Problems with Colour Profiles



#@*! colour profiles!

Let me first say that I'm completely self-taught with respect to computer graphics, so if you know more about this than I do and notice any mistakes I've made, I'd appreciate a correction.

I first noticed a problem when I finally booted my work machine into Mac OSX and loaded the same background image I had been using under Mac OS9. The image went from blue under OS9 (correct) to purple under OSX (incorrect). This started a long period of testing, which finally resulted in my conclusion that colour profiles are causing more problems than not.

Prior to October 15, 2003, all the images on this site had embedded colour profiles (an ICC colour profile as saved by Photoshop). The problems I see with colour profiles are as follows:

Problems seem to exist regardless of which colour profile I use or how I embed the profile. While I use a custom calibrated profile on my main workstation, I have also tried using and embedding various standard colour profiles, most of which resulted in different but equally wrong colour shifts. This is badly complicated by the fact that I usually cannot see the effects of the embedded colour profiles on my main workstation. I'm guessing that this has something to do with the fact that it is the originating machine, ie, where the images were edited and the colour profiles inserted. I end up having to borrow someone else's machine and copy the files over in order to see the effects of my testing. Since this website and the images within are intended for use by other people on other computers, it is rather important for me to see what other people are seeing.

I tested images as backgrounds on many different platforms including Mac OSX, Mac OS9, Windows 2000/NT/XP, Debian Linux and FreeBSD, and many different web browsers including IE for Mac, IE for Windows, Safari, iCab, Omniweb, Mozilla, Netscape and Opera. Results were inconsistent across the board, although overall, Windows does not seem to use colour profiles when setting backgrounds; OS9 does use colour profiles but the colour adjustment is so slight as to be almost undetectable; OSX also uses colour profiles but with a fairly significant colour change and Linux and FreeBSD do not seem to use colour profiles anywhere by default.

Almost all the information regarding colour profiles seems to be in regards to the scanning->digital editing->printing process. I have been able to find almost no information on for the process I work with, which is digital creation->digital editing->digital distribution. In the end, I have had to conclude that while colour profiles may be useful in a process where all computers and peripherals are calibrated and utilize colour profiles, they are not very useful when being distributed to Joe Blow on the Internet who may or may not even have software that supports colour profiles, never mind a correctly calibrated monitor/display system.

I was initially hoping that colour profiles would help correct any bad colour shifts on different computers, and also help compensate for gamma differences between my computer and other people's computers. However in the first case, on at least one half of the computers used for testing, the colour profiles caused images to look MUCH worse than without colour profiles, and secondly, even with the colour profiles included, they appear to be doing no gamma adjustments.

Lastly, just to further complicate my life, it seems that Photoshop forces the user to include colour profiles when saving PNG files, even when you have told Photoshop not to colour manage the document in question. Unless someone knows a way to get around this, I don't really want to be offering images in PNG format any more. I guess this isn't really a huge problem as all the images on this site are currently JPGs, but it removes the option for those of you who would like higher quality image files.

Inlined Images


No Colour Profile
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Colour Profile
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The correct colour of this image is blue, not purple-blue or purple. If you can't see the difference between these images, it is likely that either your browser does not support colour profiles or does not have colour profiles turned on. Or that IE is showing both images with a colour profile even though only one has a profile, like it does on my OSX machine. Stupid IE.



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