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sRGB vs Adobe RGB: Which One to Use?

The sRGB vs Adobe RGB comparison is unavoidable when it comes to colour management. Be it photography, digital art, computer monitors, or digital displays, these two different colour spaces have different applications depending on the use case. Both have their plus points and drawbacks, and in this article, we’ll break them down for you. 

Keep reading to learn more about the sRGB and Adobe RGB colour spaces, or you can jump straight to explore our product solutions for next-level creative work. 

The sRGB vs Adobe RGB debate focuses on two colour spaces – or colour space profiles – which are commonly used within digital photography and visual media. Let’s say you have a digital camera and start exploring its settings. The odds are the colour space option will exist, allowing you to switch between sRGB and Adobe RGB. 

For those with standard needs, the difference between these settings may not be immediately obvious. However, it’s worth bearing in mind how images or photographs are presented, and which workflow they require. In this article, we will explore the two different colour space profiles, along with their pros and cons, and explore their role in colour management. 

Colour Spaces, Colour Models, and Colour Gamut 

In order to fully understand the sRGB vs Adobe RGB comparison, you must first get to grips with colour space profiles. These play an important role in colour management, and colour space profiles are especially relevant when talking about monitors, digital cameras, and other technology or any hardware related to photography and digital art. 

A colour space is a range of colours that can be represented in an image or photograph. More specifically, a colour space can be seen as a subset of a wider colour model. For instance, RGB is a digital colour model which utilises combinations of red, green, and blue lights to produce different colours or shades.  

The sRGB and Adobe RGB colour spaces are subsets of this model, which define the range of colours that are actually available within this spectrum. Directly related to this concept is the colour, which describes the range of colours within a colour space that can actually be reproduced by an output device, such as a computer monitor. 

what is a colour space

What is sRGB 

Before diving into how sRGB works, it is worth highlighting that sRGB is an abbreviation for Standard RGB (red, green, blue). It is the result of a 1996 collaboration between Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Microsoft, and was designed for use with the emerging World Wide Web, as well as with computer monitors and colour printers. 

As the name indicates, this colour space profile was intended to become the standard colour space, especially at a time when more people were acquiring personal computers for their homes and more people were utilising the internet. This process didn’t take long, and soon after its introduction, sRGB became the default profile. 

Even today, sRGB is the closest thing to a standard colour space. The widespread use of sRGB has helped to provide a more standardised experience in terms of the ways in which colours are represented and perceived on digital devices. It remains the most common colour space and is ideal for those who do not work in digital arts or have advanced needs. Furthermore, photographs taken using sRGB settings will display the same way on the web. 

What is Adobe RGB? 

Adobe RGB is a colour space that was developed by Adobe Systems, Inc. and introduced in 1998. It was created after sRGB had emerged as its competitor. Additionally, Adobe RGB was designed to be used in combination with Adobe Photoshop’s range of complex colour features. 

In general, Adobe RGB can be considered a more advanced colour space. It’s often preferred by those who work in digital arts and have more intricate colour management needs. To truly understand why Adobe RGB was created, though, it’s important to understand the CMYK colour model, as well as the RGB colour model. 

sRGB Adobe RGB difference

CMYK and Adobe RGB 

Although RGB is the colour model that is most associated with digital works, colour printing typically utilises a different colour model known as CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, and key – black). This system serves as the base of the processes to create the spectrum of colours. 

The absence of any red, green, or blue values in the RGB model results in black, while maximum values for all these colours results in white. With the CMYK model, it works the opposite way. This is because paper is usually white, so white is the default state, while the full combination of coloured inks creates black. 

One of the biggest reasons behind creating Adobe RGB was a desire to bridge the gap between the RGB and CMYK colour models. Adobe RGB improves the gamut range of sRGB, meaning it can achieve more of the colours that are achievable through CMYK colour printing. Yet, the Adobe RGB colour space still utilises RGB primary colours on a monitor. 

sRGB vs Adobe RGB Comparison

sRGB vs Adobe RGB: A Colour Space Comparison 

With a basic understanding of what sRGB and Adobe RGB are, you next need to develop an awareness of how they compare to one another. A good starting point here is to explore the opportunities associated with the two different colour spaces, as well as their drawbacks, any prospective challenges. 

With sRGB, the main plus points are the fact that it is the standard colour space profile for the web and the most common colour space profile in general. This results in simplified workflows and makes it the best option for people with basic creative needs, or anyone simply wanting to ensure colour consistency across devices. Those who find discussions about colour spaces overwhelming will also be happy to use sRGB. Nonetheless, the profile does provide a smaller range of colours and may not be the best pick for professionals. 

The main advantage of Adobe RGB is the broader range of colours available. This is really helpful when producing a greater degree of colour accuracy for printed works. Adobe RGB, however, is not the standard colour space profile for the web. Therefore, if you take a photo using the Adobe RGB setting and want to edit it and upload it to the internet, there may be additional steps. Otherwise, your colours may not be displayed the same different devices. This means that Adobe RGB is more accurate but also more complicated to work with.  

What you need to keep in mind, though, is conversion. Although Adobe RGB results in more complicated workflows, it provides more flexibility in switching the profiles thanks to a wider range of colours. The photograph taken in Adobe RGB mode can be converted to sRGB. By contrast, because they utilise a simpler colour space, sRGB photographs cannot be converted to Adobe RGB. So, if you’re a photographer in the field and aren’t sure how you’ll want to display your photos later, you might want to start with Adobe RGB. 

Final Thoughts 

Photographers, graphic designers, and others involved in visual media may have preferences when it comes to the sRGB vs Adobe RGB debate, and there are instances where using one is preferable to the other. In general, though, sRGB is the standard best suited to simpler needs, and Adobe RGB is ideal for advanced photography and printed works. 

If you enjoyed this read, make sure to check out our article on colour or find your next creative monitor here. 

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