Viewing Color Spaces & Their Gamuts

Part of a series – Color Managed Workflow

Today – Viewing & Comparing Color Spaces


.You’ve probably seen color space gamut diagrams

They are usually shown in 2-dimensions

BUT – color space is 3-D, not 2-D

It’s easy to be mislead into thinking that

One space is totally contained within another

When viewing only 2-D



Water Drop Reflected Calla


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Figure 1: A 2-Dimension Color Space Diagram

Simplified version of actual 3-D color space

Shown is a slice of 3-D space perpendicular to the L-axis

At L=50 where saturation is maximum

sRGB, as shown here, is a subset of Adobe RGB 1998

but – is it?

No, not really; Just with this particular slice

(which is the one most often shown)


Figure 2 is how the Adobe & sRGB color spaces actually appear

Adobe is the red wire frame

sRGB is the solid surface

The three dimensions are

Chroma – shown as a & b

Luminance – shown as L

Coming straight out of the screen in Fig. 2

Figure 1 is a slice from mid-way down the L-axis

At the point of maximum color saturation

Note in this still image that sRGB appears to be

Totally contained within the Adobe RGB space

Click for full size – much clearer

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Figure 2


Next, watch as I rotate the space in this 9 second video

You’ll see that some of the sRGB space (solid) is actually

Outside the Adobe red wire frame

Although the sRGB colors outside Adobe space are small

This demonstrates that 2-D representations of 3-D

Can be misleading

Figure 3

Looking back at Figure 1

The edges between the blue & red “corners” and

Around those two corners

Where the spaces overlap

Show where you might expect differences

as shown in Figure 3


Another look at Figure 2 (sRGB vs. Adobe)

Viewed from four different directions

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Figure 4a

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Figure 4b

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Figure 4c

4c & 4d are both “side views”

Imagine the equator on earth

These two views are from opposite sides of the earth

4c is where 4-1 shows close overlap of the spaces

4d is the green/cyan region where sRGB “falls short” of Adobe

These two views are exactly what you should expect based on 4-1

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Figure 4d


One final set of comparisons

Two papers, a luster and a heavy matte

Note the larger range of printable colors for the luster

Followed by

How well these papers “fit” within sRGB & Adobe spaces

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As noted in Figures 1-3

These “maps” are just one point-of-view

However, as shown below each paper has yellows

That extend beyond the RGB (think “edit”) spaces

What does that mean to you?

It means your editing space can’t show

All the colors your printer can print

Of course, if those colors aren’t in your image

No harm is done

Depending on an image’s colors,

Displays, such as these, give insight as to which

Papers may need special attention

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Above we have the smallest editing gamut, sRGB

and a large printer/paper gamut

Note – not only yellow but some blue & green

Can be printed – BUT not seen in the sRGB space

Below – same paper & larger editing space

As compared to the sRGB above –

The missing yellow print range is smaller (plus B & G is all there)

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