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About color profiles

Precise, consistent color management requires accurate ICC-compliant profiles of all of your color devices. For example, without an accurate scanner profile, a perfectly scanned image may appear incorrect in another program, simply due to any difference between the scanner and the program displaying the image. This misleading representation may cause you to make unnecessary, time-wasting, and potentially damaging “corrections” to an already satisfactory image. With an accurate profile, a program importing the image can correct for any device differences and display a scan’s actual colors.

A color management system uses the following kinds of profiles:

Monitor profiles Describe how the monitor is currently reproducing color. This is the first profile you should create because viewing color accurately on your monitor allows for critical color decisions in the design process. If what you see on your monitor is not representative of the actual colors in your document, you will not be able to maintain color consistency.

Input device profiles Describe what colors an input device is capable of capturing or scanning. If your digital camera offers a choice of profiles, Adobe recommends that you select Adobe RGB. Otherwise, use sRGB (which is the default for most cameras). Advanced users may also consider using different profiles for different light sources. For scanner profiles, some photographers create separate profiles for each type or brand of film scanned on a scanner.

Output device profiles Describe the color space of output devices like desktop printers or a printing press. The color management system uses output device profiles to properly map the colors in a document to the colors within the gamut of an output device’s color space. The output profile should also take into consideration specific printing conditions, such as the type of paper and ink. For example, glossy paper is capable of displaying a different range of colors than matte paper.    Most printer drivers come with built‑in color profiles. It’s a good idea to try these profiles before you invest in custom profiles.

Document profiles Define the specific RGB or CMYK color space of a document. By assigning, or tagging, a document with a profile, the application provides a definition of actual color appearances in the document. For example, R=127, G=12, B=107 is just a set of numbers that different devices will display differently. But when tagged with the Adobe RGB color space, these numbers specify an actual color or wavelength of light–in this case, a specific color of purple.    When color management is on, Adobe applications automatically assign new documents a profile based on Working Space options in the Color Settings dialog box. Documents without assigned profiles are known as untagged and contain only raw color numbers. When working with untagged documents, Adobe applications use the current working space profile to display and edit colors.

Photoshop Document profiles

A. Profiles describe the color spaces of the input device and the document  B. Using the profiles’ descriptions, the color management system identifies the document’s actual colors  C. The monitor’s profile tells the color management system how to translate the document’s numeric values to the monitor’s color space  D. Using the output device’s profile, the color management system translates the document’s numeric values to the color values of the output device so the correct appearance of colors is printed 

About monitor calibration and characterization

Profiling software can both calibrate and characterize your monitor. Calibrating your monitor brings it into compliance with a predefined standard—for example, adjusting your monitor so that it displays color using the graphics arts standard white point color temperature of 5000° K (Kelvin). Characterizing your monitor simply creates a profile that describes how the monitor is currently reproducing color.

Monitor calibration involves adjusting the following video settings:

Brightness and contrast The overall level and range, respectively, of display intensity. These parameters work just as they do on a television. A monitor calibration utility helps you set an optimum brightness and contrast range for calibration.

Gamma The brightness of the midtone values. The values produced by a monitor from black to white are nonlinear—if you graph the values, they form a curve, not a straight line. Gamma defines the value of that curve halfway between black and white.

Phosphors The substances that CRT monitors use to emit light. Different phosphors have different color characteristics.

White point The color and intensity of the brightest white the monitor can reproduce.

Calibrate and profile your monitor

When you calibrate your monitor, you are adjusting it so it conforms to a known specification. Once your monitor is calibrated, the profiling utility lets you save a color profile. The profile describes the color behavior of the monitor—what colors can or cannot be displayed on the monitor and how the numeric color values in an image must be converted so that colors are displayed accurately.

  • Make sure your monitor has been turned on for at least a half hour. This gives it sufficient time to warm up and produce more consistent output.
  • Make sure your monitor is displaying thousands of colors or more. Ideally, make sure it is displaying millions of colors or 24‑bit or higher.
  • Remove colorful background patterns on your monitor desktop and set your desktop to display neutral grays. Busy patterns or bright colors surrounding a document interfere with accurate color perception.
  • In Windows, install and use a monitor calibration utility.
  • In Mac OS, use the Calibrate utility, located on the System Preferences/Displays/Color tab.
  • For the best results, use third-party software and measuring devices. In general, using a measuring device such as a colorimeter along with software can create more accurate profiles because an instrument can measure the colors displayed on a monitor far more accurately than the human eye.

Note : Monitor performance changes and declines over time; recalibrate and profile your monitor every month or so. If you find it difficult or impossible to calibrate your monitor to a standard, it may be too old and faded.

Most profiling software automatically assigns the new profile as the default monitor profile. For instructions on how to manually assign the monitor profile, refer to the Help system for your operating system.

Install a color profile

Color profiles are often installed when a device is added to your system. The accuracy of these profiles (often called generic profiles or canned profiles) varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. You can also obtain device profiles from your service provider, download profiles from the web, or create custom profiles using professional profiling equipment.

  • In Windows, right-click a profile and select Install Profile. Alternatively, copy the profiles into the WINDOWS\system32\spool\drivers\color folder.
  • In Mac OS, copy profiles into the /Library/ColorSync/Profiles folder or the /Users/[username]/Library/ColorSync/Profiles folder.

After installing color profiles, be sure to restart Adobe applications.

Embed a color profile

To embed a color profile in a document you created in Illustrator, InDesign, or Photoshop, you must save or export the document in a format that supports ICC profiles.

  • Save or export the document in one of the following file formats: Adobe PDF, PSD (Photoshop), AI (Illustrator), INDD (InDesign), JPEG, Photoshop EPS, Large Document Format, or TIFF.
  • Select the option for embedding ICC profiles. The exact name and location of this option varies between applications. Search Adobe Help for additional instructions.

Embed a color profile (Acrobat)

You can embed a color profile in an object or an entire PDF. Acrobat attaches the appropriate profile, as specified in the Convert Colors dialog box, to the selected color space in the PDF. For more information, see the color conversion topics in Acrobat Help.

Changing the color profile for a document

There are very few situations that require you to change the color profile for a document. This is because your application automatically assigns the color profile based on the settings you select in the Color Settings dialog box. The only times you should manually change a color profile are when preparing a document for a different output destination or correcting a policy behavior that you no longer want implemented in the document. Changing the profile is recommended for advanced users only.

You can change the color profile for a document in the following ways:

  • Assign a new profile. The color numbers in the document remain the same, but the new profile may dramatically change the appearance of the colors as displayed on your monitor.
  • Remove the profile so that the document is no longer color-managed.
  • (Acrobat, Photoshop and InDesign) Convert the colors in the document to the color space of a different profile. The color numbers are shifted in an effort to preserve the original color appearances.

Assign or remove a color profile (Illustrator, Photoshop)

Choose Edit > Assign Profile.

Select an option, and click OK:

Don’t Color Manage This Document Removes the existing profile from the document. Select this option only if you are sure that you do not want to color-manage the document. After you remove the profile from a document, the appearance of colors is defined by the application’s working space profiles.

Working [color model: working space] Assigns the working space profile to the document.

Profile Lets you select a different profile. The application assigns the new profile to the document without converting colors to the profile space. This may dramatically change the appearance of the colors as displayed on your monitor.

Assign or remove a color profile (InDesign)

  • Choose Edit > Assign Profiles.
  • For RGB Profile and CMYK Profile, select one of the following:  

Discard (Use Current Working Space) Removes the existing profile from the document. Select this option only if you are sure that you do not want to color-manage the document. After you remove the profile from a document, the appearance of colors is defined by the application’s working space profiles, and you can no longer embed a profile in the document.

Assign Current Working Space [working space] Assigns the working space profile to the document.

Assign Profile Lets you select a different profile. The application assigns the new profile to the document without converting colors to the profile space. This may dramatically change the appearance of the colors as displayed on your monitor.

  • Choose a rendering intent for each type of graphic in your document. For each graphic type, you can choose one of the four standard intents, or the Use Color Settings Intent, which uses the rendering intent currently specified in the Color Settings dialog box. For more information on rendering intents, search in Help.

The graphic types include the following:

Solid Color Intent Sets the rendering intent for all vector art (solid areas of color) in InDesign native objects.

Default Image Intent Sets the default rendering intent for bitmap images placed in InDesign. You can still override this setting on an image-by-image basis.

After-Blending Intent Sets the rendering intent to the proofing or final color space for colors that result from transparency interactions on the page. Use this option when your document includes transparent objects.

  • To preview the effects of the new profile assignment in the document, select Preview, and then click OK.

Convert document colors to another profile (Photoshop)

  • Choose Edit > Convert To Profile.
  • Under Destination Space, choose the color profile to which you want to convert the document’s colors. The document will be converted to and tagged with this new profile.
  • Under Conversion Options, specify a color management engine, a rendering intent, and black point and dither options (if available). (See Color conversion options.)
  • To flatten all layers of the document onto a single layer upon conversion, select Flatten Image.
  • To preview the effects of the conversion in the document, select Preview.

Convert document colors to Multichannel, Device Link, or Abstract color profiles (Photoshop)

  • Click Advanced. The following additional ICC profile types are available under Destination Space:

Multichannel Profiles that support more than four color channels. These are useful when printing with more than four inks.

Device Link Profiles that transform from one device color space to another, without using an intermediate color space in the process. These are useful when specific mappings of device values (like 100% black) are required.

Abstract Profiles that enable custom image effects. Abstract profiles can have LAB/XYZ values for both input and output values, which enables generation of a custom LUT to achieve the desired special effect.

Note : Gray, RGB, LAB, and CMYK color profiles are grouped by category in Advanced view. They are combined on the Profile menu in Basic view.

Convert document colors to another profile (Acrobat)

You convert colors in a PDF by using Tools > Print Production > Convert Colors. For more information, see the color conversion topics in Acrobat Help.

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Photoshop » Photo Editing » Editing Basics » How To Change Color Profiles In Photoshop – 2 Easy Ways

How to change color profiles in photoshop – 2 easy ways.

assign profile photoshop

Photographers use a wide variety of camera brands and models, and each has a unique way of displaying colors. This means that the colors in an image taken on a Nikon D850 might look slightly different than the same image taken on a Canon 350D. The same goes for different editing programs—moving an image between programs or from a program to a different device like a printer or projector, can slightly alter the appearance of the colors in the image.

Most of the time, the difference is barely noticeable. But over time the differences can add up, and you may think your image looks a bit off compared to when you had first edited it to perfection. Understanding how color profiles work, and how you can make them work for you, can help you make your images have flawless colors on any device.

Let’s look at how to change color profiles in Photoshop to get more accurate colors across any device.

Table of Contents

What Is A Color Profile?

Every camera has a slightly different range of colors that make up the images, and the way these colors are measured and standardized is called a color profile. Color profiles are the numerical values that represent the specific colors in an image. They help devices and programs read the color in an image to create the most accurate representation of the colors picked up when the image was originally captured.

Color profiles are important sets of data throughout the editing process. Like devices, most photo editing programs come with their own color profiles that are set automatically—an example would be Adobe RBG. However, color profiles are often set automatically to the lowest common denominator standards. So, if you’d like to optimize the quality of the color your image shows, you can do so by working with color profiles in the editing process.

Tiny differences in color may not seem like anything to fret about, but without an accurate color profile, an image you’ve edited to perfection may appear slightly off in a different program or device. Over time, the changes made could cause you to “correct” an image that you’ve already edited the way you’d like. If the profile were accurate, the program could correct any differences between programs or devices and show the image’s actual colors consistently.

Types Of Color Profiles In Photoshop

Photoshop offers several different color profiles you can set to automatically apply to your images. Here is an explanation of each.

RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue, and displays color using values that express the intensity of those three colors. RGB is a large color space, with millions of available colors, and thus is commonly used on television and computer screens. This means RGB is the best color profile to use if you plan to display your image on the web or otherwise present it digitally—for instance, on a projector.

Note, however, that RGB is simply a standard color profile, and each device and program will have its own specific form of RGB. The RGB color profile used in Photoshop can vary depending on what you set in the Color Settings window (more on this below).

CMYK, which stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black, is a color profile used primarily in printing as these are the standard colors for printer ink. If you plan to print your image it is suggested to use this color profile as the transition from an RGB profile to print can change the colors slightly.

Grayscale is pretty self-explanatory. This color profile reads your photograph in ranges of black, white, and gray. No matter where you display your image, this color profile will ensure the colors in your black and white photograph remain the same.

Lab Color is a bit different from the rest of the color profiles, as it specifies colors on a 3-axis system. The three ranges are L, which stands for lightness; a-axis, which measures colors on a scale of green to red; and b-axis, which measures colors on a scale of blue to yellow. These specific ranges work a bit like the human eye and make Lab Color an extremely accurate color profile. 

Lab Color is also device-independent, meaning the color will be the exact same regardless of the media used to display. For this reason, Lab Color is commonly used when printing logos for businesses, and in the plastics and textile industries.

The Index color profile uses up to 256 colors, and can drastically reduce the file size while maintaining most of the image’s color quality. When you convert to Index, a color lookup table (CLUT) is created to index the colors in your image. If one of the colors in your image isn’t found within the 256 available options, the most similar one is chosen or simulated. 

The Index color profile is a good option for presentations and web pages due to the small file size, though you’ll want to edit your image in RGB mode before converting to Index as the editing options are limited while working in this color space.

Bitmap is arguably the most unique of the color profiles as it only uses two colors: black and white. Each tiny individual pixel takes on one of the two colors to create the image. The result is an interesting, graphic appearance that is often used as an alternative to vector graphics.

How To Change Color Profile In Photoshop

To change the color profile of your opened project in Photoshop, go to Image > Mode and choose your desired color profile. Here you can choose between RBG, CMYK, Grayscale, Lab Color, Index, and Bitmap profiles.

Option 1: While Creating A New Document

You can change your color profile right from the New Document window. To do this, head to File > New . You can also hold Control + N (Win) or Command + N (Mac).

assign profile photoshop

In the New Document window, select the Color Mode you’d like to work in from the available options.

assign profile photoshop

Once you’ve done this, you can further specify the exact color profile you’d like to work with from the Color Profile options. Simply click the drop-down arrow to see all the available options; this allows you to specify the colors for a specific device, but this is not a necessary step.

assign profile photoshop

With everything set, click Create to open your new document.

This method makes the most sense to use if you plan to add more elements to your images, such as text or graphics. Note that you’ll still have to add your image to the new document, but you can add it as a new layer. This way you can choose the right color profile while also starting completely fresh.

To add an image to your project, simply open your computer’s file window and drag and drop an image into the project. It will automatically appear as a new layer.

Option 2: In An Existing Project

To change your color profile in an existing document, head to Image > Mode . Here you’ll see the various color spaces you can choose from. Select the one you’d like to use for your project.

assign profile photoshop

Why Your Colors Still Don’t Look Right In Photoshop

1. check monitor color calibration.

While RGB is a standard for monitors, the color might veer off alignment after a while. You can correct this by re-calibrating your monitor according to the RGB standards to ensure the color appears the same on your screen as it will on others. 

To do this, you’ll need a colorimeter , a small device that attaches to your screen and optimizes your monitor’s display colors.

To do this process, you’ll first want to allow your computer to warm up for about a minute, and ensure there is no harsh light – the device makes judgments based on the ambient light in your room, so you want the lighting to be the same as what you’d normally use while editing.

Once you set your monitor type and target settings, the colorimeter will perform tests to check your monitor’s colors compared to industry standards. The result will be a unique color profile specifically for your monitor to ensure accuracy in the colors presented and communicated to other devices.

2. Export Settings

In some cases, your color might look different when exporting from Photoshop to a JPEG. This is easily fixable with a quick check as to which color profile you’re using.

In Photoshop, go to Edit > Convert to Profile . In the window that appears, under Destination Space , click the drop-down arrow next to Profile.

assign profile photoshop

Select Working sRGB IEC61966-2.1 . This will ensure your color is accurate upon export. 

assign profile photoshop

Color profiles may seem like an advanced photography skill, but any professional or amateur photographer is more than capable of figuring out how color profiles work. Doing so can have a positive effect on your work, giving you the most accurate possible color across devices and ensuring that your color looks great when you print or present your work.

Happy Editing!

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Assign Profile in Photoshop

Lalit Adhikari

  • Adobe Photoshop Tutorials

In this  Photoshop Lesson , we’ll learn about ‘Assign Profile in Photoshop ‘. Assign Profile command is found under  Edit menu in Photoshop . I would recommend reading the following lessons before this one:

  • Color Profile
  • Color Settings in Photoshop

My name is Lalit Adhikari and we are at LTY . Let’s begin!

Don’t Color Manage This Document

Working (color model: working space).

Related Topics:

  • Remote Connections in Photoshop
  • Presets in Photoshop
  • Adobe PDF Presets in Photoshop

Assign Color Profile

Photoshop always uses currently selected RGB or CMYK working space that you have set up in your color settings as an assumption for what those numbers are associated with an untagged document.

Assign color profile in photoshop

For example : if you’ve opened an image which is in sRGB , it will be assumed that it is in Pro Photo RGB if the image is untagged. And that’s simply because you may have Pro Photo RGB selected in your RGB working spaces in my color settings.

Assign Profile dialog box

And the assign profile command allows us to override that. It provides a new scale or proper tagging of your document so that you can preview it correctly.

  • Purge in Photoshop
  • Define Custom Shape in Photoshop
  • Define Pattern in Photoshop

Removes the existing profile from the document. Select this option only if you are sure that you do not want to color manage the document.

After removing the profile from a document, the appearance of colors is defined by the application’s working space profile.

Assigns the working space profile to the document.

Here we can select different profile for our use. The application assigns the new profile to the document without converting colors to the profile space. This may dramatically change the appearance of the colors as displayed on monitor.

  • Define Brush Preset in Photoshop
  • Sky Replacement in Photoshop
  • Auto-Blend Layers in Photoshop
  • Auto-Align layers in Photoshop
  • Transform command in Photoshop

Lalit Adhikari

Lalit Adhikari

Lalit Adhikari is the Main Author and Admin at Learn That Yourself. He has work experience of more than 10 years in the field of Multimedia and teaching experience of more than 5 years.

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6 Color Settings in Photoshop That You Need to Know

A Post By: Glenn Harper

Photoshop CC is a complex piece of software. Most of us barely scratch its surface in terms of the features we use. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter if we’re not familiar with every aspect of this vast program if only we achieve the results we want. One of the hurdles in Photoshop has always been understanding how it handles color and what effect different color settings have. This can be mind-boggling for new photographers and even catches a few seasoned ones out.

There are 6 color settings to consider in Photoshop

#1 – rgb working spaces, some basics.

Under “Color Settings” in Photoshop, the first item needing attention is choice of RGB working space. What is this? It’s your editing color set, if you like, where all the various tones of red, green and blue are split into values between 0 and 255 and blended to make 16.7 million possible colors. We can’t separate all these colors with our eyes, but mathematically they’re there.

1b Simple RGB Color Wheel - 6 Color Settings in Photoshop That You Need to Know

This simple RGB color wheel shows the relationship between primary (red, green, blue) and secondary (cyan, magenta, yellow) colors. For example, a fully saturated magenta tone contains no green (RGB 255,0,255), so sits opposite green on the wheel. Tertiary colors are created by blending adjacent primary and secondary colors.

All RGB working spaces have the same number of colors; the gamut they cover is the main difference between them. Choice of RGB working space is, therefore, mainly about picking a gamut that suits your needs best.

Standard RGB working spaces (e.g. sRGB, Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB) are used for editing because they are “well behaved”. In other words, we know what to expect from them when we edit our photos. To illustrate this, if all three red, green and blue (RGB) values are equal in any pixel, the tone will always be neutral, be it gray, black or white. Any adjustments made to shadows, mid-tones or highlights cause the same degree of change, too, so editing is always predictable.

Choosing an RGB Working Space

Here are the three main choices of RGB working space:

sRGB might be a good choice of working space if all you ever do is publish photos on the Internet and get your prints done at the shopping mall (i.e. a commercial photo lab). It’s one way of keeping things simple, but does potentially forfeit a lot of color data between camera and Photoshop, especially if you shoot RAW.

Some subjects are better suited to this color space than others, like portraits. Skin tones are likely to be encompassed by the sRGB color space, so you don’t lose data by editing in it. The types of subjects you shoot may play a part in choosing a working space.

The popular assertion that this color space is the “Internet standard” is partly true, though slightly outmoded. Most people can’t see much color outside of sRGB because of the standard gamut of their monitors, so a bigger space would be largely wasted on your web audience.

Adobe RGB is recommended to anyone who does their printing at home or who supplies third parties with images for publishing. Even humble models of inkjet printer produce colors outside of the sRGB gamut, while only high-end printers exceed Adobe RGB in output.

The Adobe RGB color space was designed to encompass the output of CMYK printers. It is often seen as a good all-rounder for the average photographer, and you can easily convert files to sRGB for the web at the end of editing if desired.

Landscapes benefit particularly from Adobe RGB, largely because of the cyan and green colors lost when converting down to sRGB. To a lesser extent, yellows and oranges are also truncated.

1a Working RGB space - 6 Color Settings in Photoshop That You Need to Know

ProPhoto RGB

ProPhoto RGB is the largest of the three commonly used RGB working spaces, and it’s the one that best preserves all color data between a RAW file and Photoshop. A purist would ask; why would you want to throw color away needlessly? You don’t always discard color with a smaller color space, of course, depending on the content of your photo.

ProPhoto RGB is a good choice if you use a high-end inkjet printer capable of colors outside the Adobe RGB gamut, but there are caveats attached to its use:

  • Because ProPhoto is spread over such a wide gamut, you’re forced to work with larger 16-bit files to avoid posterization, or banding. (The opposite is true of a small working space like sRGB, which is ideally suited to 8-bit editing.)
  • Since ProPhoto RGB produces colors beyond the capabilities of any monitor or that of human vision, you’ll be working partially “blind” when you edit in this color space. This is a trade-off that many accept in return for extracting as much color as possible from their printer.

Note: some photographic subjects, particularly those with a deep yellow color, lose detail straight away merely by opening them in Photoshop in a smaller color space (i.e. sRGB or Adobe RGB). It’s possible to see blotchy, posterized areas in photos of yellow flowers, for instance, in anything less than ProPhoto RGB, and the effect is worse the smaller a working space you select. This makes it desirable to print such subjects directly from ProPhoto RGB.

Again, there’s nothing to stop you from editing your files in ProPhoto RGB and then converting down to smaller RGB color spaces when required. Remember; you can’t convert up to a bigger color space and get data back.

ProPhoto RGB is not typically an in-camera option. You need a RAW > 16-bit workflow to make it a useful choice in Photoshop.

1c RGB Color Space Gamuts - 6 Color Settings in Photoshop That You Need to Know

A comparison of RGB color spaces. Note how the profile of an Epson 2200 printer with matt paper exceeds the Adobe RGB gamut.

#2 – Monitor RGB (check your monitor profile)

Also under the RGB working space menu you’ll see the “Monitor RGB” heading. This is not a profile you’ll want to use as a working space, because it effectively turns off color management in Photoshop. One thing the Monitor RGB selection is useful for is checking that Photoshop is accessing the correct monitor profile. The profile in current use is listed beside “Monitor RGB”.

If you’ve created a custom monitor profile and notice that color is wayward in Photoshop, one thing you can do is temporarily switch the monitor profile back to sRGB in your OS settings (Adobe RGB for wide-gamut monitors). If this improves the color, your own custom profile is probably corrupt and you’ll need to delete it and create another. Again, the “Monitor RGB” working space option will verify the profile in use.

#3 – Color Management Policies

Under “Color Management Policies” in Color Settings, select “Preserve Embedded Profiles” in all three drop-down menus.

3a Preserve Embedded Profiles - 6 Color Settings in Photoshop That You Need to Know

There is a case for unchecking the 2 boxes next to “Profile Mismatches”, since you’re unlikely to act on the alerts they produce. The first box “Ask When Opening” might be useful if you want to be kept in the loop and know immediately if a file has a different profile embedded to the one you edit with. You can disregard the second box “Ask When Pasting”.

3b Profile Checkboxes

It’s desirable to check the box next to “Missing Profiles”. When opening an image file without a profile embedded, you can sometimes guess the correct color space based on where it came from and then assign that profile to the image. You may also choose to open the file without a profile and then assign different profiles in Photoshop to see which looks best.

#4 – Assign Profile

The vital thing to learn about “Assign Profile” in Photoshop is that you should leave it alone in most situations. Many people don’t distinguish between this and “Convert to Profile”, which is a mistake.

4a Assign Profile - 6 Color Settings in Photoshop That You Need to Know

A color shift occurs when wrongly using “Assign Profile” to convert files from one known RGB color space to another. “Convert to Profile” uses a relative colorimetric rendering intent to match destination colors to source colors as closely as possible.

Assign Profile applies the RGB values embedded in a photo to a different color space without any attempt to match color. This often causes a huge color shift. You’d only use this feature on a file that had no profile embedded or that had one assigned upon opening that you’d like to change.

#5 – Convert to Profile

If you need to convert a file from one RGB color space to another in Photoshop, “Convert to Profile” is the right tool for the job. A relative colorimetric rendering intent is used to match color between different color spaces. If you’re converting from Adobe RGB to sRGB, for instance, colors outside the sRGB gamut are matched to their nearest in-gamut equivalent.

5 Convert to Profile - 6 Color Settings in Photoshop That You Need to Know

Convert to Profile is typically used to convert between RGB color spaces, since most of us have no need to convert to printer or CMYK profiles within Photoshop. When converting between RGB files, “relative colorimetric” is always the rendering intent used, even though it’s possible to select other intents from the menu.

#6 – Proof Colors

You wouldn’t ordinarily check “Proof Colors” under the “View” menu unless previewing the color output of a printer or other device. The colors it displays are based on the selection made in the “Proof Setup” menu. Some people assume they should use Monitor RGB proof colors for editing, but, as we’ve already noted, this turns off color management in Photoshop.

6 Proof Colors For Color Blindness - 6 Color Settings in Photoshop That You Need to Know

Proof colors being used to simulate “Color Blindness – Protanopia-type”. More typically, you’d use this function to preview and edit print colors so they matched the original RGB screen image satisfactorily (a technique known as “soft-proofing”).

The normal method for using “Proof Colors” is to open a duplicate image next to the original, apply the printer profile to the duplicate using proof colors and then edit so it closely matches the original. This is basic soft-proofing method, though a full description merits another article.

  • RGB Working Space: Choose Adobe RGB if in doubt. It’ll encompass the output of most monitors and inkjet printers.
  • RGB Working Space: Take note of the Monitor RGB selection to ensure Photoshop is using the right monitor profile.
  • Color Management Policies: Select “Preserve Embedded Profiles” in the three drop-down menus and check the “Ask When Opening” box next to “Missing Profiles”.
  • Don’t use “Assign Profile” to convert from one RGB space to another. It causes unwanted color shifts. Use it only when the original profile is unknown, which shouldn’t be often.
  • Use “Convert to Profile” to convert from one known RGB space to another. This matches color as closely as possible between the source and destination color space.
  • Proof Colors are used for previewing the color output of other programs or devices, or to see how an image will look to a color-blind viewer. For normal editing, this should be turned off.

I hope that clears up any confusion you have had around color settings in Photoshop. Please post any comments and questions below and I’ll try to answer them.

6 Color Settings in Photoshop That You Need to Know

Read more from our Post Production category

Glenn Harper

is a writer, photographer, and all-around good guy. For almost 20 years, his photos have been licensed and syndicated through European photo libraries, resulting in publication all over the world. In the early 2000s he dabbled in writing for UK photo magazines, but then lost track of time. He’s okay with a camera, knows a fair bit about stuff and is here to help.

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Dealing with Color Profiles

This exercise is excerpted from Noble Desktop’s past Photoshop training materials and is compatible with Photoshop updates through 2020. To learn current skills in Photoshop, check out our Photoshop Bootcamp and graphic design classes in NYC and live online.

Note: These materials are provided to give prospective students a sense of how we structure our class exercises and supplementary materials. During the course, you will get access to the accompanying class files, live instructor demonstrations, and hands-on instruction.

Topics covered in this Photoshop tutorial:

Opening & editing a typical image, Images that are missing a profile, Images with the wrong profile embedded

Exercise Preview

east river color mismatch

Exercise Overview

Color management is the professional way to ensure that you have the correct color passing between different devices. In this exercise, we’ll demystify the process and show how to work with color profiles, as well as how to remedy some common problems that may arise in your own work.

A Typical Workflow: Converting Device Profile to Working Space

From the Photoshop Adv Class folder, open East River.psd .

The following message will be displayed:

opening image convert colors

The current embedded profile (EPSON Expression 10000XL) is a device profile for an Epson scanner. That is how this image was digitized. We want to edit in a device-independent workspace, not the scanner’s workspace. So choose the second option, Convert document’s colors to the working space , which in our case is Adobe RGB .

Click OK . The image is now ready for editing.

NOTE: This will probably be a typical workflow. You’ll open an image that has an embedded profile for the scanner/digital camera you started with. Then you convert to the working space and edit the image!

We won’t be editing the image now, so close the file.

Workflow for Images That Are Missing a Profile

Images that don’t have a profile need to be assigned one before you start editing them. There are two ways you can handle images that do not have an embedded profile. The first technique is the fastest, but you don’t get to see the changes happen. The second technique is more manual, but you get to preview the change, which is good if you are in the unfortunate situation of having to guess what profile to assign.

Technique #1: The Fast Way

Open Photoshop Adv Class > Smiling Baby-no profile (should be sRGB).tif .

The following message will be displayed. As shown below, assign it the sRGB profile and check convert document to working RGB .

missing profile fast way

When done, click OK .

Explanation: This image had no embedded profile. It was shot on a digital camera that uses sRGB. If we don’t assign it the right profile before converting to the workspace, we may be starting off with the wrong colors.

Technique #2: Previewing the Change

As shown below, choose Leave as is and click OK .

missing profile second way

Explanation: Leaving the image as it is (not color managing the image) means no profile is assigned. Photoshop therefore displays the image using the current workspace (in our case Adobe RGB).

Assigning the Proper Profile so Photoshop Displays the Image Correctly

color sampler tool

Click anywhere on the image to place a color sampler.

The Info panel should automatically open so you can see the value of the color sampler you just placed. (Color sampler values will appear here.)

info palette

Place one or two more on different colors and note their values in the Info panel.

Go to Edit > Assign Profile .

This image was shot on a digital camera and, like many digital cameras, the camera shoots in sRGB . As shown below, from the Profile menu, choose sRGB but do NOT hit OK until we say!

assign correct profile

Check the Preview box on and off. Wow, that makes quite a change in how the colors look. Now they look more realistic. The skin tones are less red and more natural. While the color may not be perfect, Photoshop is now trying to accurately display how the camera saw the color.

Make sure Preview is checked and look at the Info panel.

Notice how there are two sets of numbers, like 63/63. The first number is the current value. The second number is what the value is being changed to. Notice that none of the numbers are changing. That’s because assigning a profile does NOT change the color numbers in the image. It just tells Photoshop what those numbers mean, and thus how it should make any on-the-fly adjustments to accurately display the image on your monitor.

Try assigning different profiles and see how radically the color sometimes changes. This illustrates how differently various devices see color. That is why Photoshop must know what device created it and how it saw the color, so Photoshop can display the image the way it was meant to be.

When done trying different profiles, reselect the proper sRGB and click OK .

Converting into a Device-Independent Workspace for Image Editing

This image was shot on a digital camera that we know uses sRGB. But this RGB colorspace, while suited nicely for web design, is small and is not good to work in for print. We’ll convert to a better colorspace for editing so we aren’t limited to the capabilities of the input device (in this case, the camera).

Go to Edit > Convert to Profile .

Don’t click OK till we say! Try selecting different profiles to convert the image to. Toggle the Preview checkbox on/off and notice the color sample values in the Info panel change. This is because converting to a profile changes the color values in your image permanently .

Set the following to convert the image to a colorspace with a wider gamut:

wrong profile image convert to profile

NOTE: While Adobe RGB is a good workspace, we do not want to say that everyone should use it for all their work. You will need to find the RGB workspace that is best for your workflow.

Now that you are in a good device-independent workspace, you can do your work, color adjustments, etc.

We won’t be editing it now, so close the file and do not save changes.

Workflow for Images with an Incorrect Profile Embedded

Hopefully in your work you won’t ever encounter images that have incorrect profiles embedded. If it does happen though, we want you to know how to deal with it.

Open DKNY-wrong profile (should be sRGB).tif .

wrong profile

Make sure Use the embedded profile is chosen and click OK .

Explanation: We know this image was originally shot on a digital camera. Yet the software used to download the image incorrectly assigned it a different profile, Generic RGB Profile . This makes Photoshop display the image differently. Once we assign the correct profile that better describes the digital camera used to capture the image, Photoshop will be able to display the image correctly.

In the above dialog it really doesn’t matter whether you choose Use the embedded profile or Discard the embedded profile . Right now it doesn’t matter whether the image has a wrong profile or no profile at all, because the next step is to assign the correct profile!

Assigning the Proper Profile so Photoshop Displays the Image Properly

Like many digital cameras, the camera that took this image shoots in sRGB . As shown below, from the Profile menu, choose sRGB but do NOT hit OK until we say!

Photoshop is trying to accurately display how the camera saw this image, which was shot at dusk. You can see by the lights on buildings and cars that it was getting dark outside. It started out a bit too light, but now it is darker. Uncheck and check Preview to see the difference. It is now closer to the image the digital camera took!

This image was shot on a digital camera that we know uses sRGB. But this RGB colorspace, while suited nicely for web design, is small and is not so good to work in for print. We’ll convert to a better colorspace for editing so we aren’t limited to the capabilities of the input device (in this case the camera).

Go to Edit > Convert to Profile and set the following:

We won’t be editing it now, so close the file and don’t save changes.

Soft Proofing While Editing the Image

Periodically as you work, you should turn on “soft” proofing to see more closely how the image will look according to how you will output it:

If you will be printing the image, soft proofing previews how the image will look in CMYK. You’ll be able to see how your colors shift if you’ve used colors that will not be able to print (out-of-gamut colors).

If you will be putting it online, soft proofing previews how it will look on Macs and PCs.

Setting Up Soft Proofing for Print

Go to View > Proof Setup . Here you choose the profile to be used for soft proofing. Typically you’d choose Working CMYK .

Turning On Soft Proofing

Choose View > Proof Colors to toggle the soft proofing on and off.

Checking for Out-Of-Gamut Colors

Choose View > Gamut Warning to highlight unprintable colors.

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Color Management Info

  • Introduction To Color Management
  • Profiles and Color Spaces
  • Photoshop Working Spaces
  • Advanced Photoshop Color Settings
  • Assign versus Convert to profile
  • Convert to Profile
  • Assign Profile
  • Career resources

Color Management in Adobe Photoshop® part 4: The Convert to Profile Dialog Box (And What You Can Do With It)

With a clear understanding of the differences between assign profile and convert to profile, we can begin to talk about actually using these concepts in Adobe Photoshop. If you do not have a clear understanding of the distinction between the two, I strongly suggest that you read or re-read the previous section, “Assign Profile Versus Convert to Profile”, because the rest of this series assumes familiarity with these concepts. Assign profile and convert to profile can be accessed directly from the top menu in Photoshop. In Photoshop CS and earlier, this was accomplished by selecting from the top menu Image> Mode> Convert to profile or Assign Profile. For CS 2 and 3, choose Edit> Assign or Convert to Profile. The convert to profile dialog looks like this:

Taking the options in this box from the top, we first see the origin space. This cannot be changed because it refers to the color space or profile that the image is in (or is assumed to be in.) Next is the destination space, which is where you want to convert your image to. Any color space or profile visible to Photoshop is available through the destination space pull-down menu.

Conversion options are next. These include the “engine” or color management module (CMM) used to perform the conversion. The CMM is essentially an interchangeable calculator used to translate the color meaning. In the early days of color management, some companies “tuned” their CMMs to take advantage of special “secret sauce” information in the profiles created by their software. This was in direct conflict with the platform-independent interoperability that was a key goal of the ICC, so CMMs that favored a specific vendor were relatively short-lived. Today few profiling software companies bother to create separate CMMs, and Adobe’s Ace Engine has always been one of the best. So unless you have a specific reason to use another CMM, such as a legacy Kodak or Heidelberg profile, Adobe ACE is a better choice than the “operating system freebie” CMMs.

Next down the dialog box is the rendering intent, which is just called “intent” in some versions. Rendering intent mainly tells the CMM how to deal with “out of gamut” colors; colors that exist in the source space but cannot be coded directly into the destination. Depending on the intent chosen, some in gamut colors are usually affected also. It should be noted that when converting into any of the currently used “editing” color spaces such as sRGB, Adobe 98, ProPhoto etc., the only intent currently supported is relative colorimetric. Photoshop CS1 and earlier allowed absolute colorimetric as well, but this was rarely a useful option. Adobe decided that absolute was being chosen by mistake most of the time that it was used and discontinued the option for CS2 and later. So while the other rendering intent choices show up in the menu for these spaces, if you choose one of them and click the preview box you will see that they have no effect.

Rendering intent only becomes a real decision when converting to an output profile such as a printer profile. To give a brief overview of the choices, I will begin with the two most frequently used intents, perceptual and relative colorimetric. The remaining two intents, saturation and absolute colorimetric, are used less frequently and only in special situations. They will be discussed in-depth in the “All About Rendering Intents” (coming soon) section of the website.

Perceptual maps all possible colors (from LAB- it knows nothing about the size of your source profile) to in gamut ones while maintaining smooth transitions to the colors that would have been in gamut any way. This has the advantage of preserving smooth transitions and maintaining relative color relationships, but tends to affect a more significant amount of in gamut color than the other intents. It is widely used for photographic images, where relative color relationships are often more important than absolute color accuracy. To maintain the relationship between in and out of gamut colors however, severe compression is applied to almost all color values, including in gamut ones. This means that some saturated colors that could be reproduced in the destination get somewhat de-saturated. This happens even when no colors in the source would be out of gamut.

Relative colorimetric attempts to leave all in gamut colors unchanged, and map out of gamut colors to the nearest in gamut choice. This makes it an excellent choice if all of the source colors exist in the destination space. If this is not the case however, then the transition to the formerly out of gamut colors can be abrupt. A whole range of out of gamut color may be translated to the single nearest destination color. We call this “saturation clipping” because the end points of a color range are clipped off, or stop becoming more saturated. This changes the relationships between colors and in extreme cases can lead to flat blobs of saturated colors where a gradation would otherwise be. Sometimes this is objectionable, other times it is hardly noticeable.

The choice between perceptual and relative colorimetric is dependent on image, profile and intended use of the converted file. As a general rule, perceptual is often best for translating photographic images into a small printer profile because of it’s ability to scale out of gamut ranges and maintain color relationships. For converting photographic images to large gamut printer profiles, and for accurate color conversion of non-photographic flat color graphics, relative colorimetric is often the better choice. There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer here, so this is where the “preview” check box can be pretty useful. Just keep in mind that you are viewing the color change in the file “through” your monitor profile. This means that if any color ranges lie outside of your monitor’s gamut, you will be unable to see a change even if it takes place. This usually does not present much of a problem, and clicking preview on and off is generally a very good way to ascertain the effects of a profile conversion.

Next in the convert to dialog box is the option of black point compensation. Some profiles translate their darkest possible value directly into the space they are converted into. This means that if you are going from an offset press profile, which is typically not capable of producing a very deep black, to a device profile with darker blacks, the darkest value in the image keep the same appearance as they had in the more limited profile. Thus you lose some advantages of the second device by not being able to print the darker black that it is capable of printing. Not all profiles translate black in this way, and the difference is due to ambiguity in the original ICC specification. Black point compensation is an Adobe proprietary solution which when turned on will always map the darkest possible value in source to the darkest possible value in the destination. Unless you are trying to duplicate a workflow that does not offer the ability to use black point compensation, it is always best to map black using this option by checking the box.

Finally we have “use dither” and “flatten image”. Use dither introduces a tiny amount of noise to the image in the conversion process. It seems counterintuitive, but this is actually desirable for most photographic images. This is because any profile or color space conversion, especially 8-bit ones, will have at least a slight amount of rounding errors in the mathematical conversion. The resulting loss of data, which is usually small, is called quantization. It is almost never noticeable on textured parts of an image, but sometimes can be visible in very smooth gradations (like a cloudless sky) as slight “posterization” or “banding”. The minimal noise introduced by the use dither control will ensure that you do not see this banding as the result of a single transform into a normal profile. So if you have a tonal or photographic image, checking use dither is the way to go. If your image is a flat graphic creation that has no gradients however, then you probably don’t want even the slight amount of noise that this control introduces and you should leave the box unchecked.

The flatten control will collapse all of your Photoshop layers before making the profile or color space conversion. Since some layer options and blending modes are dependent on the profile or space in use at the time, flattening before conversion stands the best chance of keeping the appearance of a file as unchanged as possible. Of course, you lose the advantage of editing any of the pre-existing layers going forward. If this presents problems, try the conversion and use Edit>undo to toggle back and forth to evaluate the visual difference. You must use this method for evaluation because the preview checkbox does not preview the effects of unchecking the flatten box. In other words, preview will always show you the result of flattening before the conversion.

So what can you actually do with the convert to profile dialog? Some very useful things, including:

• Convert to another color space. You could use convert to profile to change a copy of your digital camera RAW conversion in ProPhoto into a smaller space like sRGB to email to your friends. (Most low-end image viewers assume that everything is in sRGB) Or you could convert an sRGB file into a larger space like ProPhoto to achieve more saturated colors than are possible in sRGB. Please note that if you are doing this, the conversion alone to the larger space does not make the color in the file any more saturated. The purpose of convert to profile is to translate to the destination color space without changing the color at all. To saturate the colors beyond those available in a small space you must convert to a larger space and then use adjustment controls like Image>Adjust>Hue and Saturation.

• Convert to a printer profile for printing. If you have a custom profile for your printer, paper and ink combination, this is where you would use it. The best approach is usually to convert to profile and print from Photoshop. Make sure that color management is turned off in the printer driver; you may have to consult your printer manual for this. For an excellent tutorial on printing with Photoshop, click here . Note that you would not want to save the converted version as your only copy of the file because after the conversion it will only contain colors that are printable under that condition, i.e. that paper on that printer with that ink. This would limit your ability to use a more capable printing condition and profile in the future, so if you need to save the converted version, save it as a copy.

• Convert to another color mode. Most people use Image> Mode> and choose the color mode to accomplish this. Convert to profile can be used to convert between most of the commonly used color modes with much greater control. For instance, if Image> Mode> is used, then the default working space for that mode from your Photoshop color settings is always used as the destination space for that mode. So if you were sending a job to a print shop that used a profiled CMYK, press, it might seem to make sense to use Image> Mode> to convert to CMYK and then convert to the press profile. However, this would involve an unnecessary conversion to your CMYK working space that would introduce another level of quantization and could cause additional problems with black generation. Using convert to profile to go straight from RGB to the CMYK press profile would be a better choice. In addition Image> Mode> also uses your Photoshop color setting defaults for rendering intent and dither setting. The only way to independently control these variables for each mode conversion is to use the convert to profile option

Click here to go to Part 5: Assign Profile

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How to optimize color settings in photoshop.

  • December 15, 2020

I’m not going to sugar coat it, color management is intimidating. I read 10+ books on the inner workings of ICC profiles last year and I still wouldn’t claim to fully get it. But if you want your images to look great and consistent on your monitor, the computer you buy next year, printed on your wall, and anywhere you show it on the internet – it’s something you need to get right. One of the foundations for that in Photoshop is the “Color Settings” dialog, and in this tutorial you’ll learn what the various settings are and how to set them to help ensure your photos look the way you intend.

Hear Jeff Harmon and I discuss this tutorial and the basics of color management on the Master Photography podcast .

What are working spaces and profiles?

First, a quick background on ICC profiles. The pixels in your images are saved as red, green, and blue (RGB) values from 0-255. But 255 what? Even your computer does not know. It would be like trying to bake a cake with half a recipe that called for 2 sugars. 2 cubes? 2 teaspoons? 2 cups? ICC profiles are meant to help resolve that ambiguity so that a pixel with an RGB value of 255, 130, 194 would look the same on your computer as it would on someone else’s phone when they see your image on Facebook.

We could spend weeks discussing how ICC profiles work, how to make them, and so on. But there are really only a handful of critical things every photographer needs to know:

  • For color management to work, you need an ICC profile embedded in your image. This ensures that your file accurately describes the color in the image. This is typically sRGB, Adobe RGB, or ProPhoto RGB. However, there are other good general purpose “working spaces” (which means they are a standard, but not based on any specific device). If it is missing (“untagged”), the computer has to guess (we’ll get to this below). When working with an untagged image, Photoshop will add a “#” indicator next to the bit depth in the file name (unless you have set the color management policy below to “off”).
  • You should open your image the first time with your preferred color profile and then avoid converting the profile in your working file . Any conversion may cause a loss of quality (and converting from a small gamut to a large gamut won’t bring back lost color). There are only a few cases where I convert profiles. The first is when outputting an image to the web or for print. I always do this on a duplicate copy, never my original working file. The other (which is rare and I try to avoid) is when combining images that were created with different RGB profiles, as all layers in an image must ultimately use the same profile (more on pasting with different profiles below). You can get deep in the details to consider all the options, but Adobe RGB is a safe and very good choice to use from start to finish in your working files. The settings below will help you avoid unwanted conversions.
  • You also need an ICC profile for your monitor or printer. This ensures that your output device accurately displays the color described in the file. You’ll need a profiling device such as the X-Rite i1Studio to do this. This is a very deep topic that we won’t cover here, but it needs to be done in addition to the other color management choices discussed here. Using the analogy above, skipping this would be like knowing the recipe calls for 2 teaspons of sugar, but you just use some random spoon in the kitchen to get close enough.

The color settings dialog (Edit / Color Settings) in Photoshop refers to ICC profiles in a few different ways:

  • The “color management” section describes what to do about “embedded profiles”, which refers to saving the ICC profile with your document. Without an embedded profile, you are back to the “2 sugars” scenario above and Photoshop will just guess what to do when it opens the file, which will likely lead to some disastrous results. Photographs should always include an embedded profile.
  • “Working spaces” are the ICC profiles that Photoshop will assume when there is ambiguity, such as not having a profile saved with the image.
  • “Conversion options” tells Photoshop how to manage conversion from one profile to another. While you should avoid converting the profile in your working document, you will likely need to convert copies of it for output to the print or web, so these are important.
  • The “advanced controls” section includes a bunch of random options that you should leave alone, but we’ll cover them below as well.

Optimal “Color Settings” values in Photoshop

If you are using Lumenzia , just use the “optimize” utility and it will take care of most of these settings for you automatically. Just go to the flyout menu (top-right three bars icon) and click on Utilities / Optimize. (Note: CS6 users should <ctrl/cmd>-click the Tutorials button to get to the utilities menu).

The settings dropdown at top allows you to choose from some standard defaults. Leave this alone to set things as recommended below.

Working spaces:

  • This setting is only used when there is ambiguity. If you open your image in Adobe RGB, there is no ambiguity and this working space setting is ignored. So assuming you are using embedded profiles, there are only a couple of places where this setting matters.
  • One is when opening untagged images (which is common when working with images that came from a scanner or the internet). If you check the option below to warn when opening images with missing profiles, you won’t have any problems and will be prompted with options when you open the image.
  • The other is if you use the Image / Mode menu to convert between RGB and LAB, because this menu option does not specify which RGB profile to use. I recommend you never use that and instead use Edit / Convert to Profile so that you can choose your preferred RGB profile.
  • If you use LAB a lot and have a habit of using the Image / Mode command, you may wish to set the working RGB to match the embedded profile you use when opening your images (ie probably Adobe RGB or ProPhoto). This would avoid accidental loss of color that could occur by converting to sRGB. This is also safe with untagged images if you enable the warning for missing profiles as recommended below.
  • If you use a scanner which does not embed profiles and you have created one, you may wish to set it as your working profile to make it easy to assign it to these untagged images as you open them.
  • Otherwise , setting this to sRGB is probably ideal . That will give you faster access to choose it when opening an untagged image (rather than scrolling through a list if it wasn’t the last one you used). And if you work with a lot of untagged images which you assume will always be in sRGB, you could then turn off the missing profiles warning below to have these images automatically treated as sRGB and avoid getting prompted over and over.
  • Do not set this to “Monitor RGB” (this will disable color management). You should also not set it to any custom profile you have created, these are not good choices for your working files. If you need to use other spaces for output, duplicate your file and use Edit / Convert to Profile to convert that one-off file.
  • CMYK working space: Unless you work on files in the CMYK workspace, this probably has no effect on your work at all. Regardless, leave it at the default unless you have a good reason to change it.
  • As I described in a previous tutorial , this setting can significantly affect the quality of luminosity masks. However, there is no good general setting that you can just set and forget . It should be matched based upon the active (embedded) RGB profile in each document. Lumenzia automatically optimizes this for you on the fly for each image. If you are not using Lumenzia, see that older tutorial for suggestions on the best alternative approach.
  • Beyond luminosity masks, I strongly recommend you do never use the grayscale working space for photography. The only benefit is smaller TIF files. RGB mode is equally capable of producing the same black and white images. More importantly, there are numerous tools and filters which are only available in RGB mode (including non-destructive options to control the conversion from color to black and white). Additionally, great black and white images often have a slight color tint added to them.
  • Spot working space: It is very unlikely that you work on files in the spot workspace. Leave it at the default unless you have a good reason to change it.

Color Management Policies :

  • Specifically, it causes new documents to have no profile and strips the profile when opening a file that has a profile different from the working space (it will leave an embedded profile alone if it happens to match the working space).
  • And we should avoid conversions in general, so the third option to convert to the working space should also be avoided.
  • Note that if you are unable to to change this value, make sure your RGB working space is not set to “Monitor RGB” as this automatically forces the RGB policy to off.
  • “ Profile Mismatches / Ask When Opening ” should be left unchecked . This will warn you when opening an image with an embedded profile which is not the same as the working RGB. Since we wish to avoid conversions, just stick with the embedded profile.
  • “ Profile Mismatches / Ask When Pasting ” should probably be left unchecked . This serves as a helpful reminder that you haven’t been consistently using the same profile, but the right answer is almost always to convert and that’s what will be done if this is left unchecked.
  • “ Missing Profiles / Ask When Opening ” should be checked . Missing profiles are a serious issue and checking this box will both warn you and give you a chance to fix the problem.

Conversion Options :

  • Engine should be left as Adobe (ACE) . This is an excellent choice and consistent between Mac and PC.
  • Intent should be set to “ relative colorimetric “. This is most often the best choice, and you can use “perceptual” as needed by using Edit / Convert to Profile to control the process when you need that instead. (Note: photographers should generally not use absolute colorimetric other than for some advanced hard proofing scenarios, and I cannot think of a good reason to use saturation for photography) .
  • “ Use Black Point Compensation ” should be left checked for best results (to avoid light/muddy shadows).
  • “Use Dither” should probably be checked. This adds a slight bit of noise when converting to 8-bits to help disguise any possible banding. You can also control this on the fly by using Edit / Convert to Profile if you need to make a different choice once in a while.
  • “Compensate for Scene-referred Profiles” should be left checked. It is intended for those using Photoshop as part of their video work, so it probably does affect you.

Advanced Controls :

  • “ Desaturate monitor colors ” should be left unchecked as it is deliberately causing your monitor to deviate from an accurate profile. The potential benefit here is to help visualize colors so strong that they are outside the gamut of your monitor. This is not what I would consider a precise nor highly useful tool.
  • “ Blend RGB Colors Using Gamma ” should be left unchecked . Setting this to 1 actually creates better blends of color. For example, paint red at 50% opacity over solid green. The default behavior will be dark where red and green mix, whereas a gamma of 1 will show the preferred yellow. While I would like to use this more “colorimetricly” correct approach, it only makes sense to do so as a setting in the document, not across Photoshop in general. If you change this behavior, then you are likely to see some potentially significant changes in the appearance of your layered documents. And if you share files with others or do not consistently use this setting going forward, your images may not appear as intended. In the end, this doesn’t provide a lot of value for the kinds of colors we actually mix in photography so leaving it off is fine and preferable since changing it may cause unexpected changes.
  • “ Blend Text Colors Using Gamma ” should be left checked and set to the default 1.45. The idea here is similar to the previous setting, but just affects text. If you change it, you’ll likely see changes in the edge detail of your text layers. The default is fine, and the concerns for unexpected changes are the same.

Luminosity masking:

assign profile photoshop

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assign profile photoshop

Ask Tim Grey

Answers for Photographers…

Assign or Convert?


Today’s Question: What is the difference/advantage of changing a file to sRGB via “assign profile” and “convert to profile” [in Photoshop]?

Tim’s Quick Answer: If you want the colors in the photo to remain unchanged (to the extent possible), you should use the “Convert to Profile” command. If you want to change the appearance of colors in the photo based on a profile, you would use the “Assign Profile” command. In general I would say that photographers today are therefore more likely to want the “Convert to Profile” command, and not the “Assign Profile” command.

More Detail: There are two basic reasons you might want to change the color space associated with a photo. The first (and most common for photographers these days) is to change a photo to a different color space based on a specific output scenario. For example, when preparing a photo to present online, it can be a good idea to convert to the sRGB color space to help ensure more accurate color for the photo being shared. In this type of scenario you want to maintain the same appearance of colors in the photo.

The other scenario is one where you actually want to change the appearance of colors based on a profile. For example, if you scan a slide or negative, you could use an ICC profile for the scanner to apply an automatic correction to the scanned image. The scanner profile would then be used as the basis of a change in color appearance for the photo to make the resulting colors more accurate.

These days I find that many photographers have a need to convert a photo to a different profile for reasons related to how that photo is being shared. In this type of situation you want to maintain the color appearance of the photo, so the “Convert to Profile” command would be appropriate.

Only when you actually want to change the appearance of a photo based on an ICC profile should you use the “Assign Profile” command. These days I would say that most photographers are therefore probably not using the “Assign Profile” command much, if at all.

   Damien's Resources

Assign profile vs convert to profile.

I've seen a lot of confusion between these two options:

They’re right next to each other in Photoshop’s "Edit" menu, and they both involve changing your image from one colour space to another (eg Adobe RGB to sRGB); but they’re vastly different functions, and definitely not interchangeable.

Let’s be clear up front – if you need an image to go from one colour profile to another, it’s 99.99999999999% likely that Convert to profile is the one you need. Assigning a profile is so darn rare that I can’t think of a single reason why a photographer would need to do it in their day-to-day workflow.

Even if you read no further, this is the important message – Converting is your friend; assigning is almost always your foe.

But what does it all mean? Well, it all boils down to this: digital images are made up of numbers, and numbers need context . When converting a profile, you honour the context, and change the colour accurately; when assigning a profile, you ignore the context, and you get an unexpected result.

Consider this. I’m an Aussie, and we discuss distance in kilometres. Let’s say I’m visiting the USA, and a friendly local directs me to the nearest motel: "Drive eight miles and take a left – you can’t miss it!". What would happen if I simply travelled eight kilometres and turned left – I’d be lost, right? I can’t just turn eight miles into eight kilometres and expect to end up in the right place, can I? I have to do a bit of calculation to deduce that eight miles is almost thirteen kilometres … then I can find my motel.

I could suggest endless analogies for this … losing half a pound of weight is good – losing half a kilogram is better! It’s all about the unit, not just the number.

You’ll be well aware that digital images are made up of three channels, each ranging from 0 (dark) to 255 (bright). But on their own, those 0-255 numbers don’t mean anything. To interpret, display and print those numbers properly, the numbers need context – namely, colour space. All colour spaces are numerically represented by 0-255, but 255 red in the ProPhotoRGB space is significantly more vivid than 255 red in the sRGB space, for example. The numbers are the same, but the context is different.

If you assign a profile, it’s like replacing "miles" with "kilometres" and ending up in a different place. Assigning a profile keeps exactly the same 0-255 numbers, but changes the colour space to which they belong. Result? A different colour. Not cool. (A variation of this occurs when you view your web images in a non-colour-managed browser and see a difference.)

If you convert a profile, it’s like converting 8 miles to thirteen kilometres, and ending up safely at your destination. Converting a profile changes the numbers as well as the colour space, to achieve the result you expect (apart from any channel clipping which may occur in the conversion).

Profile conversion is the engine which drives colour management. There are profile conversions happening all the time behind the scenes to ensure that the correct numbers are showing us the correct colours. If you’re a nerd, it’s fascinating! If you’re not, it’s sleep-inducing. Luckily, the wonderful nerds at Adobe have taken care of most of it for us. We don’t need to manually change profiles very often at all. But if you do – for printing, usually – make sure you convert, don’t assign.

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The Difference Between Converting Versus Assigning With Color Profiles

assign profile photoshop

Understanding the difference between assigning and converting to a profile is one of the most conceptually challenging things about color management in digital imaging. It’s counterintuitive to think that by changing numbers the appearance of colors will stay the same or that if you don’t they won’t. But, once you understand why this is happening, how to set up your color management environment and what to do when you encounter color management dialog boxes will become much clearer.

In color management you “change to stay the same”. Why? Take the values for the most saturated red in any RGB color space – 255/0/0. If you graph this in sRGB (a small color space) and ProPhoto RGB (a large color space), you can quickly see that one will produce a much less saturated red than the other. Similarly, all the other numerical combinations produce different appearances in different color spaces too, with the exception of absolutely neutral colors whose values are equal – i.e. 128/128/128. To maintain the appearance of colors when you move them from one color space to another (for instance from a monitor to a printer), you have to change the numbers very precisely, using ICC profiles or maps for each color space and recipes for mixing colors in them.

assign profile photoshop

The parenthetical remarks in Photoshop’s Paste Profile Mismatch dialog box say it clearly.

If you Don’t Convert but “preserve color numbers”, the appearance of a file will change, sometimes dramatically, because the numbers in the file have not been converted but a new color profile has been assigned, changing the meaning of the numbers.

If you Convert you “preserve color appearance”; Photoshop does this by referencing the ICC profiles of the source and destination color spaces and precisely changing the numbers in the file so that they produce the closest possible match to the original appearance; only the appearance of very saturated colors will change if you convert a file to a smaller gamut color space.

Note that information converted from sRGB into ProPhoto RGB does not get more saturated. The editing space becomes wider gamut, but the potential for increased saturation can’t be accessed unless values in the file are further enhanced with software. The best way to get the most saturated color possible is to convert the source file (Raw) into ProPhoto RGB.

If you adopt a consistent workflow and always convert into and create new files in the same color space, you’ll encounter these dialog boxes infrequently. You’ll quickly find you won’t have to think about it anymore. And when you do, you’ll simply take appropriate action with confidence when you need to, confident that the images you’re creating are the very best that can be created.

Remember, color management isn’t about ensuring that color doesn’t change, it’s about ensuring it changes as little as possible and is changed as precisely as possible.

Read more on Color Management here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

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Gabe Walker

John, big fan. I found your work as an art student back in early 2003. Loved your work, amazing. So, trying to understand this, in which scenario would you want to just ‘assign profile’? For instance, a stock agency is requesting that images be in (adobe 1998 rgb) but I have been working with sRGB in photoshop. Also my cameras were set to sRGB. So now, if I assign, the colors POP and get more saturated. If I convert, they more or less stay the same. I suppose it doesn’t really matter since it was shot on a smaller color space, and then converting to a larger, won’t give you additional colors, but just to satisfy the needs of the stock agency.

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Hi Gabe! Thanks! I’d only assign a profile if the file was missing one. Otherwise, convert to keep the color appearance the same. (Remember, while the JPEGs your camera creates are cooked into either sRGB or Adobe RGB, your camera’s Raw files are capable of much more and you can access that full color data by first acquiring them into a larger color space like ProPhoto.)

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Darbo Scalante

Thanks. For the sake of clarity, I would say: Convert to Profile: Numbers are changed, color appearance preserved (as much as it could). Assign Profile: Numbers are preserved, color appearance could change.

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Missing Profile PS CC 2020


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Photoshop Colour Management

Part 3 - opening images.

In Part 2 we looked at the most common Colour Spaces and their ICC profiles. We now look at what happens when opening images in Photoshop, with or without an embedded ICC profile.

An embedded profile can be any type of ICC profile for RGB (or CMYK) images. For example, an image from a digital camera (TIFF/JPEG, but usually not an unconverted RAW image) will could have a profile embedded, such as 'Adobe RGB'. CMYK images for commercial printing could have a profile of a version of an 'ISO' standard embedded. These profiles will be used to inform Photoshop what the image's colours look like, in order that it can be displayed correctly (for which monitor calibration and profiling will also be required), and later be used to help convert it to a printer colour space (by means of an output profile).

Open Images - Profiles Mismatch Menu

Embedded Profile Mismatch: If you set your 'policies' to  Preserve embedded profiles and your image's embedded profile (e.g. 'sRGB') is different to the working space (e.g. 'Adobe RGB'), you will need to carefully consider your options, and whether the embedded profile is the correct one. You will get the following message, and your options will be:

1) Use the embedded profile.. This will preserve the embedded profile, and will use it to show the appearance of the image correctly. No conversion will take place. When saving the image, this profile will be embedded, enabling yourself or others to see its intended appearance.

2)  Convert document's colors to the working space. Use this only if you are absolutely sure that the embedded profile is correct (i.e. for image's camera or scanner). This will convert the image to the working space's RGB numbers, while retaining it's appearance. This is useful if you are pasting several images together, producing a final document in the working space.

3)  Discard the embedded profile (don't color manage). This will actually display the image using  your working space. It is a good safe option if you are unsure of the image's correct colour space. You can later (when the image is open) try assigning different profiles, in  Edit/Assign Profile menu while using Preview to check the result. You can later 'Convert' to the working space if required.

Missing Profile: In this case the image, which happened to be scanned, had no profile embedded. The options are similar:

2) Assign working RGB: ('Adobe RGB') Do this if you are sure that it is the best profile for the image.

3)  Assign Profile: Then select a profile. In this case I knew that this particular scanner profile was the correct one for this scanned image. With this option you also have the option to convert the document to the working RGB at the same time. If you're not sure test different profiles later using the Edit/Assign Profile menu.

Assign Profile Menu:

Convert to profile menu:.

Advanced menu shown.

Rendering Intent: Relative or  Perceptual is normally the best choice. More info here .

Black Point Compensation: Should normally be ON.

Normally you won't convert images to a 'Printer Space' here, but will do this later, when using the  Print command. You must always be careful not to 'double-colour profile'.

In the example here, the  image source space was  sRGB and it is being converted to  Adobe RGB . It can now be combined (probably by 'pasting') with other images in the same  working space .

Page 2 - Photoshop - Colour Spaces   Page 4 - Photoshop - Viewing Colour

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This page updated January 18, 2023

  • Remote Printer Profiling
  • Introduction to Colour Management
  • Photoshop Colour Settings
  • Photoshop Colour Spaces
  • Photoshop Profile Mismatch
  • Photoshop Viewing Colour
  • Old Photoshop Versions Printing with Colour Management
  • Photoshop CS6 & CC Printing with Colour Management
  • Lightroom Editing
  • Lightroom Printing
  • Photoshop Raw Images Introduction
  • Why Prints Appear Too Dark
  • Rendering Intents
  • Printing Industry Standards
  • Some Scanner Info


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  1. Work with Photoshop color profiles

    Assign or remove a color profile (InDesign) Choose Edit > Assign Profiles. For RGB Profile and CMYK Profile, select one of the following: Discard (Use Current Working Space) Removes the existing profile from the document. Select this option only if you are sure that you do not want to color-manage the document.

  2. Assign Profile vs Converting to Profile

    ASSIGNing a different profile will preserve the numbers and will change the colors of the image; CONVERTing to a profile will preserve the colors and change the numbers accordingly. To understand profiles, think of your image as text, and of the profile as a tag that indicates in which language the text is written.

  3. How To Change Color Profiles In Photoshop

    Option 1: While Creating A New Document. You can change your color profile right from the New Document window. To do this, head to File > New. You can also hold Control + N (Win) or Command + N (Mac). In the New Document window, select the Color Mode you'd like to work in from the available options.

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    Learn how to manage Color Space in Photoshop with the "Assign Profile" and "Convert to Profile" options in this comprehensive video tutorial from the Visual ...

  6. Assign Profile In Photoshop

    Assign Color Profile. Photoshop always uses currently selected RGB or CMYK working space that you have set up in your color settings as an assumption for what those numbers are associated with an untagged document.. Assign Profile under Edit menu. For example: if you've opened an image which is in sRGB, it will be assumed that it is in Pro Photo RGB if the image is untagged.

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    The vital thing to learn about "Assign Profile" in Photoshop is that you should leave it alone in most situations. Many people don't distinguish between this and "Convert to Profile", which is a mistake. A color shift occurs when wrongly using "Assign Profile" to convert files from one known RGB color space to another. "Convert ...

  8. Photoshop Convert to Profile vrs. Assign a Profie vrs. Working Color

    Learn the Color Management Settings in Photoshop and when to use Assign a Profile and when to use Convert to Profile. Also learn why you need to set the Work...

  9. Dealing with Color Profiles

    The process to assign the appropriate profile for Photoshop to display an image accurately involves placing color samplers, noting their values, and assigning different profiles to see how the colors change. ... Go to Edit > Assign Profile. This image was shot on a digital camera and, like many digital cameras, the camera shoots in sRGB.

  10. Assign Profile and Convert to Profile

    Assign Profile. Assign Profile lets you tag an image with a specified profile or untag an image by removing its profile. It doesn't do any conversions; it simply attaches a description (an interpretation, as it were) to the numbers in the image, or removes one (see Figure 4-12).

  11. Convert to Profile

    In Photoshop CS and earlier, this was accomplished by selecting from the top menu Image> Mode> Convert to profile or Assign Profile. For CS 2 and 3, choose Edit> Assign or Convert to Profile. The convert to profile dialog looks like this: Taking the options in this box from the top, we first see the origin space.

  12. Assign Color Profile vs Convert

    Feb 04, 2020. The difference between assign and convert: To assign an ICC profile simply changes the profile "tag", it switches the icc profile that's embedded. The image appearance may change significantly - it's rare that assign profile is needed (unless an image arrives with no embedded profile).

  13. How to Optimize Color Settings in Photoshop

    Just go to the flyout menu (top-right three bars icon) and click on Utilities / Optimize. (Note: CS6 users should <ctrl/cmd>-click the Tutorials button to get to the utilities menu). The settings dropdown at top allows you to choose from some standard defaults. Leave this alone to set things as recommended below.

  14. Assign or Convert?

    Tim's Quick Answer: If you want the colors in the photo to remain unchanged (to the extent possible), you should use the "Convert to Profile" command. If you want to change the appearance of colors in the photo based on a profile, you would use the "Assign Profile" command. In general I would say that photographers today are therefore ...

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  16. Assign profile vs Convert to profile

    Assign profile vs Convert to profile. I've seen a lot of confusion between these two options: They're right next to each other in Photoshop's "Edit" menu, and they both involve changing your image from one colour space to another (eg Adobe RGB to sRGB); but they're vastly different functions, and definitely not interchangeable.. Let's be clear up front - if you need an image to go ...

  17. Assign Profile and Convert to Profile

    The Assign Profile dialog offers three options, which are identical to the first three options in the Missing Profile warning (see "Color Management Policies," earlier in this chapter). Don't Color Manage This Document. This option tells Photoshop to treat it as an untagged document.

  18. The Difference Between Converting Versus Assigning With Color Profiles

    Hi Gabe! Thanks! I'd only assign a profile if the file was missing one. Otherwise, convert to keep the color appearance the same. (Remember, while the JPEGs your camera creates are cooked into either sRGB or Adobe RGB, your camera's Raw files are capable of much more and you can access that full color data by first acquiring them into a larger color space like ProPhoto.)

  19. Photoshop CC 2018 Color Settings/Assign Profile Problems

    Jul 15, 2018. Assign Profile will preserve the numbers (color values) in the image, but the colors will change, because the new profile will interpret the numbers differently. Use Convert to Profile, which will change the numbers so that there is no color change. I have been going back and forth playing with color settings, and getting no results.

  20. Missing Profile PS CC 2020

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