Color Settings - Adobe Photoshop

You open a file and you get a warning: “Embedded Profile Mismatch. The document’s embedded color rofile does not match the current RGB working space….”What does that mean and what shouldyou do?

Your Photoshop settings are part of the reason behind some of these warnings.These settings are not in the Preferences dialog box, but in their own ColorSettings dialog box:Photoshop > ColorSettings(Win:Edit >Color Settings).

Now this is one of those catch-22 situations.If you are not doing high-end production, you may not need to worry bout the color setting options. If you are in high-end production, you probably dedicated people taking care of this and won’t need to worry about the color setting options. So why am I still writing? Because knowledge is power and you need to at least know whether you should really turn off those annoying warning Entire books are dedicated to color management and theory, if you are interested. What I do here is simply what you need to That said, if unopened, open the Color Settings dialog box by going to the mainmenu bar and choosing Photoshop >Color Settings (Win:Edit >Color Settings).

Open up the Color Settings options.

Open up the Color Settings options


The drop-down menu gives you a selection of settings. Normally, most people set this to ColorSync if hey are on a Mac and to North American General Purpose defaults if they are on a PC

PC users notice that their pull-down menu does not have the ColorSync option

PC users notice that their pull-down menu does not have the ColorSync option

However, being an VFX artist is different monster altogether: You have to customize your settings. Most people put their color settings at one of three popular predefined settings:Color Management Off, ColorSync Workflow(Mac only), or North American General Purpose Defaults. None of those options is optimal for VFX work.

Color Management Off

Why not just set the entire thing off, if the setting causes different interpretations of color? Because there really is no such thing as turning offcolor-management system. Whatever file you open has to be seen, which means that some type of interpretation took place for the image to display. All this option really means is that the image is displayed according to the current monitor profile, but when the image is saved, the untagged images change, and may be identified as being in a particular color space(tagged). The tagged images remain tagged with the same tag (color space) that they had coming in, but that you did correction without being in that particular tagged space. Here’s how Adobe describes this option inits help documents(emphasis added): “…this option tells the color management system to use passive color management techniques to emulate the behavior of applications that do not support color nagement".

Now does that sound appealing to you? No. I didn’t think so. So don’t turn off color management.

ColorSync Workflow(Mac OS Only)

Only available to Mac users, many Macs are set to this just because it is Mac-exclusive. The ColorSync Workflow is a generally good choice for Mac users because it is considered a robust profile format, but the configuration is not recognized by Windows systems or by versions of ColorSync earlier than 3.0. I still do not recommend this for those who work in film, as the gamut is not quite as large as the Adobe RGB space.

North American General Purpose Defaults

This is the default that Photoshop gives to North American customers. Generally this doesn’t do anything or anyone other than just having a name for a random PC setting. For film and VFX work, you want the largest color space with which you can work. For your RGB space, use Adobe RGB(1998) or ProPhoto RGB. (See the “Color Management and Color Space” sidebar). Although our monitors may not be able to display all the colors, the machines printing to film can display the wider gamut of colors.


If you make any changes to the working spaces, the setting automatically switches to Custom. For example, I set my settings to ColorSync, but then go and change the RGB workspace to Adobe RGB. This causes the setting to switch to Custom.

Here are the color settings for my iBook.

color settings for my iBook.

Color-Management Policies

The second section of the Color Settings dialog box controls the Color Management Policies. The ettings for this section tell Photoshop what to do when you open, create, save, or paste images. Each of the three working spaces—RGB, CMYK, and Gray—has three options.


Remember the neurosis I mentioned about this option in the previous section? It still applies. It is better to choose and have to change, than to turn it off and have no idea what is going on or why you have to hange.

Preserve Embedded Profiles

This is generally the simplest way to proceed if people are maintaining the company’s color space or if multiple clients demand a specific color space. This option preserves the original color space of the document, allowing each image to be in its own color space. This ensures that Photoshop does not make unwanted color space conversions. However, if you have a set protocol for color space, then you should use the next option, Convert to Workingspace name).

Convert to Working (Space Name)

This option is good for large organizations because it encourages a single, consistent working space, hereby supporting a standardization. On the downside, you may lose information from the original color space, losing detail captured by, say, your digital camera.

Profile Warnings

Within the Color Management Profiles section of the Color Settings dialog box, you have the option to deal with profile warnings. If you are in a large company with color space standardization, turning off all the warnings is generally a good idea. In case of a set protocol, you probably have the preferences set to Convert to Working Space and won’t need any of the warnings. However, if you are independent,turning on all the warnings is generally a good idea. That way you have the option to customize how Adobe Photoshop deals with each image. The warnings do not just alert you to the color mismatch, but give you the option to override the default behavior of your color-management policy with several choices. The choices follow.

Missing Profile

This warning occurs at opening if the image does not contain an embedded profile. It lets you either leave the images untagged or assign a profile. See Figure below for a look at the Missing Profile dialog box.

The Missing Profile dialog box.

Missing Profile dialog box.

Profile Mismatch

Photoshop checks an image’s profile during two instances: when opening and when pasting. You can see the warning dialog boxes in Figure below. When opening, you are given the choice to work in thee embedded profile, change to the working profile, or completely discard the profile. When pasting, you can convert to the current space or leave it.

Profile Mismatch has two different dialog boxes

Mismatch has two different dialog boxes

The following sections holds the most exciting development from Adobe Photoshop in the realm of customization.

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