves - so don't be shy - you're helping us too!

    Usually the best places to start are with the colour management "bible" and a calibrated / profiled monitor.

    Usually with profiling the colours themselves don't shift a lot, but levels are often way out - and that in turn has a big influence on what are called memory colours (like the sky).

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    Re: Need help with color workspaces

    Will do! what a wonderful Forum experience. far better than some of the 'mass market' ones that I've been on lately.

    -Qua

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    Re: Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    Qua: As usual Colin with his vast experience and knowledge has given you a superb set of advice.

    I just want to add some small riders, I think the difference between sRGB and Adobe RGB is visually noticable (on a good monitor and especially to anyone who has artistic education).

    If you use the built-in system calibration on a mac screen in a few different lights, eg evening with your artificial lighting, sunny day, cloudy day, you will find each one is significantly different. Mine is a MacBook pro so wanders to different environments and I sometimes toggle to a different calibration if the background/header grey looks at all tinted. The Spyder is for co-ordination with projection to screen, ie with no ambient light to modify it.

    Printing is so fickle you end up fine tuning for the printer-paper-ink combination you use. Also different images 'work' or don't differently on paper and projected/on monitor. If you have good colour perception, I think Adobe RGB is worth it despite problems (and fact that maybe others don't see what you see); then deal with printing. My main 'target' is local club competitions and I select about 50% more images than I need to print, then work up from A5 to A3 with some fine-tune and discards in between. The print discards can still do fine for a projection category and web use. The A5s get used up for greetings cards!

    Lastly it turns out that a vast proportion of people still use IE, which has no colour calibration whereas Safari has it automatically and Firefox as an add-on. I will leave one of the IE crowd to think of a reason for photographers to use it .

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    Re: Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by crisscross View Post
    I just want to add some small riders, I think the difference between sRGB and Adobe RGB is visually noticable (on a good monitor and especially to anyone who has artistic education).
    I could be wrong Chris but, with the exception of High-end monitors like Eizo (with 4-Digit price tags), I very much doubt that you'll be able to see many colours outside the sRGB gamut, simply because the monitor just isn't physically capable of displaying them - but they WILL get rendered (or "re-mapped") into something in the sRGB gamut, and I suspect that that's what people are seeing (and depending on the rendering intent, all other colours may well be adjusted to compensate) - it's a bit like a psudo HDR image -v- a true HDR image; it may look authentic, but it's really just smoke and mirrors. Where Adobe RGB it really come into play is when printing in a CMYK based system (Camera captures - monitor can't display - but printer can still print, so an advantage is gained).

    This is the "gotcha" that seems to get people when they're discussing colour managed browsers ... first up, existing browsers are "sorta/kinda" colour managed in that they're all supposedly designed (or "standardised") around sRGB. RGB isn't a colour standard ... but sRGB is (admittedly it's primitive in that sRGB is assumed even when an Adobe RGB or ProPhoto file is supplied, but sRGB IS a standard in it's own right, and second, again, having a colour managed browser doesn't allow you to view the full additional colour gamut of spaces like Adobe RGB (monitor just can't do it) - so all it's really doing is including enough smarts to CONVERT the supplied image INTO sRGB for display purposes (which is primarily a levels adjustment more than anything else).

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    Re: Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    This is one that provides lots of 'runs around' Colin & somewhere on CinC there is an excercise devised by Sean.

    Last time I had a serious set-to on it was around the poppy season and all I can say is that the fairly startling colours of poppies in full flood come out best in Adobe RGB. http://www.pbase.com/crisscross/image/97998303/original (I notice that the pbase auto-downsizes do lose the A RGB, bother , though the actual colour returns when downloaded & viewed in own software)
    There is also the matter of setting everything, ie camera, PP software & browser to the same to avoid multiple files.

    Firefox 'Color management' allows you to set any colourspace that has its file on your computer, it is not just a work-around to deal with any that show. I obviously talk from a Mac background and apple 'pro' monitor and easy access to such things as colour profiles. (I used not to be a Safari fan but it has greatly improved lately and now use it most of the time).
    Last edited by crisscross; 18th June 2009 at 09:50 AM.

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    Re: Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by crisscross View Post
    I will leave one of the IE crowd to think of a reason for photographers to use it .
    I don't think there is a good reason for ANYONE to use it. MS security chief uses FF for goodness sake, what does that tell you

    Colour management in ff is nice as like stated you can load any profiles you have. Also exif viewers and a whole host of other things mean ff is better choice. There isn't a single thing I know of ie can do better than other browsers and it's rendering is far from perfect (particularly compared to gecko based ones). MS introduce the usual none standard features in their usual embrace-extend-extinguish manner, but those are usually catered for pretty quick on the ff front (for instance MHT support is out of beta and is now superior to ie mht features).

    Forgive the rant hehehe but I hate ie because it's rubbish and people would be so much happier with a more secure feature rich alternative that is just as easy. Come on, hands up if ie wasn't pushed on windows users the way it is how many people would opt to install that over the competition. Yeah I'm aware explorer works on ie tech so cannot ship without it but it's not intergrated the way konqueror is in kde for instance (exactly the same as windows /ie relationship) and is pushed in such a way many don't even know there are alternatives!

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    Re: Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by crisscross View Post
    Last time I had a serious set-to on it was around the poppy season and all I can say is that the fairly startling colours of poppies in full flood come out best in Adobe RGB.
    Hi Chris,

    I'm not familiar with the gamut of Mac 'pro' monitors, so it is possible that they're capable of some colours outside of the normal "sRGB Gamut" (I put that in quotes because sRGB isn't a gamut definition, but my understanding is that what most monitors typically display anyway), but what I suspect you're seeing is probably more of a spread of tones than additional colours (perceptual rendering).

    Firefox 'Color management' allows you to set any colourspace that has its file on your computer, it is not just a work-around to deal with any that show.
    I appreciate that (photoshop is the same) - but - it's a bit like buying 2 cylinder car that's only powerful enough to go 50 mph, but also has a speed limiter that limits it to 50 mph as well (so with a 2 cylinder engine it uses all of it's capability), but if you take out the 2 cylinder engine and replace it with a V6 or V12, it still only goes 50 mph. Or case in point; LAB colour - about 3/4 of the colours that it can describe are outside both the gamut of colourspaces like sRGB and Adobe RGB and also outside the "gamut of human vision" - but choosing this as a monitor "profile" doesn't suddenly open up a whole new world (and beyond) of colour on your standard sRGB only capable monitor - no matter how large the colour space you're using, the range of colour is still limited (by the laws of physics) to the capabilites of the output device (or put another way, "you can't display additional colours on a device that's incapable of displaying them just because they've been requested).

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    Re: Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by Davey View Post
    I don't think there is a good reason for ANYONE to use it.
    I use it - and I'm completely happy with it. Why? Because it does the job just fine. I think this raises the ugly prospect of many really not understanding what colour management is and how it works.

    Browsers like IE - for all intents and purposes are "colour managed", but with a couple of caveats (a) it assumes that the image is sRGB, and (b) the accuracy of what you see is more dependant on correct calibration of your monitor than it is on correct profiling of your monitor.

    The difference between correct calibration and correct profiling is important; the better the calibration (especially in terms of black and white points) the less of a correction is required by the profile, which means smoother colour gradients in a fully colour managed environment and greater colour accuracy with "quasi-managed" environments like IE, so correct calibration is highly desireable whether the environment is totally colour-managed or not.

    Or - put another way - if you're only displaying sRGB images (and as I've pointed out earlier that Adobe RGB images on a monitor are severely restricted because the monitor is pretty much physically incapable of displaying the additional gamut) AND your existing monitor is properly calibrated (as opposed to profiled) then images display accurately under the likes of IE; or put another way, colour-managed browsers don't really give you any advantages.

    MS security chief uses FF for goodness sake, what does that tell you
    It tells you that when you take things out of context you get lead to incorrect conclusions If you do a bit more searching you'll discover that (as expected) by virute of his job he has a LOT of browsers on his PC - the irony of the FF mention was the fact that he was reporting that he just had to install a patch to plug a serious security flaw in it. Unfortunately all browsers and operating systems have security flaws.

    Colour management in ff is nice as like stated you can load any profiles you have.
    Yes - but - if colour accuracy is what you're after, why would you want to load any profile other than the one created by your colorimeter for your specific monitor?

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    Re: Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    I think from general pov it's handy to have various profile management because not everyone else uses sRGB setup even though my browser does. When I come across images with different profile embedded it's rendered correct as standard so i see the way others intended.

    The reason I personally dislike ie goes way back and is nothing to do with colour profiling. It's based on pure technical reasons, mainly security but it's rendering isn't as good as other alternatives, I often use none MS OSs and hence none ie capable machines so that is deciding factor but the biggest is it's super insecure. The amount of exploits are disturbing. So many sec vulnerbilities affect ie that would not be possible on many other browsers hence I don't like it. It's a more or less a constant topic on bugtraq, secunia lists and so on over the years. Granted other browsers pop up but not as frequently (I remember a dodgy bug in ssl handling in ff not long back but it's uncommon and there are ALWAYS holes in software, even seen some for ff this month but they're patched now almost instant fix, ie on the other hand often has unpatched known holes for much longer).

    I understand why many don't want to switch browsers since ie has always worked for them, it's what they are familiar with and so on and I understand that. I personally feel ignorance is not bliss and if there is an unpatch hole I'd rather close it before it causes a proble. Granted not everyone looks at the technical aspects of a browser though, and it would be ridiculous to suggest people do that because it's not the way most people work. I understand completely though ie will continue to dominate due to a reluctance to change (and familiarity and prob free history are not bad reasons) yet in an ideal world a switch would be advisable if the browser continues to lag behind competitors the way it has for a long long time (in a galaxy not so far away).
    Last edited by Davey; 23rd March 2009 at 08:56 PM.

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    Re: Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    Hi Chris,

    I'm not familiar with the gamut of Mac 'pro' monitors, so it is possible that they're capable of some colours outside of the normal "sRGB Gamut" (I put that in quotes because sRGB isn't a gamut definition, but my understanding is that what most monitors typically display anyway), but what I suspect you're seeing is probably more of a spread of tones than additional colours (perceptual rendering).
    Hi Colin, as you can observe the next image, in which I'm comparing a sRGB gamut with the profile of my iMac, which is not a Pro monitor, you can observe that the colour range of my monitor is wider than sRGB.

    Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    @ Qveda, I think that your workflow is ok, the only recommendation I could give you is to have a colour managed environment, that includes your printer/ink/paper set, otherwise you'll never get the perfect match between what you capture/see/print.

    You also mentioned that you'll get Spyder to calibrate your monitor. I recommend you to get the Spyder3Studio. I know that it's more expensive, however, believe me that it's cheaper than getting first the one to calibrate your monitor and then the one to profile your printer.

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    Re: Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by Davey View Post
    I think from general pov it's handy to have various profile management because not everyone else uses sRGB setup even though my browser does. When I come across images with different profile embedded it's rendered correct as standard so i see the way others intended.
    I agree that true colour management does allow the correct display of embedded profiles other than sRGB - but I do question the wisdom of people putting images up in Adobe RGB in the first place when it's main benefit is in the printing realm. I use Adobe RGB as much as anyone - but I always convert to sRGB prior to uploading to any website.

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    Re: Need help: color spaces & color management workflow

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Salazar View Post
    Hi Colin, as you can observe the next image, in which I'm comparing a sRGB gamut with the profile of my iMac, which is not a Pro monitor, you can observe that the colour range of my monitor is wider than sRGB.
    Thanks Daniel - as I suspected, very little in it. Out of interest, do you have a graphic that maps your monitors gamut against the Adobe RGB colourspace?

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