Color Profiles For Dummies

Brief history of color profiles and why they matter to the quality of your work

The Visible Light Spectrum

visible light spectrum

Word "light" is scientifically used to refer to electromagnetic radiation of all wavelengths present in nature, also called electromagnetic spectrum.

Inside that spectrum, we humans can see a very limited range of wavelengths, is what we call the visible light spectrum. There are many other wavelengths, such as the infra-red or the ultra-violet, that can not be seen by the human eye.

The range of wavelengths that we can see are what we call "colors". Each color is a wavelength that has a very particular intensity, which our eye identifies as a unique color.

According to science, the human eye can identify around a million colors in the world.



Primary Colors of Visible Light

superimpose primary colors

Even though it is such a large amount, scientists realized that we can obtain each of them by mixing different proportions of only 3 of them: Red, Green and Blue.

The sum of all three give us the "white" color, which is not really a color, but the "no color", the pure light.

To honor this property, when referring to artificial color, science and technology use their initials: R - G - B.



The Color Profiles

color profiles photoshop

Among the million colors that the human eye can recognize in the real world, scientists and engineers have been able to emulate a big portion.

This portion has grown significantly over the years thanks to the evolution of computers and programming.

The computer code that is responsible for the emulation of the color is what we call Color Profile.

Each different Color Profile that have been appearing over the years has been able to cover a broader range of colors compared to its predecessors.

The most popular Color Profiles are:

  • sRGB (Standard RGB)
  • Adobe RGB 1998
  • ProPhoto RGB
Notice how the quantity of information and therefore the richness of color will increase as we move from sRBG to Adobe RGB 1998 and ProPhoto RGB.


Polaroid SX 70 * Warm (75% opacity) was used to generate these images - Film no.49


sRGB color profile

srgb color profile photoshop coverage

The sRGB (Standard RGB) color profile was created cooperatively by HP and Microsoft in 1996 as a standard for monitors and the internet.

It only covers 36% of the visible light spectrum.




Adobe RGB 1998 color profile

adobe 1998 rgb color profile photoshop coverage

Adobe RGB 1998 color profile was developed by Adobe Systems in 1998 to translate the CMYK space to RGB space.

It adds a greater range of colors in comparison with sRGB profile, encompassing 52% of the visible light spectrum.




Prophoto color profile

prophoto rgb color profile photoshop coverage

ProPhoto RGB color profile was developed by Kodak in 2000 to be used as the standard in photography industry.

It's the color profile that we have chosen to develop our film emulations.

Here you'll find a comparison test sRGB vs. Prophoto.


ADDENDUM:

Please notice that we have covered the "non material" emulation of color, which is the color obtained by light (computer industry).

When working with "material" color, which is the obtained by physical pigments (printing industry), the primary colors are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black.

The CMYK color mode works the opposite as the RGB modes. We are not going to cover it since is not necessary to understand how our actions work.










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