Tip of the week: Color space basics - Dreamstime

Speaking simply, A color space is an organised range of colors that allows for reproduction in analog and digital medium. Color space is different from a Color model which is basically a mathematical model that represents color as mathematical values like triples in RGB and quadruple as in CMYK. Any function that can map a color model to a color space is called “Color Gamut”. CMYK, sRGB and adobe RGB are the more popular color spaces that we know of. Which color space you choose to work with, usually depends on what the end result is going to be.

Flat lay composition with paint cans and color palette on wooden background.

For web applications, photos that are viewed on screens and displays, sRGB is the way to go. For prints, people usually stick to AdobeRGB and CMYK. CMYK being the more popular format with the offset industry. Then there are color palettes like Pantone etc. These are assigned color names or numbers that are expressed in tuples of numbers. Let’s take a look at different color spaces:

RGB Color spaces: RGB using color mixing technique based on additive algorithm. It is based on which lights from RGB channels should be mixed in what proportion to produce a specific color. There are many color spaces here like sRGB, AdobeRGB, Prophoto RGB, CIE RGB etc. RGBA has an additional alpha channel to control the alpha value. It is the most common color space that everyone uses daily on computers and their favourite image editor.

CMYK Color spaces: There are many color spaces based on CMYK. It is a subtractive technique. It describes which inks should be used (and in what quantity) to subtract from white color base of paper or canvas or even a white digital page. Although it is best not to use this primarily for displays. CMYK stores ink values of Cyan, Megenta, Yellow and Black hence the name. So this is a very common print industry color space. Offset press gets the ink value and volume calculation via CMYK.

Paint cans color palette

HSL or Hue, saturation and luminance: HSL is another well known color space. It is essentially derived from RGB but uses the hue, saturation and luminance values in its index as they make sense artistically or how an artist will visualise colors.

YPbPr color space: This color space is used in analog videos. It is derived from a color system called YUV. while it’s version YCbCr is intended for digital video and used in videos and Mpeg/Jpeg compression.

Although we may not get a chance to work with more than 2-3 systems, it is always good to know the basics of color spaces. There are more color spaces like HSV, YIQ, RGC TSL etc that you can find on the internet if you want to know more. Do leave your kind comments and thanks for reading!

Photo credits: Chernetskaya, Sashkinw.

Your article must be written in English

January 16, 2020


@Konacoffee: for CMYK, you go up or down on the K value. Changing the black value will make the color darker or lighter. Thanks for your comment.

January 16, 2020


With RGB it's really easy to control "whiteness" or "blackness" of the color you like mathematically (e.g. just go up or down by 1 on the R, G, and B values).  Is there an equivalent calculation like that for CMYK?

January 14, 2020


@Aveleen: Thank you for correcting, as english is not my native language, I am ok with it. :-)

January 14, 2020


Could use proofreading for spelling and punctuation: "its", "Magenta", "etc.,", etc.

January 13, 2020


@Yativ8, @Egomezta: Thank you for your kind comments!

January 13, 2020


Very good article and blog blog. Thanks for sharing.

January 12, 2020


Nice blog, you have amazing images. Congratulations.

January 10, 2020


@Williamwise1: True, also the screen tech is essentially emitting the light and paper is reflecting it. The source and temperature of that light is different at different times. Interesting to note that LED monitors with backlight shows different color and QLED that itself emits the colored light, shows it a bit different. While prints on different media make it widely different due to type of paper, tone of paper and its reflectivity/opacity, type of ink, volume of ink etc.. etc...

January 10, 2020


I suppose these different color spaces are the reason why a photo looks one way on the computer screen, and then a bit different when printed. But the printing company and quality may also play a part. Thanks for writing! William 

Related image searches
Colors related image searches