The internet is a wonderful place full of videos of babies laughing, adorable animal pictures, and seemingly endless information on every topic under the sun.

Today, we’re going to take a quick look at one of those topics—color space.

In computer graphics and photography, color space refers to a specific organization of colors.

The three most common are red, green, and blue (RGB), cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (CMYK), and hue-saturation-value (HSV).

Color space is an extremely important concept to understand when you’re trying to edit photos or videos.

Each color space has its own uses:

  • RGB is better for website images because it works with monitors.
  • CMYK is often used in print because it allows for more color variations.
  • HSV is great for editing because it separates out the lightness variations from the hue and saturation variations.

Let’s learn more about color space!

What Is Color space

What Is Color space?

Color space is the range of colors that an image-editing program can display. It is usually expressed as a three-digit number, such as “RGB 16” or “CMYK 100.”

RGB is an abbreviation for red, green and blue, the primary colors in the additive color model used by computer monitors. TVs use the same colors, but mix them differently.

CMYK refers to cyan, magenta, yellow and black, the colors used in printing.

Color space numbers are important when you’re preparing images to be printed professionally or sent to a commercial photo lab. Images with different color spaces cannot be mixed together equally or printed on the same paper.



A color space is a specific organization of colors. It specifies a mapping between numeric values and specific colors, which are called “primaries” in that color space.

RGB (red, green, blue) is the color space used by computer display monitors. It’s an additive color space, meaning that it uses red, green and blue light to create all of its colors.

CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is the color space used for printing with ink on paper (as opposed to toner on a laser printer). It’s a subtractive color space; it uses those four inks to create all of its colors.

The RGB Color Space

RGB is the most common color model used today. Every television or computer monitor uses the RGB color model to display images.

Most image editing programs, like GIMP, also use the RGB model..

The amount of each primary used determines what hue a particular color has: red makes everything look more purple; green makes everything look more yellow.

What Is Camera Color Space?

Color space is a difficult concept to understand. It’s a topic that gets a lot of pseudo-technical misinformation tossed around.

That’s because there are two different aspects to color space: the physical aspect and the perceptual aspect. Trying to explain both at once can be confusing, but hopefully, this article will help clear things up for you.

Physical space vs. Perceptual space 

The physical aspect is a device dependent color representation, while the perceptual aspect is device independent (i.e., perceptually uniform).

The reason it’s important to distinguish between these two aspects is that they’re handled differently by computer systems.

The physical aspect of color space is what it sounds like; it’s the actual color representation in numbers that a sensor uses to record an image file or digital video file (DVF). This color space is device dependent. 

If you take a picture with one camera and then try to display or process it on another camera, you may get noticeably different results because the two cameras don’t share the exact same physical color space.

The most common

Camera color space refers to how a camera captures color images. If your camera is set to the incorrect color space, your images may look distorted or washed out.

What Are The Types Of Color Space?

Since the first RGB color space was developed in the early 1960s, several others have been created. 

Some are specific to certain applications, while others have been adopted by industry to ensure they achieve the same results when using equipment from different manufacturers.

To understand RGB color spaces, you need to know two things: 

  • how the RGB color model works 
  • and what a color space actually is.

Color Models 

The RGB (red green blue) color model is one of three additive primary colors used to create all other colors.

The other two additive primary colors are cyan and magenta. When light of different wavelengths or frequencies is combined, they create a range of visible light.

If red light of one frequency is combined with green light of a different frequency and blue light at yet another frequency, they will produce white light because they add up to create all the visible light frequencies. This is how additive colors are mixed together to create the colors around us.

Color Spaces 

These are defined by specifying which additive primaries are used in them. 

For example, if you’re working with RGB primaries, there’s no reason to use CMY primaries for your calculations since there will be no difference between them.

What Is The Best Color Space?

Color spaces, also known as color models or color systems, are abstract mathematical models used in digital imaging and color printing to represent the colors of an image. 

Color spaces can be either device dependent (dependent on the output device) or independent (display independent), with different spaces having different gamuts, resolutions or bit depths.

Color spaces should be distinguished from color models, which are the methods used to represent colors in the space. The RGB color space is an example of a color model, while RGB is an example of a specific color space based on the RGB color model.

There are different types of color spaces:


Device-dependent spaces are dependent on the output device. For example, sRGB is used for monitors and printers designed for the sRGB environment.

When preparing digital video for editing and viewing on a computer, it becomes necessary to convert from one color space to another (often between Adobe RGB and sRGB). Independently addressable spaces are not tied to any particular output device.

Depending on whom you ask, there may be more than one independent addressable color space that fits this description. Some examples include Adobe RGB (1998) and ProPhoto RGB (also known as Wide Gamut RGB). These are used in professional environments.

The human eye can perceive millions of color shades. These millions of colors can be separated into two main types, named after the way they are created.

The first type is called a device-dependent color space. It’s what your computer monitor or TV produces, and it’s dependent on the specific device you’re using to see it. The second type is called a device-independent color space, and it’s used for things like print output.

The Digital Color Palette

What is the digital color palette? 

It is a collection of colors that can be used to create any other color. The colors in this palette are limited in number, but they can be combined to create any other color..

The color palette includes the three primary colors: red, blue and yellow. You can also include black and white as your basic colors.

And then there are the secondary colors: orange, green and purple. By mixing these six colors together, you can create an almost limitless supply of different hues to use for your web site design.

The most important thing to remember when choosing your web site’s color scheme is that the colors should be pleasing to you. If you like them and find them then your visitors will like them.

This aspect cannot be stressed enough. Don’t concern yourself with what otherr websites look like, or try to incorporate the latest fashion in website design.

Just pick some good solid colors that you like and stick with them throughout your entire site design. 

Have you ever wondered why there are only 256 colors in an 8-bit image? 

Or why there is a set number of colors in a 24-bit image? 

What about 32 bit images? 

The digital color palette has its roots in the early days of computers and their limitations.

A computer monitor can display only so many colors at one time. This number is determined by the number of bits used to store each pixel (which is short for “picture element”).

One bit can be either on or off, which means that two bits can represent four possible combinations (00, 01, 10 and 11) and three bits can represent eight possible combinations (000, 001, 010, 011, 100, 101, 110 and 111).

If a pixel is stored as one bit per pixel (1 bpp), then there are only two possible colors: black or white.

Two bits per pixel (2 bpp) doubles the number of possible colors to four: black, white, red and green. Three bits per pixel (3 bpp) allow for eight different colors: black, white, red, green, blue and two levels of gray.

Four bits per pixel (4 bpp) allow for 16 different colors: black, white, red, green and so on.

Visualizing Color Spaces In Filmmaking

The world of black and white has its own color space, which is the visual representation of a range of colors in a given system. 

While the digital revolution brought a slew of new possibilities when it comes to color, there are still certain color spaces that are better than others.

This article discusses how color is portrayed in film and why it is important for filmmakers to understand how different color spaces can affect their work.

High-Key vs Low-Key 

Painters have long used high-key and low-key as painting styles to depict the overall brightness of an image. High-key refers to paintings that are made up mostly of light colors with little contrast, while low-key works tend to feature darker tones with more contrast.

Filmmakers also use these terms to describe lighting conditions. A scene that is shot in high-key lighting will be bright with lots of contrast and shadows. Low-key scenes will have less light and shadows (or none at all) creating a dark, moody atmosphere.

Brightness vs Saturation 

Just like painters have different styles for different levels of brightness, filmmakers use different visual styles based on their preferences or the requirements of their project. Brightness refers to the intensity or luminosity of a given color.

Comparing Color Spaces In Filmmaking

The human eye is able to perceive a wide variety of colors in a scene, but not all of these colors are visible on the color-sensitive surface of film. Many cameras have the option to shoot either in color or black and white.

Black and white film has much greater latitude than color film.

Let’s compare the two types of film, as well as their corresponding color spaces.

Color Spaces 

When working with digital video, there are basically two ways to record color: RGB and YUV (also referred to as Y’CbCr).

Whether you’re using a cameraor a computer – both ends of the chain need to agree on how colors should be encoded. If you’re shooting in one color space and editing in another, it’s likely that someone at some point will want to convert your images between these two formats.

RGB Color Space 

RGB values range from 0 (pure red) to 255 (pure blue), with 256 shades of each possible; so in theory, an image can contain more than 16 million colors.

However, this is almost never the case.

Color Space Device Dependent & Working Spaces

There is a lot of confusion in the field of color management between what I call device dependent color spaces and device independent color spaces. The best way to explain the difference is with an analogy:

Suppose you were writing a book and you wanted to describe the colors of various objects.

To do this, you would use words like red, blue, green, yellow, etc. Then suppose your publisher told you that for your book to be published, each color word had to be replaced with a number that represents the color.

Instead of “blue,” you could write “100”, and so on. Now as long as everyone used the same numbers for the same colors (i.e., 100 = blue), it wouldn’t matter whether you used “blue” or “100.”

However, if one person used “blue” and another person used “98,” then there would be some confusion when the book was translated into other languages. So you might decide to translate your book into Spanish using whatever words they have for colors.

And if this was done in many different languages, then it would become obvious that no one really has a standard set of numbers for all the colors in their language. 

Which Color Space Should I Photograph In?

If you’re new to photography, you might not know what color space is. But even if you do have some experience, you might be confused about why it’s important. 

Most of the time, cameras shoot in the same color space that your screen uses, so why worry about it?

I will try to explain what color spaces are, what they mean for us as photographers and how we can use them to our advantage when we edit our photographs.

Color spaces are a way of defining colors in a way that makes it possible to convert them between each other.

A color space defines the range of colors that can be expressed in it. The bigger the range, the larger variety of colors can be expressed in that color space.

Imagine, for example, a color space with only two colors (black and white). Now ask yourself what variety of colors you can express in that color space.

The answer is none at all. Therefore having a large range of colors means having more possibilities for expressing color.

Each camera manufacturer has its own set of color spaces and each camera has its own sensor which dictates which color spaces can be used by that particular camera. It is crucial to understand your camera’s limitations when it comes to converting between different colors.

Which Color Space Should I Process In?

This is a question that I’m asked frequently by my photography students, particularly those with a background in black and white photography. And I have to admit there’s more than one way of looking at the answer.

If you’re working with Adobe Camera RAW or Photoshop CS4 or earlier, then it doesn’t matter what color space you process in. 

Why? Because all the color spaces used in Photoshop — sRGB, Adobe RGB, ProPhoto RGB and so on — can be converted to any other space in ACR or Photoshop.

However, if you use Photoshop CS5, then there are two considerations to take into account when deciding which color space to process in. 

Firstly, sRGB is the default working space in CS5 (it wasn’t in CS4). So if you don’t make a decision about which color space you want to work in before opening an image, then you’ll be processing your image in sRGB by default.

Secondly, the application of HDR techniques has become more popular with photographers since the previous version of Photoshop was released. With these techniques (and many others), a 32-bit floating point file format is required for non-destructive editing.

What Is SRGB

SRGB or sRGB is a color space. What does that mean? 

Imagine you have a tiny paint box with only three colors.

Okay, maybe it’s not such a tiny paint box because you have all the colors of the rainbow in there. 

But imagine you have only three primary colors and those three colors are Red, Green, and Blue.

Now look at your computer screen (or phone). It’s made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny dots called pixels.

Each pixel has one red light, one green light, and one blue light inside it. The combination of these three lights make them appear to be any color you can imagine.

But what if your tiny paint box only has Red, Green, and Blue as its primaries? 

Your image would only be able to be displayed in the Red-Green-Blue color space (and for RGB devices only). If you wanted to display your image on other devices like printers then your image would need to be converted from the RGB color space to fit other devices.

And that conversion process is called “space conversion”. 

What Is Adobe RGB?

The red, green, and blue light in the RGB system are added together in different proportions to produce a broad array of colors.

RGB is used in most computer displays, as well as many video projectors. 

It is an important part of color management, for which ICC profiles (International Color Consortium standard) allows precise reproduction across devices without any color-dependent quirkiness caused by the device itself.

So if you have a digital camera that displays colors that are more vibrant than what you see on your monitor at home, it’s probably because your camera’s profile is not matched to the monitor’s RGB setting. 

RGB is also used in traditional photography, but with different primaries–Red, Green and Blue dyes instead of phosphors.

When we speak of “RGB” we usually mean “additive” RGB. The Red, Green and Blue phosphors on the TV screen or computer monitor are mixed additively to produce a broad array of colors.

RGB mode was used for shooting film until digital cameras became popular around 2000.

What Is Prophoto RGB?

Taken as one word, “RGB” refers to all colors created using the RYB color model, not just those inside the RGB color space. This is true of both digital and printed color spaces. 

While RYB is used in color printing to refer to all colors possible with CMYK process color, RGB is never used to refer to printing.

The gamut of colors that can be created on a computer display includes avariety of purples and greens that cannot be produced by a CMYK process.

This is because these require mixing light from blue and yellow, or red and green lights (orange or cyan). The set of all visible colors is called the visible spectrum.

To reproduce this larger gamut without using a larger color space (for example using only CMYK), colors outside it must be mapped into it as described in the next section.

ProPhoto RGB is a color space developed in 1998 by Adobe Systems, Inc. It is the default color space for most professional digital image-editing applications including Photoshop (starting with version 4.0) and Lightroom.

Many commercial inkjet printers also support the ProPhoto RGB color space, allowing the photographer to directly select color profiles for their images. A few consumer inkjet printers also support it.

The ProPhoto RGB color space is used for archiving images because it has a larger gamut than the typical sRGB color space used on computers and consumer printers. 

That means more colors can be represented in an image. Keep this in mind when printing your photos using traditional photographic methods and want to add subtle gradations of color to an image.