This article was written as a follow up to Color Management: Part 1, by guest blogger Phillip Mackenzie.
Color Management: Part 2
Soft Proofing to Achieve Closely Matched Color Online and in Photoshop
Assuming that you do most of your photo editing in either Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB (LR’s native colorspace), you’ll need to convert your images before exporting them for your website or blog.
Soft proofing is a handy way to make sure your conversions will look as you intended while you’re still working on your images. This method works for multiple outputs (i.e. CMYK as well as both Windows and Macintosh default monitors) as well.
You can “soft proof” your conversion by going to View > Proof Colors (Cmd+Y on a Mac, Ctrl+Y on a PC) or Proof Setup, followed by selecting one of the Standard Mac/Windows Profiles (only difference there as far as I know is the Gamma; 1.8 vs. 2.2).
Here’s my original image that I’m starting to work on in Photoshop.
My working RGB space is sRGB, but this file has the Adobe RGB space embedded. You can tell because the text in the title bar of the image changes, and now has an asterisk next to the RGB/8:
To “soft proof” the image, I go up to the View > Proof Setup… > Custom…
The following dialog box will open:
Make sure to select “sRGB” in the Device to Simulate, and make sure to deselect “Preserve RGB Numbers.” If you don’t, you’ll actually proof what it would look like if you just assigned a profile instead of converting to one. Here’s what my image looks like if I leave that box selected:
I don’t need to tell you how much worse this image looks; it’s lost contrast and saturation. And be warned, this is representative of what happens if you save your file with an Adobe RGB profile embedded instead of sRGB on a browser that isn’t capable of recognizing color profiles (IE, for one). We need to make sure that doesn’t happen to your images, unless it’s what you’re after. I prefer my images nice and saturated and with a healthy does of contrast!
Select “Relative Colorimetric” for Rendering Intent, and make sure the Black Point Compensation is selected. This will make sure to use the widest possible color gamut when converting to sRGB. You can read more about the various options for Rendering intent in Adobe’s Online Help Center: Rending in Photoshop
Once you’ve done these custom settings, activate your soft proof by Cmd+Y (Mac) or Ctrl+Y (PC), or by selecting View > Proof Colors:
Notice what happens now to the title bar of the image:
This is the quickest way to tell if the image you are viewing is still the soft proof or the original image.
Even though this essentially shows you the same thing as the “optimized” image in the Save For Web dialog box, it’s handier because it can be used at any point in your workflow, or whenever you want to see if a certain color or hue will show up in sRGB as it does in either Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB.
You can also use this soft proofing technique to simulate a standard Windows Monitor (Gamma setting of 2.2) or Macintosh monitor (Gamma setting of 1.8). I don’t recommend using “Monitor Color” because it bases the settings off of your own monitor, and therefore will not transfer well to other people’s monitors, which may be more or less calibrated than your own.
Here’s some more information about soft proof colors from Adobe: Soft Proofing
Another fun preview option can be found in the Save For Web dialog box. There’s a drop-down menu at the bottom left side of the box that will allow you to preview the image within the web browser of your choosing:
I’ve highlighted the list of three browsers that I most often use on a Mac, but you can add as many browsers as you like to the list, including IE in Windows. This will allow you to test multiple browsers to make sure that the color profile is being honored in as many browsers as possible.
Just make sure to leave that “Embed Color Profile” option selected, so that the person looking at your site or blog is using Firefox 3 or Safari, they will have your color profile information applied properly in the browser.