Understanding Color Spaces

If you are a graphic designer, or a web designer, or an instructional designer who does his or her own graphic design, you need to understand the fundamentals of color management. I am taking a course at Lynda.com on color management fundamentals. The instructor is Joe Brady. This material comes from this class. Today we are going to briefly look at color spaces. Brady says that color spaces define the range of colors and tones available for a digital file. The main difference between color spaces is the range of colors they support. There are four primary color work spaces, plus ColorMatch, which is no longer widely used. In order, from largest to smallest they are:

  • ProPhoto RGB
  • Adobe RGB
  • sRGB
  • ColorMatch
  • CMYK
Your’e probably thinking, why not just use ProPhoto RGB, which supports an enormous color range. The reason is that no monitors or printers we have available will display or print the many millions of colors supported by this color space. Adobe RGB supports more colors than you will ever use, so it is a good compromise between ProPhoto RGB and a small color space such as sRGB or CMYK. To see which color space your Adobe Photoshop is set to, from the menu at the top of your screen select Edit > Color Settings. This has been a very sketchy introduction to a complex topic. Open your search engine and search for “color spaces” and you will find many articles on this topic.