Color Management Cheat Sheet

By // January 13, 2016 // Posted in Other, Post-Production, Software

This cheat sheet has been adapted from the article “Crash Course To Seamless Color,” by photographer Jeff Rojas, from the January edition of Rangefinder Magazine.


There’s so much information surrounding color management out there these days that, let’s face it, it’s overwhelming. With the seemingly endless number of printers and color management options out there, it can be downright dizzying at times, and it raises the question: is there a perfect solution for ensuring 100 percent color consistency in your images?

The answer is no. And that is simply because color can change based on a number of factors, including individual color splash_2perception (varies from person to person), hardware vs. software combinations, document settings, editing software and even the light source in your studio or editing room. 

While color management can be extremely specific, here’s a quick list of pointers to keep in mind to help you keep your work looking consistent across any number of platforms and printouts.


  • Consistency: 
    • The color temperature of the light in the room you photograph in, edit in and review prints in should always remain consistent.
    • Your color space should ideally remain consistent.
    • Your white balance should always remain consistent.
  • When you can, tether.
  • Calibrate your monitor.
  • If you plan to print in a magazine, work in Adobe RGB and export to CMYK.
  • If you plan to print with a lab, follow their designated recommendations for exporting.
  • sRGB simplifies your workflow and can be easily displayed on all monitors and programs.
  • AdobeRGB can always be converted to sRGB.
  • Be sure you’re photographing your image in RAW format so you have the ability to change white balance in post-production.
  • Be sure to keep your monitor at a flat, even plane on your eye level to accurately depict color as best as possible.
  • If you’re trying to match your print to your edit, remember that using AdobeRGB color space is much more powerful during the printing process, and it has more color spaces that match CMYK than sRGB.

Color Spaces Cheats:
For digital only.
This is the most common color space used by monitors, and by default most digital cameras will display your image in sRGB.

For professional-quality prints.
This has a greater range of colors than sRGB, especially in the cyan and green areas of your image.

For newspapers and magazines.
This is used in the printing process and has the most limited amount of colors that can be produced.

Plus: ProPhoto RGB (RAW)
For the color perfectionist in you.
This covers the largest range of colors beyond what human eyes can see. If you print with high-end printers that use the entire spectrum of color, this is the color space for you. 

Related Links:
Crash Course To Seamless Color, by Jeff Rojas
Making the Grade: The 7 Steps to Color-Correcting Your Films
Bundle Up Your Color Calibration Tools with Spyder5STUDIO

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Stacey Goldberg

Stacey Goldberg

Stacey Goldberg is the online editor for Rangefinder and its sister publication, PDN. Originally from the suburbs of New York, she graduated from Lafayette College in 2012 and is currently working toward her MBA at the NYU Stern School of Business.

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1 Comment

  1. maximum of a ceiatrn color for a ceiatrn pixel, it is displayed as saturated as the monitor can. With no regards to color spaces. As your monitor can display colors much more saturated than sRGB, the image you see in front of you is oversaturated. This goes for all non color managed applications including the windows desktop and most web browsers.When you take a screenshot, windows takes it from the graphic card’s memory with no idea that you have a wide gamut screen, and then you paste it in Photoshop in the sRGB range. This is where you experience undersaturated colors, but what you see in reality is how your screenshot looks in sRGB as Photoshop is color managed and know what sRGB is supposed to look like and with a profile for your monitor it compensates the colors to give you a universal experience that should match between any correctly setup display. If you had a monitor that was within the sRGB range, this is what you actually would see when working in the windows desktop as well.So one can say that you have by doing that converted your wide gamut desktop and screen into the sRGB color space to see it how it would look on any sRGB compliant display. This is good.> If I set my View > Proof Colours to Monitor RGB then everything looks fine. but I’m not sure you condone that.No, by doing that you are essentially skipping color management all together. What you get in Photoshop is exactly the same image as you see on your screen. But then this is not what other people will see that are looking at your image on a sRGB calibrated / profiled system.So you should keep pasting your images into a sRGB document and have in mind that your desktop is oversaturated outside of Photoshop and other color managed applications because of your wide gamut display, and the undersaturated look you get in Photoshop is how your desktop would have looked on a non wide gamut screen.And by doing that you can be pretty sure that your image will look more or less the same on most monitors out there, and for sure on those that have calibrated and profiled theirs.> Now, Save for Web and Devices. I need to set “Convert to sRGB” = on, right? And embed the ICC profile?Yes, convert to sRGB is when you have worked with your image in another color space, like Adobe RGB. In the past you had to convert it in Photoshop before saving for web to make sure it looked correct. Now you don’t have to do that, but the save for web dialogue can do it for you by checking that box. Very handy. Embedding a sRGB profile adds a few extra kb to the image, but by doing that color managed web browsers (Firefox and Safari at this time) will display the image correctly, if the visitor has a calibrated and profiled display.Starting with Flash Player 10 also flash player can display images color managed, in all browsers. That’s the main reason I implemented a flash viewer for my portfolio pages on my site recently, to make sure my images are as correctly displayed as possible for my viewers, no matter if they use a color managed browser or not. Color management in flash was my favorite addition to flash player 10, and hopefully a push for IE and Opera to implement it as well to rid all the problems with the web and the more and more common wide gamut displays once and for all.>Sound all wrong? It does to me. And when I open a random image (ie, Not a screenshot) and make the same settings, Oversaturation occurs when working in Photoshop and when exporting.If you open a random image in Photoshop, make sure it has a profile assigned to it. Most images of the rack are supposed to be in the sRGB color space. You can assign the profile manually or set Photoshop to ask you to assign a profile whenever you open a document that are missing one. Check out page 3 in this article for some information of how to set that up.Hope this helps you to understand what’s going on.Cheers!