Understanding Colour Space

Colour gamuts, Adobe RGB, CMYK, LAB Mode — it all sounds very confusing. So it’s no wonder that colour space is something that often causes confusion!

In this class Karl clears up some of this confusion as he explains what colour space means, how this relates to retouching, what impact the viewing medium has on colour, and what colour space is best for photography.

Throughout this class you’ll learn about the different colour space options, how to set and covert colour profiles in Photoshop, and the arguments for and against different colour profiles for retouching. Additionally, Karl also shares his recommendations for colour settings and explains why the viewing medium or device is an important consideration too.

This class covers the following:

  • What is colour space
  • What colour space to use for photography
  • Colour space vs colour profile
  • Colour spaces for retouching images
  • Converting colour spaces and colour profiles
  • Colour settings in Photoshop

Other classes you may be interested in include:

If you have any questions about this class please post in the comment section below.


  1. Hi Karl, if my work is mostly for the web and only occasionally for non-commercial print, and my monitor only covers the srgb space, I should still set the color space to adobe rgb, both in camera and in photoshop, even if I can’t see it on monitor?
    PS. Best educational site in the world and best instructor, the annual fee is really nothing compared to the level of education.

    1. Hi Massimo, thank you for your comments. Yes I would stick to doing everything in Adobe RGB to meet industry standards, you can worry about your monitor later.

  2. hello Karl thx for your video,,,i have an EIZO CG279X…I shoot in raw and color space adobe RGB…in lightroom when i use external editing such as photoshop i keep adobe RGB color space not prophoto since my monitor is in adobe color mode also i set photoshop color settings on adobe 1998… then i save back to lightroom as TIFF 16 bit adobe RGB…i think i am doing right ..as i understand from the video you do the same,,,if i am not wrong :)…when i calibrate the monitor i keep adobe as color mode with brightness 110cd/m2…thats for the editing,,,am i doing right?…for printing i then convert to sRGB or i leave it in adobe RGB if the lab handle the conversion…i had some confusion…but you clarified it …or am I wrong somewhere?
    thx a lot

    1. Hi Fabrizio, that is exactly right. You may want to run your monitor slightly brighter if you find that prints back from your lab look brighter but other than that all good.

  3. Hi Karl,

    Thank you for a wonderful explanation of the color spaces and its usage.

    I do have a query on the camera setting of color space: When we shoot RAW, I believe these files do not have a color space attached to them at the time of taking a picture. It is pure sensor data at 12/14 or may be 16 bits. Once the RAW is processed in a RAW processor, we then export the file appropriately for further PP or a test JPG by attaching a color space. Is this understanding correct? If yes, then please clarify the importance or the need to set the color space value in-camera…May I assume that the camera uses this setting to show a quick JPG processed using the in-built camera picture profiles using this color space on the rear screen? I use Canon Full Frame DSLRs (1DsMk3 & 5DMkIV)

    1. Yes generally speaking a RAW file doesn’t have a specific colour space (although Hasselblad have their own space ‘HNCS’ for their raw files) so setting the colour space in camera benefits the jpeg preview or if you are shooting jpegs, it will also automatically in some software specify that colour space for export and previews during processing the RAW file.

  4. Hey Karl, hope you are doing well. I have few questions.
    If my camera manage to shoot with the Adobe RGB profile should I use it instead sRGB?
    In this case I will click and do the edit work with the Adobe RGB profile to get the bigger color range and than export with sRGB in the end if I need. Right?

    Thanks a lot. Learning a lot with your videos. ✌️

    1. Hi Guigo,
      1. Yes use camera in Adobe RGB
      2. Yes edit images in PS, software in Adobe RGB
      3. Only convert a copy to sRGB at the end if you intend that copy image to go on a website or online
      4. If producing for commercial printing press, magazines, leave the file as Adobe RGB they will prefer to do the conversion to CMYK
      5. If producing the image for your local photo printing lab for inkjet prints, check with them but usually you supply in sRGB

  5. Hi Karl,
    very interesting and good explained Video. I still have three questions.

    1) What is the benefit of ProPhoto RGB, when the Colorrange cannot be displayed on Monitor or Print?

    2) What is the benefit of Hasselblad’s own RGB Range, if it cannot be displayed on Monitor or Print?

    3) Why should I make my Postproduction let say in AdobeRGB, when I know, that I want to print the Picture, and have to convert it to CMYK Colorrange anyway, instead of doing my Postproduction in CMYK Colorrange from the Beginning?

    I don’t understand the benefit of a bigger Colorrange when “working” if I have to limit the Colorrange anyway.

    Best Regards,

    1. Hi Stelianos, thank you.
      1. None that I can really see.
      2. Hasselblad’s is particular to their camera’s and the colour look they provide, especially for skin tones. It is displayable on a good monitor such as an Eizo. There profile is more about the way colours are recorded compared to other cameras.
      3. You don’t have to convert to CMYK, most good labs and printing/pre-press houses are much better at making CMYK conversions than we are as they have software dedicated to this. If you work in CMYK from the beginning you will be restricting the colour palette you are working with which could actually leave you with a duller image than the conversion from Adobe RGB at the end.
      4. I don’t understand your last question. I haven’t mentioned a ‘bigger’ colour gamut, I suggested Adobe RGB as the best gamut as it is most widely supported and 100% viewable on good monitors such as an Eizo.

      I hope this clarifies those points. All the best Karl.

  6. Hi Karl!
    Sorry if this is a silly question, but I’m still getting tripped up by monitor calibration in relation to the colour working space. I understand the part about working in Adobe RGB in Photoshop, but I’m wondering what your monitor is calibrated to? In other words, does it mean you also have to select Adobe RGB in the “RGB Primaries” section of the monitor calibration software (as opposed to Native, for example)?
    Thanks and all the best,

    1. Hi Ben, it’s a good question, the monitor is calibrated to the device so for example a monitor calibrates itself and records the profile as the type of monitor it is and a date. You shouldn’t have to select your primary working space as when you look at the specs of a monitor it will tell you what it is capable of displaying, for example it might say 100%sRGB and 99.8% Adobe RGB etc. That doesn’t change just the calibration device measures the colour on screen to make sure they are all outputting at predetermined industry standards or as close to them as possible. When you attach an external independent calibrater and software to the screen such as an Xrite then it will run the calibration (takes about 15mins) and then it saves the profile with the date and then you just run it again in a month’s time. During the calibration stage it may ask you for the Gamma you wish to work at, i’d recommend 2.2 and it may ask for a colour temperature which is usually 6500K for most monitors. Not all monitors can be calibrated well because some of them don’t have the Gamut to do this.

      1. Thanks Karl! I went down a bit of a YouTube rabbit hole where the BenQ and Eizo reps were talking about calibrating the monitor’s RGB primaries based on what sort of work you’re outputting and got rather confused!
        (In case it’s of any use to anyone else, I’m using a BenQ SW271 and calibrating using a SpyderX and BenQ’s Palette Master calibration software – I’ve found I seem to get more accurate results than with Datacolor’s own software)

  7. Another excellent course. Karl, you’re the best teacher available. I have tried several other educations in parallel with Karl Taylor Education, but no one is anywhere near as good as this one. Everything is explained in an educational way and goes in depth with everything. Well done Karl, and the team as well !
    Keep up the good work.

    Best Rgd’s //Lars.

  8. Excellent class as always, you are by far the best tutor in the industry.

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