What is a Color Profile or Colorspace
Every single device or medium out there has an ideal color profile for viewing pleasure. That is, your phone, your laptop, and your printer all have a recommended color profile for optimum color representation that will look good to your eyeballs (or the professionals that decide it will look good for you). There are a few main color profiles that are most standard in the world of images:
- ProPhoto RGB
There are dozens more, and each of these color profiles has its benefits and detriments that, in fully understanding where you’re using the images, will help you understand what color profile you want to use.
So, what this means is that there are different color profiles that show and define color differently. It’s like a new deck of playing cards, sure, they’re all aces and kings, but the graphics and size of letters on them are all different. Some are better for old folks with trouble seeing tiny numbers, some are better for young kids who like to see more wild illustrations for the royalty.
Why is my color dull on my computer?
If you’ve just scanned your beautiful painting or transferred your beautiful photograph from your camera that looks so vibrant on the back of your camera, and you then you open up Photoshop or Lightroom all excited to see how it looks after scanning and notice that it looks a bit dull and desaturated, then there’s a good chance that you’re not viewing the image in sRGB color profile.
sRGB Color Profile
sRGB is the standard color profile for anything being viewed by a monitor, so this means laptops, televisions, smartphones, and even the person sitting next to you on the airplanes laptop screen. Almost all monitors and phones across the board are set up to in the sRGB color profile. Unless you’re doing fancy things and have a special program that has converted your monitor to display another color profile, you’re going to get the best viewing pleasure from your images if your in the sRGB color profile.
What this means for you as an image creator is that any image that you put onto the internet should be in sRGB color space.
Read more about sRGB on Wikipedia
AdobeRGB Color Profile
AdobeRGB is the standard color profile for anything being printed. A growing number of printers request your images in the sRGB color profile, but an AdobeRGB image will have a wider range of colors that a professional quality printer will be able to use.
What this means for you is that if you’re printing your image, you most likely want to be in AdobeRGB color space, but I would highly suggest to have a conversation with your printers about what color space they desire for your submitted images.
Read more about AdobeRGB on Wikipedia
ProPhoto RGB and CMYK
ProPhoto RGB is another color profile that is designed for photographs. It is often the default color space of Adobe Lightroom. ProPhotoRGB has a very large gamut, which has its benefits in preserving exact colors.
CMYK is the exact colors that almost all printers use. Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. When you order toner for your printer, these are the options you have. Using this color profile has it’s benefits for printing, but once again, ensure that your printer wants color in this space before you send them the print file.
Read more about ProPhoto RGB and CMYK
Which Color Profile is Best for You
Hands down, using sRGB will give you the best most vibrant and alive colors for anything in the digital world. If it’s staying digital, use sRGB. Go ahead, export the exact same image in sRGB and AdobeRGB and compare them side by side on your monitor. Leave comments below which one looks best on your monitor!
If you’re printing, do ask your printer what color profile or space they desire. Often times professional printing houses will have information online (on their website) of how to prepare images for them. I have never met a printing house that didn’t enjoy having a conversation on the phone about what color profile to send them my art in.
Most of the time, they’ll want AdobeRGB. Note, this isn’t the same conversation as what’s better: TIFF or PDF. If they want sRGB, they very well might be converting the images once they receive them and prepare the image for proofing.
Hope this helps!