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Incorrect monitor used for interface color profiling

Community Beginner ,
Nov 10, 2022 Nov 10, 2022

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I have not noticed this issue prior to the recent updates (currently on Photoshop 23.5.0 20220809.r.669 0e07917 x64), but I was trying to create some high-color pure-RGB debug/test images today and... it looked like my entire interface- color pickers and all- was rendering in CMYK-constrained mode.  E.g. pulling up the red corner and preview color of the default picker gradient for rgb(255,0,0) (#ff0000) showed a bit of a pulpy pastey desaturated dry-paint red, not full bright vibrant max-the-red-diodes RGB red.  An RGB rainbow gradient looked like pastel mud, particularly in the green range.  I even pulled up samples and swatches in cheaper/dumber programs like MS Paint to be sure I wasn't seeing things.


First, I assumed the settings must have somehow defaulted to CMYK, but the image in question was RGB, and I didn't see anything new or out of place in the general application preferences.


Then, after some Googling (and a whole slew of pretentious "don't compare with another app; Photoshop is infinitely perfect and the user expectation to get vibrant colors out of it is inherently wrong because nothing will ever match because monitors" posts/answers), I found the Proofing menus.  With Proof Colors enabled and set to Monitor RGB, sure enough, the artwork itself looked fine, but layer thumbnails, color pickers, etc. were all still washed out, and in short, would be completely unusable for production RGB art.

 

More Googling, more insistence that Photoshop should always perfectly just work unless my monitor was busted, and I finally tried shifting the Photoshop window off my main 28" 4k external monitor... onto my laptop's native screen.  And suddenly the colors on the interface and image were fine.


Soooo... pretty sure this is a monitor profile assignment issue after all, and Photoshop is rendering on my external big cheap LCD monitor while expecting the higher color intensity of the laptop probably-OLED.  Where do I set which monitor Photoshop should reference when it does its automagical unquestionably perfect profile lookup and internal color calibration for the artwork and the entire application UI?  Or is this actually a new regression that it can't detect and compensate for whatever monitor the application window is currently displayed on?

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correct answers 1 Correct answer

Community Expert , Nov 11, 2022 Nov 11, 2022

First of all, it's not that Photoshop is "infinitely perfect". Yes, I understand you're being sarcastic, but the underlying fact is simply that Photoshop uses icc profiles for full color management including the display, while a lot of other applications don't support that. So yes, those other applications aren't affected by monitor profile issues. But that's because they never display correctly anyway, under any circumstances.

 

Proofing to monitor RGB disables display color management, bypassi

...

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Community Expert ,
Nov 10, 2022 Nov 10, 2022

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With Proof Colors enabled and set to Monitor RGB, you're disabling proper preview color management which is why it matches. It's still wrong. 

Author “Color Management for Photographers" & "Photoshop CC Color Management/pluralsight"

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Community Expert ,
Nov 11, 2022 Nov 11, 2022

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First of all, it's not that Photoshop is "infinitely perfect". Yes, I understand you're being sarcastic, but the underlying fact is simply that Photoshop uses icc profiles for full color management including the display, while a lot of other applications don't support that. So yes, those other applications aren't affected by monitor profile issues. But that's because they never display correctly anyway, under any circumstances.

 

Proofing to monitor RGB disables display color management, bypassing the monitor profile, so that makes Photoshop mimic those other non-color managed applications.

 

With that out of the way. Yes, it does indeed sound like the wrong monitor profile is used. It sounds like the profile for the laptop screen is used when Photoshop is sitting on the external display. This has been a rare, but persistent occurrence that has popped up from time to time for many years. In recent years it seems to have been a Mac problem mostly, but that seems to have quieted down lately. Now we've seen it in a couple of Windows laptops.

 

What every case has in common, no exception that I've ever seen, is a system with an integrated display plus an external connected display. That points to how displays are assigned in the OS/video card.

 

It could also be that the profile is simply broken. Chances are you updated other things at the same time as the PS update, and monitor manufacturers often distribute defective profiles through Windows update.

 

Basically, Photoshop just uses the profile it gets from the OS, for each display. Photoshop has no way to "pick" which profile to use.

 

Where do your monitor profiles come from? Are you using a calibrator? Which one? What type of displays (laptop + external) - standard gamut or wide gamut? Which one is set as primary in the OS? If you are using a calibrator, have you tried to run it again?

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Community Beginner ,
Nov 11, 2022 Nov 11, 2022

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Thanks!  For debugging/isolation, the laptop is an HP Spectre x360 13-aw0xxx (late 2019 iirc); the panel is an AOC too-generic-for-me-to-pull-a-model-quickly reading as a U2879G6 in NVIDIA settings, connected to an RTX 2060 in an external (USB-C) chassis.  Potentially but not necessarily related, the displays are the same 3840x2160 pixel-resolution but divergent Windows-level UI scaling (250% vs 150%), and windows dragged from one screen to the other don't always retain politely proportional sizes (not many applications do, so probably not Adobe's fault, just putting it out there in case it sin't expected).  The laptop display is set as the primary, because the eGPU sometimes flakes out or disconnects.  Yes, Windows has been pushing updates, but I think I've seen at least as many Creative Cloud updates leading up to noticing the issue.  I have not actively installed any NVIDIA updates, but I agree that doesn't preclude Windows having snuck something in on its end. If needed, and if there's a polite and secure place to send the massive wall of text containing potentially sensitive system info, I could provide the full readout of Help -> System Info.

 

I also use the same panel as the primary display of a desktop with iirc a 2070 Super and have not noticed the issue there yet (although I haven't remembered to go looking since noticing it on the laptop).  If I do confirm the issue is NOT present there, that would I think give further credence to isolating the issue as a multi-monitor/detection problem, not simply a bad profile update that got pushed out in parallel.  If I go looking and do see the issue on the desktop... then I may have egg on my face and need to take things up with Windows or NVIDIA unless there's a way to roll back CC updates independently and prove the point of regression.

 

NVIDIA Control Panel desktop, video and image color settings are set to let other applications control (external panel only; I'm guessing the builtin screen is managed by HP/Intel, which at a glance is set to Display Mode Default as opposed to sRGB, Adobe RGB, etc.).  Windows Display settings are Color profile Default; HDR settings moot/unsupported on the panel.  I do not have any 3rd party dedicated profiling/calibration tooling.  I work mainly in the development side of tech, so I don't really have the need for dialing in one universal standard across all platforms, but I do have the need to make drop-in assets for websites and internal interface mockups and early proofs of concept on game engines which have not had color management set up, if they even support it.

 

That's really where a lot of my sass comes from- I get the motivation for color profiling and monitor grading and whatnot when passing an asset through an extended pipeline across many artists, machines, and engines, when the final deliverable might not even be digital, or has its own well-calibrated profile, and you want everyone to be on the same page seeing the same color.  But it seems the configuration process is frequently too impenetrable to accomplish making the Photoshop interface/artwork look like the display target when the target- the actual ground truth someone wants to match because it's what 95% of their customers will see- is literally Photos or Google Chrome or MS Paint; the dumber, less-sophisticated unmanaged application right next door, on the same monitor.  So if there's a lot of decision-making Photoshop does on the basis of the display, and if, on top of the inherent mismatch between a correctly-calibrated profile and an uncalibrated/unmanaged target application, there's an additional chance that Photoshop literally gets color management wrong for murky reasons, it would be very useful to have a way to just override the whole business interface-wide, or at least a way to get a readout of what it thinks it's doing and tell it to go back and try again.

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Community Beginner ,
Nov 11, 2022 Nov 11, 2022

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Notwithstanding that it should be easier to work to a profileless uncalibrated target because that's what a lot of consumers will see, it looks like this was an issue at the Windows configuration level.  I suddenly noticed Chrome showing the same washed-out colors where Firefox did not, for the same content.  In Windows Color Management, it looks like both the builtin panel and the external had the same set of 5 icm files associated:

  • Default.icm
  • Photos and Videos (DCI-P3).icm
  • Printing and Imaging (Adobe RGB).icm
  • Web(sRGB).icm
  • Native.icm

So the external panel literally was providing Adobe the same color profile as the integrated.  And when I selected the external panel and hit Profiles -> Reset to system defaults, ALL the icms were removed from the list, and colors "became correct."  Which, yes, is to say I've effectively reverted to unmanaged color on the external, but is also to say that unmanaged color Simply Looks Better, and appears to be Windows' system default, so something that was NOT Windows (and presumably not NVIDIA, since it also hit the integrated display) globally assigned a stack of profiles that did not match user intent.  And without proof, I might nonetheless eye Adobe with some suspicion since one of the profiles is literally "Adobe" and I don't have much else in the way of professional color-concerned tooling on this system that ought to have cared.

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Community Expert ,
Nov 11, 2022 Nov 11, 2022

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It's not unmanaged, it just reverts to the Windows fallback default, which is sRGB IEC61966-2.1. Which is not entirely correct, but better than a defective profile or one intended for a very different display. But there always has to be some monitor profile.

 

That list of profiles sounds a bit suspect anyway, and my guess is that these profiles (apparently from the laptop manufacturer) aren't quite written to icc specifications. So it got stuck somewhere.

 

The real solution here is to use a decent calibrator to make proper profiles. But if accurate color isn't important to you, sRGB will probably do.

 

But when you say that "unmanaged color is what others see", then you don't understand the implications. The whole problem with unmanaged color is that everyone sees it differently. You have absolutely no idea what the next guy sees on their screen. That's exactly the problem that color management solves. It takes the individual display inaccuracies out of the equation, by specifically correcting for it, and that way everybody sees the same thing (within limitations) and you all have a common reference.

 

EDIT - one more thing. This sounds like a problem waiting to happen:

"connected to an RTX 2060 in an external (USB-C) chassis."

I can easily see that messing up how displays are assigned on OS level.

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Community Expert ,
Nov 15, 2022 Nov 15, 2022

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D Fosse:

"The real solution here is to use a decent calibrator to make proper profiles. But if accurate color isn't important to you, sRGB will probably do.

 

But when you say that "unmanaged color is what others see", then you don't understand the implications. The whole problem with unmanaged color is that everyone sees it differently. You have absolutely no idea what the next guy sees on their screen. That's exactly the problem that color management solves."

Yep, totally agree with that

 


neil barstow, colourmanagement net :: adobe forum volunteer:: co-author: 'getting colour right'
google me "neil barstow colourmanagement" for lots of free articles on colour management

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Community Expert ,
Nov 11, 2022 Nov 11, 2022

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quote

Notwithstanding that it should be easier to work to a profileless uncalibrated target because that's what a lot of consumers will see, it looks like this was an issue at the Windows configuration level. 

By @overtinker

Not an option or possibility in the modern world of color management. Photoshop is ICC-aware. There is always some display profile for DUMC (Display Using Monitor Compensation). 

Author “Color Management for Photographers" & "Photoshop CC Color Management/pluralsight"

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Community Expert ,
Nov 15, 2022 Nov 15, 2022

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"With Proof Colors enabled and set to Monitor RGB, sure enough, the artwork itself looked fine"

that setting bypasses colour management, not a great idea

 

I hope this helps
neil barstow, colourmanagement net :: adobe forum volunteer:: co-author: 'getting colour right'
google me "neil barstow colourmanagement" for lots of free articles on colour management

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