Should I use sRGB vs Adobe RGB is one of the most requested questions from photographers and photo retouchers who print their works. Today we're going to help you answer your questions and give you some tips on using these different color modes and clarify the aspects of each of them, as well as provide guidance on their usage. sRGB and Adobe RGB 1998 are the two most common workspaces used in digital photography.
The abbreviation sRGB stands for “Standard Red Green Blue”, which is the most widely-used color space. Generally, color space determines the colors which you can see on a screen or in print. SRGB gamut is so common, as it is compatible with most operating systems, various programs, monitors, and printers.
To deal with the variety of color displays and to make the professional image processing more predictable, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard developed and presented to the world sRGB color space in 1996. It appeared in the result of the analysis of the possibilities of the CRT monitors, which were most widespread at that time. The key idea was to create a universal color space without the necessity of inbuilt International Color Consortium (ICC) profiles. SRGB remains a standard color space for 8-bit color. Nowadays displays produce 10-bit or even 12-bit color and support HDR with larger number of colors.
It is obvious that red, green and blue values comprise each color on a screen. Thanks to 100% sRGB, colors are displayed identically on different devices and in various programs. For instance, if you choose sRGB mode both for your image editor and your printer, the colors of the printed picture will be completely the same as on the screen. And vice versa, if the color spaces differ, the colors won’t coincide.
Printers and monitors have special tonal characteristics; that’s why colors may look different at diverse devices even if sRGB is used. Thus, high-end devices apply monitor calibration to eliminate color difference. Still, this color space provides significant conformity across various programs, platforms and systems.
If you do not change the default settings, Photoshop will export the files so that the colors will change when viewed in the browser. This is due to the fact that by default the workspace in Photoshop is set to the Adobe RGB profile. While this profile is ideal for working with photos that are supposed to be printed, its use for web design can lead to incorrect display of the design. For this reason, you need to change the workspace when working on web projects. There are two main opinions about the best workspace for web projects. Some argue that it must match the designer's monitor profile, while others suggest using sRGB Photoshop. With both methods, in fact, you can achieve equally good results, but in different ways.
Step 1. Keep in mind that this change is done only if the final image will be printed on your own color inkjet. If you plan on sending prints to an outside lab, stay in sRGB both in Photoshop and your camera. It is more convenient, as most print labs are set up to working with sRGB files. To avoid all problems, just clarify what color space the lab prefers. Let’s proceed to Photoshop setting. In the Edit menu, choose Color Settings.
Step 2. You will see the Color Setting dialog. By default, “North America General Purpose 2.” settings are used. The hint is that the RGB space is set to sRGB IEC61966–2.1 under Working Spaces. But don’t get confused by such a long term, it is simply what we know as sRGB. In one word, don’t use these settings. They are for amateurs.
Step 3. Select North America Prepress 2. from the Setting pop-up menu. In fact, they are perfect for color inkjet printers on account of the Adobe RGB 1998 color space. Moreover, there are also warning dialogs in order to preserve your color management plan active when opening pictures from different sources.
Step 4. In case you shoot in RAW only, or use Lightroom, you will probably want to change the color space to ProPhoto RGB in Photoshop in order to make your RAW images awesome. To change Photoshop Color Space to ProPhoto RGB go to the Color Settings dialog. So, you can import files from Lightroom or just open RAW photos in Photoshop and have the same consistent color space.
Step 5. Be very attentive with the Color Management. If you shoot in a definite color space and the Photoshop is adjusted accordingly – you will have no problems. But if these color spaces don’t match, be ready to see a warning dialog because of this dismatch. You have a choice how to fix it. Personally I suggest using sRGB converter and convert the document’s color to the current working space.
Step 6. The conversion may be done automatically anytime there is a dismatch:
Now, any time you open sRGB files, they will be converted in accordance with your current working space. Easy!
Step 7. Sometimes it happens that a photo, opened in Photoshop, has no color profile at all. You can do the following:
How to Save a Photo in sRGB in Photoshop and Lightroom:
Adobe RGB 1998 workspace covers about half of the visible colors defined by the CIE, having an advantage over the gamut of sRGB primarily in blue-green.
But more is not always better. Remember that most modern technology and software supports the sRGB color profile? So don’t be surprised if your photos are criticized for obscure elevated shades or when printed the colors will turn out to be distorted. This mode is primarily created for professionals who are engaged in serious post-production shots. They have in their arsenal professional monitors and printers that support the profile of Adobe RGB. It's easy to work in this color space, but is it worth it, if most people don’t see your photo as you wanted to show it, because of compatibility problems.
It is worth reminding you that none of the devices, whether it be a camera, monitor or printer, cannot interpret and perceive colors with the same sensitivity as the human eye. In addition, from a technical point of view, it is impossible to make all of these devices reproduce all the shades of the color gamut with equal accuracy. That's why on different screens, different printers, identical colors can be different. Therefore, there are different working color spaces, for example, sRGB and Adobe RGB.
sRGB mode isn’t the widest space – it covers only 35% of the colors displayed by CIE, but it is supported by all modern monitors.
In 1998, Adobe Systems developed the Adobe RGB color space, more precisely matching the palette compared to sRGB, which is available when printing on high-quality color printers. Adobe RGB covers approximately 50% of the CIE color range, but the difference between Adobe RGB and sRGB is hardly noticeable.
The following comparison of scales aims to help you get a better qualitative understanding of where the Adobe RGB 1998 range extends beyond sRGB for shadows (~ 25%), halftones (~ 50%) and bright colors (~ 75%).
Why is it so important to distribute these two modes? Color spaces with wider gamma stretch the bits to a wider set of color tones, while smaller scales concentrate these bits in a small range. Consider the following linear green color space.
If the image contained only dark green tones within a narrow gamut, it would be in vain to allocate bits for encoding colors outside of it.
A similar difference in chroma depth distribution occurs in sRGB relative to Adobe RGB 1998, only in three dimensions and is far less dramatic than the one shown above. RGB occupies approximately 40% more volume than sRGB, so if all the colors of the Adobe RGB space are not necessary, you use only about 70% of the available color depth (with uneven bit allocation). On the other hand, you can have many spare bits if you use a 16-bit image, so changing their distribution due to the choice of workspace may not be significant.
Notice how Adobe RGB 1998 achieves richer shades of blue and green than sRGB for all tonal levels of brightness. Often, to compare these two workspaces, a diagram is used with a brightness of 50%, but the diagrams of shadows and bright colors are also worthy of attention. In bright colors, Adobe RGB 1998 expands its superiority in blue and green bright colors and also becomes richer in intense purple, orange and yellow, colors that add drama to the bright sunset. Adobe RGB 1998 doesn’t exceed sRGB so much in the shadows, but even in them there is an advantage in the dark green (often observed in dark foliage).
But Adobe RGB is considerably bigger it's actually about thirty five percent larger you can see especially up in the top left and bottom left it's getting a lot more blues and greens in there. Something that we have to clarify though is that whilst it's a lot bigger it's a misconception that Adobe RGB has more colors than 100% sRGB. It doesn't, they both have sixteen point seven million – 256 by 256 by 256, that's the maximum number of colors both of them can recreate. It's just that the Adobe RGB is a physically larger space, so that means that their spaces are going to be slightly further apart but it can capture more different tones in apps in an overall sense in terms of the ends of its spectrum than sRGB can.
So let's talk through some pros and cons. First of all with Adobe RGB. So it's giving you a wider area of color that's of definitely a pro. And when you're going through and making your edits you can then down sample down to sRGB mode and know that it's caption colors that are beyond what the sRGB can do. So it is going to be able to downscale in a sense to do that no problem. Downside, though, is that most of the world outside of Photoshop are using sRGB, so you're most likely going to want to do some editing before you put anything online. But Adobe RGB is great for prints you're going to get more vibrant colors and if you're getting into print it gets hugely complicated, because you're going to probably end up if you're doing a press job going to CMYK colors anyway.
Now looking at sRGB. It has a narrower overall gamut of color so that's a negative, but it is it matches what most people are going to be looking at if you're shooting to put things on your website or on to different sites like that. Then they're going to be using sRGB. So you're using the exact same profile, so you also have the advantage that if you wanted to shoot and then put it straight online there's no work needed. Whereas the Adobe RGB you really want to use sRGB to RGB converter to get the colors looking perfect.
Downside the sRGB, obviously, it's a smaller triangle of colors that is capturing, so trained it, capture it in sRGB, but then output as Adobe RGB. You're going to be limited and the computer is going to be guessing what points that should be using, because it wasn't actually captured in the file.
It's great to watch all the colors in Adobe RGB 1998 on the monitor screen, but can we with the same accuracy be sure of their transfer to printed products? It would be strange to work on all the variety of colors when editing, so that you do not get the same volume of colors after printing. The diagram below shows a different match for gamma mods in terms of using three different printers.
There is a fundamental difference in how each individual printer interprets and transmits. Fuji printers for example use only separate pieces from the yellow palette, while inkjet printer outperforms sRGB in gamma and shadows, and in semitones, and in bright colors. In blue and green halftones and yellow bright colors, an upscale printer over the gamut is superior even to Adobe RGB 1998.
Adobe RGB is better due to the vibrancy and the amount of colors offered. Printing 16-bit pictures you need a larger color range. If you export as sRGB, the vibrancy and depth will be lost. For printing and posting on the Internet, it is easy to work in Adobe RGB and then convert to sRGB online.
Why do Monitors Display Colors Differently?
It seems a very difficult task to represent a given color identically on different screens, browsers and so on, since they all have diverse color specifications.
Most monitors are sRGB, so don’t worry much about a dedicated sRGB mode. Still, you may have some problems, if a manufacturer didn’t calibrate each unit properly. In fact, the question what is sRGB mode and how to adjust it is relevant for Adobe color space monitors or very modern ones. In such a case, you need sRGB emulation for a proper work with the sRGB stuff.
The results may be improved by calibrating the display. But, it will affect only saturation, while all the colors will look different on different devices.
Reason 1. The colors perceived by us depend not only on what they are physically shown by the monitor, but also on viewing conditions.
If you look at the monitor in cold lighting conditions, the colors on it are warmer for us. If we look at the monitor in conditions of warm lighting, then the colors seem colder. Manufacturers of monitors cannot know in what conditions you are going to work, and so there cannot be universal settings.
Reason 2. The image is output by a bundle monitor-video card. In this case, the manufacturers of video cards don’t know anything about which monitor the signal will be displayed and with what settings (the color temperature of the backlight, the contrast, the brightness). Therefore, if you want to get the right picture, you definitely need to link the video card signal with the monitor settings in a certain way.
If you also work on an uncalibrated monitor, you may encounter a number of problems. Starting from low-quality printing, ending with completely unreal colors on the electronic media of customers.
Now you understand why the monitor need set up if you are working with the pictures and colors. The exception is Macs. In this case, software, monitors, and video cards are produced by one company, which allows them to have very good factory settings.
Yup! But you have to calibrate the monitor and perform the print comparison. To check if everything was done properly, you can contact a print lab for a sRGB test.
Pay attention to the fact, that you will see the picture in sRGB only, as the monitor doesn’t support more extended Adobe RGB gamut.
The first thing to do is to reset the monitor setting to factory defaults. It is done, as calibrating the monitor with lots of other former manual adjustments may be rather tricky. Judging by the type of the monitor, you can do it either through the menu setting or by pressing buttons combination for reverting factory settings. Sometimes, neither variants work, so look through a monitor manual to find the proper way.
Monitor Color Test/Monitor-Farbtest (RGB/CMYK):
Do such manipulations:
When the process is finished, assure that you apply only color-managed software applications to work with pictures in future, as described in part #7.
How to Calibrate Your Monitor:
SRGB Android has a superb Android color management, thanks to which it is possible to display colors in the same way on different devices.
Starting with version 8.0 Android has wider reinterpret colors, stretching them. So, blue looks more blue, etc. It all result in more saturated appearance. But, such a stretching may be inaccurate and it is impossible to estimate the stretching effect.
Lots of applications were designed to compensate the stretching, but colors may look muted if displayed on a calibrated screen. When rendering becomes regnant, app developers can be confident about correct content displaying. Now, you can perform some manipulations to make your stuff look great.
Oreo Colorizer for Android:
My advice to photographers-colleagues is to ask themselves if they know what colors the picture uses and how it will look if they use any additional shades from the palette of Adobe RGB. Will it be profitable or just time wasting? Do you really need these additional shades of green or richer red-orange shades, especially if no one else notices it? Will your customers see this difference on printed photos? Answering any of these questions negatively, think about how costly in time there can be editing in Adobe RGB. In this regard, of course, sRGB can make your life easier, especially if you are going to use the picture only in digital form.
My advice to photographers-colleagues is to ask themselves if they know what colors the picture uses. Will it be profitable or just time wasting? Is it needed to have these additional tones of green or richer red-orange shades, especially if no one else notices it? Will your clients notice this difference on printed photos? If the answer is negative, think about how costly in time there can be editing in Adobe RGB. In this regard, of course, sRGB can make your life easier, especially if you are producing the picture only for digital use.
Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a photographer, photo retoucher and of course, journalist. Here on FixThePhoto blog you can find all of my reviews, photography and photo editing tips, pricing guides, and photography experiments.