Colour management, part 4

I’d like to propose a framework for measuring how well colour management is supported in screen design tools, with a numbering system from 1 to 5. Level 1 represents no support at all, and level 5 means great colour management.

The framework would provide a way to compare tools, measure progress, and promote best practices. Level 3 is the minimum requirement for working in sRGB, and at least level 4 is needed when working in Display P3. Being able to rely on what you’re seeing when choosing colours, deciding on contrast, and assessing legibility is critical. If you don’t feel like you have a good grasp on what colour management is, please read part 1 of this series.

These tests are tailored for screen and software design tools, which is why they focus on sRGB and Display P3 support. They cover a wide range of important aspects of colour management, from being able to see the correct colours when working, all the way up to features that support wide gamut workflows. Details on each test can be found below.

Level 1: Fails all tests. Level 2: Passes sRGB canvas. Level 3: Passes sRGB canvas, image importing, sRGB exporting. Level 4: Passes sRGB canvas, Display P3 canvas, image importing, sRGB exporting, Display P3 exporting. Level 5: Passes all tests.

sRGB canvas #

Elements on the canvas can be set to a colour within the sRGB colour space, and are shown by converting to the display’s profile.

Image importing #

The tool is colour space aware when importing images with embedded ICC profiles. Images without a profile should be treated as sRGB.

sRGB exporting #

sRGB images can be exported with correct conversion and ICC profile tagging in the exported file.

Display P3 canvas #

Elements on the canvas can be set to a colour within the Display P3 colour space, and are shown by converting to the display’s profile.

Display P3 exporting #

Display P3 images can be exported with correct conversion and ICC profile tagging in the exported file.

Dithered exports #

Dithering assists with colour accuracy. To pass this test, exported images must use an energy preserving dithering method. For example, error diffusion dithering and ordered dithering are okay. White noise is not.

Deep colour #

Wide gamut images typically require higher bit depth to avoid banding. To pass this test, 16bit or higher exporting must be supported (the least significant bits must contain valid data and can not just be zeroed to pad).

sRGB passthrough #

An sRGB test image that represents every 8 bit step can be placed on the canvas and exported, and the exported image matches the input perfectly.

Display P3 passthrough #

A Display P3 test image that represents every 8 bit step can be placed on the canvas and exported, and the exported image matches the input perfectly.

Published 1 April 2021.