Almost everyone I know who is in professional digital photography has heard of sRGB. In many ways it’s difficult to escape because it’s the default color space in many cameras, photo printers, and in Adobe Photoshop. Did you know there was a replacement for sRGB? And did you know the common profile you think of as sRGB is actually a v2 profile?
The ICC (International Color Consortium) has replaced sRGB v2 with sRGB v4. However, sRGB v4 is meant to be used in conjunction with other v4 profiles.
Advantages of sRGB v4: The advantages of sRGB v4 are most pleasing when you transform color from sRGB v4 as a working space to a correctly constructed v4 output profile using the perceptual rendering intent. There is also higher color accuracy using the relative colorimetric intent. Even though many professional photographers use Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB, with an sRGB v4 workflow photographers may actually see in print a better rendition of their original files. Details in shadows and colors that previously were compressed or clipped due to the rendering intent will now appear to render with more fidelity to the original. This is essentially the reason for sRGB v4.
The first thing to do is to assign the new sRGB v4 profile to your digital images. You can download the sRGB v4 profile here.
Remember that profiles need to be installed into the proper directory in order for Adobe Photoshop to recognize them. The directories are
Library/Colorsync/Profiles for Mac OS 10.x
When you assign a profile, you change its relationship to color appearance by changing the way the RGB values relate to L*a*b*. You may or may not see a change when you assign the sRGB v4 profile. The advantages to sRGB v4 really are when you go to print using a v4 output profile.
Building v4 Output Profiles: If you can build your own ICC output profiles then you have all the power you need. By default, the preferences in X-Rite’s i1 Match software (which I use) build profiles according to the ICC v2 specification. With a change of preferences you can build v4 profiles. Open the preferences to change the options (See Fig. 1 below).
If you rely on manufacturers’ “canned” profiles you will have to ask the individual manufacturer if the downloaded profile is v2 or v4. Most likely they are all v2 but that will slowly change. Most photo labs don’t have output profiles, but if they do, ask if they use v2 or v4 profiles. If they use v4 profiles then you will be able to take advantage of sRGB V4.
This is why I love having my own color management system and printer. I can build my own profiles for my printer and not have to wait for a paper manufacturer to build one for me or have a photo lab send me one.
Most competitive software from X-Rite, Datacolor, or Fuji will build v4 profiles. However it’s best to check with your reseller regarding the support.
Click here to get a list of applications that support the ICC v4 spec.
V4 profiles don’t take any longer to build and the test charts are still the same. The differences are mostly in how the rendering intents maps colors from source to destination color.
In the Color Management for Photographers and Color Management for Creatives courses that I teach at UCSD Extension and the Digital Arts Center we have been experimenting with v4 profiles. And I must say there is a slight difference between v2 and v4 that makes the print slightly more pleasing. The biggest difference seems to be in screen-to-print matching.
ICC Color.org: Navigate to the ICC site and you can read vast numbers of white papers regarding everything ICC. There are profiles available for download as well as presentations and tools for members. You can also read more about the and how it compares to v2.
Even if you are new to ICC, this site is a must for reference and when you want the most details regarding the world of profiles.