sRGB vs Adobe RGB

Many people ask if the should be using Adobe RGB instead of sRGB. The answer for most people is NO! They should be using SRGB instead.

To understand why you have look at the origins of colour displaying and printing on the PC. When cheap colour printers came along Microsoft and HP got together and came up with a standard called sRGB. The purpose of this standard was to allow printer and monitor manufacturers to make products with the confidence that if a certain colour was displayed on the screen that the colour printed on a page would look approximately like what it did on the screen.

The problem with this was that many professional publishers (Colour magazine and book publishers et al) who had invested hundreds of thousands in their commercial printers were being charged large amounts of money in yearly licensing fees for the software that they used. Many of these organizations wanted to be able to use Windows PCs that were a lot cheaper than the Unix workstations that they had to use before then, but there was a problem.

The CYMK colour space used by many commercial printers included many colours that were outside the SRGB color space and would therefore not be able to be shown correctly on most monitors. If you look on the diagram on the right you will notice some colours within the CYMK colour space used by comercial printers, are outside the sRGB colour space (particularly saturated greens and blues).

The solution to this was a new colour space called Adobe RGB which used a more saturated green but it could not be displayed on most colour monitors but the publishers were happy to pay for more expensive monitors that could, it was far cheaper than having to buy new powerful workstations with their yearly licensing fees.

Most people do not have monitors that are capable of showing the full range of the Adobe RGB colour space as these are significantly more expensive than normal screens. Another problem is if you edit a Adobe RGB image and send a digital copy to someone else they probably have a sRGB monitor and it wont show your image at its best. Things get even more complicated if an Adobe RGB image is put on a website as many browser don’t understand Adobe RGB and will display the image incorrectly as many browsers don’t convert the image to sRGB before showing it.

The following image by club member Colm Kerr show the problem ;

The image on the left is correct, edited and colour balanced as he intended. If however he was working in Adobe RGB and did not convert it to sRGB before uploading it then many browsers will display the image more like the one on the right hand side which has the greens slightly washed out particularly in the grass in the foreground and the lighting on the wall.

To sum up the reason why most people should stick to sRGB are:

·  Most people don’t have Adobe RGB capable monitors and therefore can’t take any advantage from it.

·  Even if you have an Adobe RGB capable monitor unless you work exclusively with prints you will run into problems if you send digital images to anyone else or display them on the internet.

·  Trying to use AdobeRGB for printing and SRGB for the internet can become a nightmare keeping track of which images are of which RGB type.