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Main Internet Browsers 2019


Web browsers color management

Published on October 11, 2015   |  Updated on February 12, 2020


Color management on the web is complicated a priori, and that for several reasons: you don't control anything anymore! You don't know on what monitor your photos will be displayed, you don't know if this monitor has been calibrated or not, you don't know whether it's a tablet or a computer screen, you don't know which browser your user is using hence if it uses ICC profiles management and finally, last but no least, if it's a wide gamut screen or not! You got the picture...

For a long time, the situation was stable, and above all, predictable. Not "theoretically" ideal but predictable. We'd found "tricks" to make our images display correctly on the web. Nowadays, the situation has improved and is not always ideal at the same time. Let's see why...



A bit of history first...

There's a before and an after wide gamut screens and browsers managing ICC profiles... There's also a before and after tablets and smartphones... When one gets better, the other keeps it from evolving!


Modem 56KUntil recently, it was legitimately assumed that color management on the web was impossible. The reason for it is quite simple: browsers didn't bother with ICC profile management. Whether the image was tagged or not didn't change anything. But unfortunately, they all behaved roughly "as if" they were displayed in sRGB because all screens displayed more or less sRGB. Each RGB value in the image was then read into the color space of the screen hence alsmot sRGB. It was very convenient and acceptable. You just had to convert any image in sRGB then save it without its profile since the browser couldn't interprete it. It saved weight at the same time and since I knew the time when flow rates were 56K, it wasn't neglectable!

Now, in 2020!

Wide gamut monitorIn one year the situation has changed a lot because almost all browsers for desktop computers but also for tablets and smartphones manage colors. To my knowledge, there is only the default Android Internet browser left, which plays the lazy role!   

So we can consider that browsers manage their colors and even if it is more necessary than ever to embed an ICC profile in each image, we can really choose it freely today without major consequences for their display.



What is the best attitude to adopt after all?

First of all, see what it looks like thanks to these six photos on your screen and browser:

  Here are multiple developments of the same RAW file to highlight the color management of your browser.

Now here's my analysis and my recommendation... Choice of the color space sRGB, Adobe RGB or ProPhoto for our images on the Internet?

Since more and more screens have a wide gamut and are thus able to display Adobe RGB, more or less, and since all desktop browsers – and now Safari on iOS, new! – can read color profiles, why not convert all your images into Adobe RGB and save them with their ICC profile – compulsory condition -? I'm really starting to think about it because it's become technically possible.
Anyway, I still think it's still a fantasy because the Adobe RGB is only bigger than the sRGB towards the greens so in many cases, the display of our images - with embedded ICC profile - would look the same... but that's another problem!

To sum up: Do what you think is best. That's the good news at last! Not to mention reading my page on the differences between sRGB and Adobe RGB because one is underestimated and the other obviously overestimated!

Save the ICC profile into the image: essential!

Photoshop 'Save for Web' menu with 'Embed profile' and 'Convert to sRGB' options.It wasn't compulsory for a long time. It was even recommended not to so as not to add weight to the images. I remember that some ICC profiles were bigger than the image itself! And yes, 4Ko were a handicap ten years ago, when you worked in 56K! It's rather funny when you think about it nowadays!

To illustrate the fact that old habits die hard, Photoshop's menu "Save for the Web" offers to save your image with or without a profile. It is not embedd by default. So remember to check the box "Embed color profile" as in the image here and "Convert to sRGB".

My recommendation! Always embed an ICC profile to your images shared on the Internet. I describe Photoshop's saving menus in a dedicated paragraph.

Browsers Color Management Note
Safari MacOS
3 étoiles
Internet Explorer V11
3 étoiles
CM in V11 OK
(ICC V2 and V4)
  Edge (Windows 10) 3 étoiles CM OK
(ICC V2 and V4)
3 étoiles
and settings below (1)
3 étoiles
CM OK (2)
  Chrome on Android 3 étoiles CM OK
Safari on iOS
3 étoiles
  Android No CM No CM

  Particular case of Firefox (Below)
2  Particular case of Chrome (Below) 




Color management settings in Firefox and Chrome

1 - Particular case of Firefox

The browser Firefox enables to set your color management quite accurately but it doesn't do it with the right default values according to me. So we will set the file "gfx.color_management.mode" and here are my "choices":

1 - "Write "About:config" in Firefox's address bar:

About config de Firefox

2 - Write "gfx"in the search field just below:

gfx of Firefox
3 - A list of lines starting with gfx then appears below. Look for "gfx.color_management.mode" and click on it.
gfx.color_management.mode de Firefox
  4 - When you double-click on the line "gfx.color_management.mode" a new window opens:

Replace the default value "2" by "1".

By doing this; you'll activate a complete color management in Firefox:

  • If an image contains an ICC profile, it is read and interpreted correctly. The image is thus displayed with the "right" colors, whether your screen is wide gamut or not.
  • If an image doesn't contain an ICC profile, then unlike the default value "2", your image is automatically assigned the sRGB profile and will thus also be displayed correctly, even on a wide gamut screen.

2 - Chrome and its "Force Color Profile"

The Chrome browser does not allow you to configure the color management behavior as precisely as Firefox, but it does, in my opinion, allow you to do so the most interesting adjustment: force the display of images without a profile with a predetermined ICC profile, in this case, the sRGB. Otherwise, the image will be displayed with the ICC profile of the screen so..., most often in sRGB because many screens are not calibrated and use, without knowing it, a color space very close to the sRGB. In other words, you may not notice any big differences in display!

a) - To do this, start by typing "chrome://flags/" in the address bar of your Chrome browser.

b) - Search for: Force Color profile (whose address is: "chrome:///flags/#force-color-profile" in the page that has just opened. (Below)

Chrome Force color profile

c) - Choose the ICC profile from the drop-down menu on the right (2). In this case, it is not an ICC profile but rather color spaces since they are neutral and do not depend on a device. Choose sRGB. It is largely the most common, so it is the one that will "stick" best most often.

And finally, I invite you to watch the photos I shared above closely and tell me what you think about them. Personally, I note weird things depending on the browsers and on the monitor displaying this page. All of this is very weird so nothing is really cast in stone!


To be remembered!

All browsers (or almost all) at 2020 manage colors, whether it is their desktop versions and now their smartphone or tablet versions so you don't have to worry about incorporating the ICC profile you have chosen for your images. Whatever their ICC profile they will now display correctly on all media... and with the notable exception of Microsoft Surface Pro or Book which use Windows 10 so it is possible to calibrate them with my favorite sensor, the i1 Display Pro.

How to manage the colors of our images for distribution on the Internet in 2019...
- What color management on the Internet?
  - A bit of history...
- How should we proceed?
- How should we proceed with Firefox?
- How should we proceed with Chrome?
- To be remembered...

- Generalities about color


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