Color management guide by Arnaud Frich

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Updated on August 01, 2018

Information and color menus in Photoshop

For those who know where to look, Photoshop offers a huge number of essential information on colors when you work your images ...

How is Photoshop managing the colors of the image you open? How do you know where you are, where you come from and where you can go ? Various menus allow you to experience every moment of the colorimetric properties of your image as we will see in this Photoshop tutorial

  • In the first part of this page, I am going to show you all the information windows that allows you to know more about the colors of your image.
  • In the second part, I will review all the interesting menus related to color management in Photoshop.



Photoshop color information windows

Photoshop, in order to correctly display the colors and work, needs to know, at every moment :

1 - The ICC profile of the image to open or opened to correctly display the colors;
2 - have a convinient workspace, neither too large nor too small, so not loose information during a retouche !

Presence of a profile or not ?

At any time, Photoshop lets you know if a profile is associated or not to an image, and if so which one. Here's where and how.

First of all, next to the name of the image in the title bar of the file :

Profile information on image

1 - ( RGB # )
: this # right next to RGB indicates that the document does not have a built-in profile at this time. The image is displayed in an arbitrary manner (depending on your workspace).
2 - ( RGB * ) : this * indicates that the document has a different color profile from workspace. Everything is fine !
3 - ( RGB ) : There is nothing next to RGB. This means that the document has the same ICC profile as the workspace. Everything is fine too !

Which profile in my image ?

Color information in PhotoshopTo know the nature of the ICC profile of the image, we must now go to the bottom left of the photo, in the status bar. Next to the display size of the image open in Photoshop, which is shown as a percentage, appears its ICC profile. It is not the workspace but the ICC profile of the photo.

This menu is not displayed by default in Photoshop. To select it, you must click on the small triangle just to the right of the profile and a small menu appears. In this menu select "Document Profile". Note in that list, all the kinds of information that can be displayed !


State bar menu

As color management expert, I always display the document profile !



Color management menus

There are three main menus in Photoshop for color management: Edit/Assign Profile, Edit/Convert to Profile, and View/Proof Setup. Let's have alook at the first two : assign and convert to profile. They allow Photoshop, at every moment, to assign a profile to a document or convert from one profile to another. The whole color management is based on these two terms, so it is essential to know what they refer to. You will find their explanation on the ICC profile page.

Edit/Assign profile

It allows you to access all the important information needed for the allocation of an ICC profile to a document - yes or no, choice of profile - with a "preview" box. By ticking it, you can see on the image, without clicking OK, the impact on the color displayed with a particular profile. It is very efficient and informative !


Assign profile menuThe three possibilities will be explained next page.

Edit/Convert to profile

It allows you to have access to all the important information needed for the conversion of an ICC profile to another, so from one space to another. You find there - the Source space (1) and the Destination space (2) - always with a "preview" box to actually see what is happening in the picture, but we also have the possibility to choose the conversion mode (intent) in the conversion options .


Convert to profile menuTo convert, you need a source space, a destination space and of course a way to perform the conversion.


Unlike the menu Assign Profile, the RGB values ​​of the image will be really transformed if you click on OK and not just tagged as in the Assign profile menu. The RGB color values ​​of an image change during the conversion even if the colors do not seem to visually change. When working on your pictures, you will be chosing, most of the time, perceptual or relative colorimetric modes, as explained on the previous page. Leave the rest of the options checked.

View/Proof Setup/Custom...

This is another very interesting menu, because it is a very powerful feature of Photoshop. Your image will be printed with your inkjet printer, which has a color space, we have seen, pretty small indeed - though they get larger every day, especially on glossy photo paper - and quite different on certain colors of your screen profile or even of your camera if the image is in sRGB. There may be occasional losses that will be shown as solid color where there was a gradient in your original file.


Customize Proof Condition


Well, thanks to the View/Proof setup/Custom menu, it is possible to display your image on the screen AS it will be when printed, SO converted to the ICC profile for your printer. This is an on screen simulation menu specific to Photoshop. Only the visualisation of the image is changed. With the keyboard shortcut CMD+Y (CTRL + Y), it is possible to switch from one to the other in order to see the differences on the image between the two profiles. As you will be working on your image - still in the original space so the best one - thanks to the different adjustment layers, there hardly should be any differences left between the two images. When working with the right profiles, for example printers profile on a calibrated screen, it is actually possible to simulate the final appearance of the print in Photoshop. This is why it is a very good color management software. This function is very useful, as you will see on the page dedicated to printing with Photoshop.

Attention ! to perform the on screen simulation, you clearly need a calibrated and rather wide gamut screen of today. On the old screens, even on the graphic art one, where the color space was roughly sRGB, it remains difficult because many today's printable colors cannot be displayed correctly. The printer gamut on glossy papers have made significant progress and we must have a wide gamut screen (up to 107% of the Adobe RGB 98) to display it.



Menus to save

To the well known menu Save (CMD+S or CRTL+S), you should add Save as ... (CMD+MAJ+S or CRTL+MAJ+S) and the very interesting Save for Web (CMD+ALT+MAJ+S or CMD+ALT+MAJ+S).

"Save as..." menu

When you decide to save a document in Photoshop, you can choose to save the ICC profile that was assigned to the image or not. If you want to save with another profile, you can not do it here. You must return to the workspace, assign or convert the image to another profile and then save. If you do not want to tag the picture, just uncheck the box.


save as menu
If the box is unchecked, your image does not incorporate the ICC profile. To display it correctly, you will have to remember at the next opening what was its ICC profile. For sure, it has a limited interest ...

"Save for Web" menu

Photoshop has a specific menu dedicated to the web. It allows two very interesting things when saving photos for the web. On the one hand it allows you to precisely manage the JPEG compression rate (on a scale of 1 to 100 and not the classic 1 to 12 in the Save as ... menu) and on the other hand it allows you to automatically convert your image sRGB if not already done. Really pratical, when there is not so long ago, it was absolutely needed to do it BEFORE saving, in Photoshop.

But be careful ! Since I used this menu on a wide gamut screen, I noticed that the menu was messing the color management ! Even if you ask a sRGB conversion (like in the window below), the image will appear too saturated on the same wide gamut screen !!! In fact, as long as you work on an old screen generation, nothing will be visible but it is in a mess or if you have the opportunity to look at your image on the web on a recent wide gamut screen you will be very surprised. SO, TO BE AVOIDED from now on, even if the images are more compressed.


Save for web menu

If the conversion to sRGB is now done automatically, it has not always been so in this Photoshop menu, so pay attention to your version !


Important remark !

The color space of Internet is by default sRGB, in any case, it behaves "as if" because very few browsers in the world can manage colors.
My website !All recorded images for the Web must be converted into this space, the profile being tagged or not to the photo ! If you have an image on the screen with an Adobe RGB 98 profile and save it directly without conversion to sRGB, it will appear very flat in the saving menu window and of course on Internet. If you work in Prophoto RGB, the saturation difference is so important that you can not ignore it.
Even if the image does not contain an ICC profile but has been converted to sRGB, the browser will correctly display the colors of the images as their profile and web space is the "same". I used "quotes" because as I said above, browsers can not handle colors. They do as if they were in sRGB space. As long as the image has been converted, it is useless to add the 4KB weight of an ICC profile !
If you save an image coming from Internet and you open it in Photoshop, different scenarios are possible :

your worspace and your image are in sRGB - even without having an ICC profile - and it will be correctly displayed;
your workspace is Adobe RGB 98 or else and your image is in sRGB : you have to assign it the sRGB profile before converting it to the workspace, otherwise it will look too saturated;
the image has not been converted and does not have any profile. There, it will be a lottery ! Good luck...

Now that we are informed about the profiles of our photographs, we can get started and learn to manage colors in Photoshop Suivre


Next page 3/4 : manage colors in Photoshop




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