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best color space for web display?

Jeff Z. , Feb 04, 2010; 10:33 a.m.

I'm probably over simplifying this in thinking that perhaps the solution to the problem is simply changing the color space or "profile" (I'm not sure of the correct term), but here goes...

When my color images are displayed on the web they simply don't look as vibrant as they do on my monitor. The colors look right, but just a bit dull. I know this question probably been asked thousands of times, and I just searched and read through this thread, in particular:

Currently, I assign them the Joseph Holmes profile in Photoshop after scanning (these are all film originated images). Would simply assigning the sRGB profile make them look better on the web, or is this much more involved? I am slightly familiar with the "save for web" method of saving a file, but for the images in question, I have simply been saving them as at the highest quality jpg setting in the J.H. profile. Thanks!


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Endre StĂžlsvik , Feb 04, 2010; 10:54 a.m.

"sRGB is a standard RGB color space created cooperatively by HP and Microsoft in 1996 for use on monitors, printers, and the Internet."


It is a sort of "middle ground" that every device should be able to replicate. (And as we know, "common ground" and "largest common denominator" usually don't give the ultimate solution to any problem: sRGB on its hand has not got a very good color gamut: "sRGB is sometimes avoided by high-end print publishing professionals because its color gamut is not big enough, especially in the blue-green colors, to include all the colors that can be reproduced in CMYK printing.")

" The sRGB color space is well specified and is designed to match typical home and office viewing conditions, rather than the darker environment typically used for commercial color matching.
Nearly all software was and is designed with the assumption that an 8-bit-per-channel image file placed unchanged onto an 8-bit-per-channel display will appear much as the sRGB specification dictates. "

Several browsers don't know how to handle any other color space - they don't even read it out from the file, they just directly dump the pixels it decodes from the file to the video card, ignoring completely the color space you've saved with the file. The same goes for many simple image viewers. Then, the video card sends those bytes to the screen. And the screen is probably somewhat near sRGB too.

So my suggestion is to go with sRGB for files meant for "standard public consumption".

I am yet not expert on color spaces, though. However, the Wikipedia article also reads: "As the recommended color space for the Internet, sRGB should be used for editing and saving all images intended for publication to the WWW. Images intended for professional printing via a fully color-managed workflow, e.g. prepress output, sometimes use another color space such as Adobe RGB (1998), which allows for a wider gamut."

Jeff Z. , Feb 04, 2010; 11:04 a.m.

Endre, Thanks very much! I tend to think that what you mention is the solution, especially after reading this great ongoing thread: http://photo.net/digital-darkroom-forum/00VdyF

I should have probably mentioned also that I am using a MacBook Pro, and have calibrated it using the Apple calibrator. I'm a fairly experienced printer also, and the mentioned profile seems to work well for that, but as you and others (on other threads) seem to be saying, what I'm doing is not optimal for web display. Thanks again, and I hope that others might add any additional input. Jeff

Colin Mattson , Feb 04, 2010; 11:22 a.m.

What you want to do for the web is convert to sRGB.

As a general rule, the "Assign Profile" option in Photoshop can safely be ignored. "Convert to Profile" is where the action's at, and the option that will actually make the image appear correctly for the selected profile.

Sounds like you're on the right track now, though.

Jeff Z. , Feb 04, 2010; 11:28 a.m.

Colin, thank you! That really clarifies a point I was not sure of, too. I appreciate it!

Martin S. , Feb 04, 2010; 11:28 a.m.

sRGB is indeed the best choice for the web.

However you should convert your images to the sRGB colour space rather than simply assigning the sRGB profile. The latter is plain wrong – here's a brief explanation of the differences.

You should also make sure that your J.H. profile is actually the right profile to use with your scanner. Otherwise you might be messing around with your images' colours. Ideally you would calibrate your scanner and let the scan software embed the correct profile automatically.

Jeff Z. , Feb 04, 2010; 11:34 a.m.

Martin, thanks! I will read that link.

I'm actually scanning in one of the standard profiles, Adobe 1998, I think, then converting to the J.H. profile in Photoshop. Does that make sense? As mentioned, it's worked well for printing, but of course as I've discovered through the great help here, I need to convert to sRGB for web useage.

Roger Smith , Feb 04, 2010; 11:36 a.m.

"I'm actually scanning in one of the standard profiles, Adobe 1998, I think, then converting to the J.H. profile in Photoshop. Does that make sense?"

No, not at all. You can go from a wider gamut to a smaller one but not the other way around. You'd want to start in the wider space like Holmes or ProPhoto and then convert to a smaller one like sRGB for output.

Jeff Z. , Feb 04, 2010; 11:50 a.m.

Roger, my mistake, I'm scanning in "Nikon Scan wide"; not exactly sure if that is the right name, but I think it's close...

Martin S. , Feb 04, 2010; 12:10 p.m.

that sounds like the correct profile, although I don't know how the Nikon colour space compares to for instance Pro Photo. You'd want a large space especially if you're going to make substantial edits in Photoshop. Your scan software might also have an option to scan in 16-bit mode rather than the standard 8-bit. That will produce files twice the size, but again it could be worth it for editing in PS.

Also always keep your original images in a large colour space, and only convert copies to e.g. sRGB.

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