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Color Settings for a Web-Only Workflow

From the Edit menu in Photoshop 6, choose Color Settings (Edit, Color Settings). If you've never made any changes in this area, then you're probably still operating with the default settings, Web Graphics Defaults (see Figure 2). These settings, although suitable for Web graphics production and casual home inkjet use, are less than ideal if you are also working on projects that are destined for CMYK reproduction on a press.

At the top of the dialog, open the Settings menu. Here you'll find the color settings presets that ship with Photoshop. I'm going to concentrate on explaining the ones that make the most sense for a workflow that is producing graphics for only Web or multimedia.

Web Graphics Default

Figure 2 The Web Graphics Defaults settings are also the general Photoshop 6 defaults.

This is the default setting when you install Photoshop 6. It specifies that the RGB working space is sRGB IEC61966-2.1.

The sRGB space is based on the color gamut of the average PC monitor, so this makes some sense if you're developing Web sites—the majority of people surfing the Web are doing so from Windows machines. If you're working on a PC, you shouldn't see too much difference between the way the image looks in Photoshop and the way it looks in other applications because sRGB is based on the typical PC monitor.

Developing graphics in the sRGB space on a Mac will show you a close approximation in Photoshop of what they will look like on PC systems. There will be a definite difference in their appearance in other applications on your system, however, because the Mac OS uses a gamma of 1.8 and the PC gamma is 2.2. If you're using Web Graphics Defaults on a Mac and you want to preview how the image will look in Monitor RGB (which is what you'll see when you test your Web sites in Mac browsers), you can always use Photoshop 6's soft-proofing capabilities by going to the View menu and choosing Proof Setup, Monitor RGB (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 Use View, Proof Setup to see how your image will look in Monitor RGB, Macintosh RGB, or Windows RGB.

The Color Management Policies are all set to Off when you use Web Graphics Defaults. This means that whenever you open a file that has a color profile, the standard behavior is to discard the embedded profile and not color-manage the document. The color numbers in the file are then interpreted according to the sRGB color space. Because the Ask When Opening box is automatically checked, you'll still see a dialog box when you open files asking if you want to choose from two other options. (See Figure 4.)

Figure 4 Color management is still lurking in the background, but only if you want it. The top two choices allow you either to preserve an embedded profile and work in that profile's RGB space or to convert to your working space.

You can uncheck Ask When Opening in the Color Settings if you don't want to be bothered with these dialog boxes in the future.

Color Management Off

This is the setting to use if you do not want Photoshop to use color management. The only real difference between Web Graphics Defaults and this setting is that here the RGB working space is set to your monitor profile. In Figure 5, it is using the profile I've created for my ViewSonic G810.

Figure 5 The Color Management Off settings. Even though it says Off, as with Web Graphics Defaults, color management is still in the background, but only if you choose to use it on a per-file basis.

If your workflow is strictly targeted toward Web or multimedia output and you want the images in Photoshop to look exactly the same in any other application you are using, then using Color Management Off with the working space set to your monitor's RGB does make sense. In this scenario, any existing color tag is removed when you open a file and the color numbers are interpreted according to your monitor RGB space. As long as the monitor profile is accurate (and the monitor's brightness and contrast controls haven't been changed since that profile was created), the image's appearance will be exactly the same whether you are viewing it in Photoshop, a browser, or a Web editor. If your workflow includes high-quality print projects, however, this is not a good idea because the color gamut of your monitor probably does not include all of the colors that are reproducible in CMYK.

If you're developing projects on a Mac, keep in mind that they will be darker and a bit more contrasty when viewed on PC systems. The View, Proof Setup feature is very useful to preview how the graphics are likely to look in standard Windows RGB.

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