Photoshop: Save For Web, Convert to sRGB should be off by default for PNGs and GIFs

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Photoshop's Save for Web ability contains a setting called Convert to sRGB. If on, it destructively changes the resulting file's colour values from the document's profile to sRGB. I believe this is the wrong thing to do in almost every conceivable scenario. The default behaviour is for Convert to sRGB to be enabled. I think this is a huge mistake.

Let's take a look at some common scenarios.

You're building a website using GIFs:
GIFs can't contain ICC profiles. This means if you're using GIFs, they can't benefit from any colour management at all. Converting to sRGB when saving for web will destructively change their appearance with no benefit. If you've used a specific colour, like #FF0010 in your GIF, it will likely be changed to not match the same colour used in HTML, CSS or other code.

You're building a website using PNGs:
PNGs can contain ICC profiles, but PNGs saved using Save For Web can not. This means if you're using PNGs and Save For Web, they can't benefit from any colour management at all. Converting to sRGB when saving for web will destructively change their appearance with no benefit. If you've used a specific colour, like #FF0010 in your PNG, it will likely be changed to not match the same colour used in HTML, CSS or other code.

You're using a PNG or JPEG image with a colour profile on the web, and it's being shown in a colour managed browser:
In this situation, you wouldn't want Convert to sRGB turned on, you'd want to store the document's ICC profile within the image and let the browser do a realtime correction, based on the viewer's computer and settings.

You're building an iOS app:
iOS uses PNG files almost exclusively for app design. I believe iOS ignores ICC profiles stored in PNGs (this is smart for many reasons, including performance). The best way to ensure colours look good on the device is previewing your UI on the device itself. There is some variation between iOS devices, but Convert to sRGB does not improve consistency. Converting to sRGB when saving iOS assets will destructively change their appearance with no benefit.

You're building an Android app:
Android uses PNG files almost exclusively for app design. I believe Android ignores ICC profiles stored in PNGs (this is smart for many reasons, including performance). The best way to ensure colours look good on the device is previewing your UI on the device itself. There is wild variation between Android devices, but Convert to sRGB does not improve consistency. Converting to sRGB when saving iOS assets will destructively change their appearance with no benefit.




I can not think of any scenario where Convert to sRGB makes sense. If, in the highly unlikely event you do need to convert a document to sRGB, it can be done using Edit → Convert to Profile.

Why was Convert to sRGB added in the first place?




Further reading.
Colour management and UI design — My article. Explains the situation with more depth.
A search for "save for web color shift" returns over 8 million results. This is a real and significant issue for many people. An issue that can be fixed by changing a single default setting.
Save For Web, Simply — Note that the settings recommended match what I'm suggesting.




This is a big deal.
This has been demonstrably incorrect for a very long time. I don't know any web or app designer worth their salt who keeps Convert to RGB on. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that if it was permanently turned on, I wouldn't be using Photoshop for any screen design work.

By changing the default behaviour, I think Adobe could remove a lot of frustration for Photoshop and Illustrator users.
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Marc Edwards

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Posted 7 years ago

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Chris Cox

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Convert to sRGB was added at the insistence of many web developers who were converting manually all the time before running SaveForWeb. Converting to sRGB (or working only in sRGB) is still the most recommended practice for web images.

sRGB is what the average user on the web will see, so converting other colorspaces to sRGB is a good idea if your image is going to be displayed on the web. Some browsers assume that all images are in sRGB if they are not tagged with an ICC profile.

sRGB is also closer to the colorspace of phones and tablets than most other standard colorspaces.

If the file contains an ICC profile, then converting to sRGB is pretty much harmless.
If the file does not contain an ICC profile, then converting to sRGB is a necessity.
If the browser does not understand ICC profiles, then converting to sRGB is a really good idea.

If you save a file for the web in AdobeRGB or ProPhotoRGB, most users are going to wonder why the color is messed up. If you save it in sRGB, it will look correct for the majority of users.

Yes, "web color shift" usually means that someone does not understand color management, how their browsers displays color, or how Photoshop compensates for the display. But it has nothing to do with convert to sRGB in SaveForWeb. As long as different browsers have different rules for how they convert and display colors, "web color shift" will still be with us.

In short: you're wrong on almost every point here.
All you can claim is that converting to sRGB will change the color values, which might matter if you hand coded other values on the web page. But converting to sRGB will preserve the appearance far more often than not converting.
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sRGB is what the average user on the web will see


Why? If you're using a Mac and no colour management (remember that PNGs and GIFs can't be colour managed when using Save for Web), then the most accurate way to preview your work is without colour management — doing so means Photoshop matches Safari, Chrome, Firefox et al perfectly. Not kind-of-sort-of, but absolutely perfectly, so colour values are identical.

The same is true for PCs. Macs and PCs have the same gamma now, so while the differences between systems can be big, the gap has narrowed.

Converting to sRGB doesn't help with consistency across computers anyway, it just breaks consistency within the same page, which is far more noticeable.

sRGB is also closer to the colorspace of phones and tablets than most other standard colorspaces.


I don't agree with that statement. Also, it's very easy to preview on the device, which will give you an absolutely perfect preview of how the final app will appear. Again, this isn't a kind-of-sort-of, it's value matched perfectly.

I design in Photoshop with a realtime preview of the exact appearance on the device. There's no guessing. (Yes, this is for iOS, where colours are mostly consistent across devices.)

If the file contains an ICC profile, then converting to sRGB is pretty much harmless.


What about rounding errors introduced from the conversion? What about change in gamut? I wouldn't consider those to be harmless. They're needless damage, that could introduce banding and other artefacts.

If the file does not contain an ICC profile, then converting to sRGB is a necessity.


This is simply not true. What if I choose a colour, use it in my document and I want to match the colour in code? It's common for some UI parts to be images and others to be drawn in code (text etc). I want those to match.

If the browser does not understand ICC profiles, then converting to sRGB is a really good idea.


Please see above. Also, I think consistency within the page is far more important than consistency for some parts of the page (just the images with ICC profiles) across different computers.

I think your reply shows a disconnect with the way images are actually used on the web and in app design. Ultimately, this is a destructive adjustment that's applied to every image that passes through Save for Web.

All you can claim is that converting to sRGB will change the color values, which might matter if you hand coded other values on the web page.

Might matter if you hand coded other values? Might matter? Of course there's other hand coded values. Of course they have to match the images used. I'm shocked you have such a careless attitude towards matching colours within the page.




It's important to recognise that UI design requires a different colour management approach to photography and print design. For this topic, I'm only talking about UI design.

Please give me an actual scenario where you'd want to use Convert to sRGB in Save for Web. Keep in mind that if you set the document's profile to sRGB, then Convert to sRGB would actually not do anything.

How does converting to sRGB help with consistency across devices, where the display's characteristics are going to apply anyway?
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You're confusing multiple issues.

To make an image that looks about right on the majority of computers - it needs to be in sRGB colorspace. You can do that by starting the document in sRGB, or by converting.

Yes, if you use other colors on the webpage, the numbers need to be referenced to the colorspace of the images (but still won't match exactly on all browsers due to various bugs). Yes, the color numbers almost certainly need to be defined in sRGB.

Turning off color management just misleads you by making everything look kinda right on your own display, and very wrong on everyone else's display.
That's where sRGB comes in - it's an average of common displays, and can provide you a better idea of what other people are going to see, and is what several browsers assume for color handling.

If you know the colorspace of a specific device you are targeting, that's fine - you can work in that colorspace and ignore the sRGB conversions.

I don't have a careless attitude about matching colors - because I know how all the browsers work, and what displays are in use. I know that I need to convert to sRGB to make things look right to most users. And I know that my monitors are not sRGB, so I need color management to provide me with a preview of sRGB. When I design for websites, I start with sRGB and don't need to convert. When I prepare my photos for print they're usually in ProPhoto or Adobe RGB colorspace, I'll save off a copy for the web, and convert to sRGB. When I prepare screenshots of application UI, I need to convert for the display colorspace to sRGB so other people won't see whacked out colors.

Again, this was a very frequent request of web designers -- because until it was added to SaveForWeb, they had to remember to manually convert before running SFW. Now there's a convenient checkbox that saves them a step and some time.

But you're claiming things that don't match actual browsers or actual end user displays. You seem to just ignore color management and how your pages will appear to other users.

And please, don't confuse web design with UI design (I've already got enough hipster wannabes making that mistake).

Converting to sRGB gets you the most consistency - because it is the average of what most users are going to see. If you want to know what users will see: preview in sRGB. If you want your image to look right to most users: convert it to sRGB. If you want your colorscheme to look right to most users: specify it in sRGB.

sRGB doesn't create consistency, but it is the most consistent thing you've got for color right now on the web. It's like saying that a bullseye on a target doesn't create a grouping - which is true, but the bullseye is where the grouping is supposed to be. So no matter how you steady the shot, you aim for the center of the bullseye.
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If you want to know what users will see: preview in sRGB


But that's not true. If I'm on a Mac and building a web page or app, the most accurate way to preview what other Mac users see is to view my webpage in Safari or as an app running on my machine.

Viewing the final product *has* to be the most accurate representation, because it *is* the final product. Agree? (I don't see how you can disagree with this point.)

Previewing as sRGB in Photoshop doesn't match the final product in Safari or the running app. All that does is introduce another unneeded layer of conversion, taking it further away from the actual end result.
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Yes, accurate ON YOUR MACHINE, IN THAT ONE BROWSER.
But what will other users see? The average of what other users will see is sRGB.

But your final product will appear different in different browsers, and different versions of those browsers. That's the sad state of the web for now and the immediate future.

Previewing sRGB in Photoshop does match Safari (in that it assumes sRGB for untagged files, and will honor the sRGB profile for tagged files).

Working in your display profile and saving without profiles - well, you never know what you're going to get (especially if your display isn't close to sRGB).