From ColourWiki

Table of contents


Concepts which shall help ensuring interoperability, ease of interaction or meet other goals. They should serve the end to end expectations of users. Pros and Cons can be discussed here.

In parts this sketchy page picks up concepts, provides relevant examples, lists pros and cons and analyses available systems. If you feel this all should be more structurised I havily agree. Just most often developers are hanging in details or implementations or simply have the picture in their mind. This page is dedicated to the public, so everyone should be able to read and understand it. If not edit and rearrange this page or if unshure ask questions on the backside (see link "discussion" above).


To bring various users and producers together the ICC[1] ( standard was created. This standard covers a data format to exchange colour information of devices.


The OpenEXR CTL[2] ( approach to use direct colour formulas in GPU shader programs is an try to increase precision and speed related to the demands of the film industry [3] (

An other high precision CMM exists with SampleICC from ICC.


"Editing Spaces" are a very valuable concept to achieve good results during compositing and manipulating images.

  • colour channels should by equally editing the exposure, behave equally regarding saturation (no turning of gray into green)

In an architectural sense consistency means to include all parties to colour manage.

  • It makes sense to search for the most common used parts or API's and plug-in there colour management in order to hit all at once.
  • an other strategy might be to establish rules, which all parties should apply to. But thats not so easy to get them all, as many applications or toolkits might simply not be interested in the first place.
  • a thierd path is to provide the means for tracking colour conversions

History tracking for colour conversions

  • embed profile ID's into DL's (done - psid (
  • export colour conversions as DL's (done - is a CMM backend API requirement)
  • embed DL's into the output profile API:oyColourConversion_OutputProfile()
  • optional e.g. oyProfile_OptionSet( "history_tracking" )
  • examine tools - on screen (compiz?)

Embedding of Rendering Intents

Typical rendering intents are selected during the colour conversion or retrieved automatically. The imagery has no such information. A ICC profile flag for the rendering intent is in most cases ignored. Nethertheless there might be some situtations, where selecting a rendering intent can have advantages. These are:

  • passing a rendering intent through a unknown transport mechanism to a end conversion, e.g. a device driver
  • advice handle certain colour areas of a media independent document in a specific way, e.g. images (perceptual) and logo (relative colourimetric) colours combined in a PDF

Nethertheless as the rendering intent is dependent to the colour context, e.g. surrounding colour elements, embedding a advice for a rendering intent should be used only for certain cases. By specifying the rendering intent in a too early state, the later colour conversions might be over specified and thus ending in conflicts.


Static colour spaces

One example is the assumtion that monitors are in sRGB and all colour delivered to the system must be in that colour space. This is largely for Linux/BSD (2007) the case.

An other great example is the Microsoft pre Vista colour management policy to tread all input and output as sRGB.

Variable colour spaces

In a system allowing to assign or recognise to each colour device a separate profile features great flexibility. Apples ColourSync is a good example for that. Other systems follow this general approach.

Influencing the CMMs

Apple and the ColorSync control panel options

osX has times ago options in its ColorSync control panel. These dissappeared as Apple understood that most applications use their own settings. This was blamed later on as the reason for much confusion. To better understand, ColorSync refuses to enforce options.

Oyranos options system

In opposite to ColorSync Oyranos provides a pre configured colour conversion object, in terms of ColourSync a Colour World. The Oyranos colour conversion object defaults usually to the settings from the system control panel.

To modify settings a application will have to ask for a options object. This should reflect the preconfigured settings of eighter the system or the application.

This Options can be presented to the user and will contain as well CMM specific options. Thus it will be possible to allow additional features and unconventional behaviour enabling and configuration.

To allow for arbitrary options in a flexible way, a layer must be established to provide logic, data (settings) and basic layout of the options in a toolkit independent way. Basically the CMM should not care nor link against a special toolkit. The application, the toolkit itself can provide the layer to render the Options and handle callbacks. Oyranos might provide some of such very commonly used layers. Possibly this needs to be done as a project outside of Oyranos. Still it will be a key feature of Oyranos.

The settings, modified or not in the options object will affect the colour conversion regardless of what level in the process chain. For instance it is almost the same to create a default Oyranos colour conversion on system level as on application level. Flags can be provided to differ for instance for proofing options, as they are only of interesst on a application level.

Splitting colorimetry

Here should stay or link to something about the newer 3 part colour profiles approach in opposite to the ICC's approach.

Splitting CMMs

a suggestion brought up by Graeme Gill in a discussion on the xorg mailing list (

A CMM does usually provide two basic functions:

  • accept input of several ICC profiles and precalculate the input to output colour transformation, usually as n-dimensional tables
  • apply the colour conversion from the input to the output colours through the above precalculated table

CMM's might not follow the ICC standard in storing the precalculated tables. Thus typical a CMM has the possibility to provide a private data structure to the CMM framework for storing and obtaining it back for pixel conversion.

  • pro
    • the CMM can store in a optimised manner its data
  • con
    • the data is special to one CMM only and can not be exchanged

A CMM framework can require a CMM to store its precalculated tables to a ICC device link profile and load it on request. This allowes interessting combinations. For instance it is possible to have a full fledged CMM, which adhers maturely to the ICC profile standard. An other CMM migh be reluctant to implement the many required details of the ICC standard but specialises on a fast colour conversion path. Both can be easily combined through the ICC conform device link profile, each bringing in its strength to form a more powerful or greatly adapted CMM. The pixel conversion specialised CMM has then only to understand the ICC device link syntax.

  • pro
    • CMMs can combine functionality
    • on disk cache with serialised data possible
  • con
    • time consuming
    • might be not feature complete

CMM frameworks might even decide to register two allow registering and controling two types of CMM's according to the two basic functions outlined above.

  • pro
    • the CMM can be selected independently
    • more influence to experiment with the process
    • better analysing
  • con
    • more administration and possibly confusion
    • the same can be reached to provide in the pixel CMM a option to select a linking CMM

Late and Early colour binding

Colour binding means that step in colour workflow where image colours are turned into a final state. For instance for displaying colours on a monitor, it is that state when window colours are matched to the monitors colour space.

The glue between both concepts, which almost always should be available in parallel, is a explicite opt out flag and a path for colour profiles to characterise the image data.


Late colour binding

In the above mentioned context late colour binding means to do the final colour conversion at a late state. This can have advantages, when colour needs to be processed later on. Then colours can stay in a well behaved editing space and processing such as mixing is much more relyable. The colours should be converted to a device space when no further colour processing is done. This happens typical on a system level and can be influenced by a user through system level options.

  • pro (for a xorg example)
    • twm, xterm .. get colour managed as soon as a composite manager is used
    • many parts need no changes to work
    • highest consistency possible
  • con (for xorg example)
    • without any optimisation it can be resource hungry in terms of memory and CPU/GPU time
    • higher bit depth paths might not be available
    • independend non touching colour path entries can make this concept harder to implement (OpenGL, X11, XV, overlay,...)

Early colour binding

In the above mentioned context early colour binding means to do the final colour conversion at a early state. This can have advantages, when colour conversion needs to be controlled as much as possible. It is possible to display native colours to measure the bahaviour of the output device. Or colours can be prematched for proofing with otherwise unusual rendering intents like the absolute colorimetric intent. The decission about the performed colour transforms are typical made in the application.

  • pro
    • most control over options
    • private conversions or null conversion
    • can reduce data early to save system data bandwidht
    • 16-bit and HDR data are full available on application level
  • con
    • speed depends on the CMM
    • might process more data than nesessary

Combing early and late binding

A combination of early and late binding can be achived by attaching during a early state a precalculated device link profile to image data and process the image data by the provided device link with out external options be involved.

  • pro
    • high level options are available (early binding)
    • low level optimisations can apply at a late state (near hardware) (late binding)
  • con
    • lesser control over the pixel converting CMM selection (late binding)
    • process possibly on low 8-bit data only (late binding)

Flat color vs. mixed mode documents

One concept of the ICC-standard, is the possibility to create documents, where every object (image, vector graphics, text-objects) can have is own profile and rendering intent. This makes color management of complete documents very complex and can easily results to unwanted color transformations of individual objects of an document.

To give users successful experiences with color management, it is useful to have the option of an color management policy, which allows only the creation of flat color documents in well known and tested editing spaces.


Stages of manipulation

Handling of colour data is been expected in several states, handled by dedicated colour spaces. The following describes a process with three steps for image data.

  • characterise data (tagged with profile or machine readable description), unknown or uncertain data -> assign a assumed source profile (distinguish Rgb/Cmyk/Gray)
  • editing colour space to tweak, manipulate and blend, mostly with enough colour volume
  • output or proofing colour space, considered as a destination for the final content. This colour space can be used to check against, during editing and possibly convert as the last stage of editing.

Untagged data

Most difficult is here the mixed behaviour of applications regarding tagging versus non tagging of exchange data with colour profiles.

Assign an profile into untagged data

A simple example is a photographer, which is aware of tagging images correctly and delivers them to his customer. Next step is to include such tagged photo into an document in an CM unaware word processor by a different person. The output from the word processor is prepared as pdf for the web and as pdf for printing. As the word processor is ignoring any colour profiles, it is up to the system to follow a rule, which makes the colour data unambiguous.

  • leave it as is for viewing, and interpret as follows below
    • pros:
      • signal that untagged data are unknown
    • cons:
      • ambiguous across platforms
  • attach only during modifications - maybe convert to an default colour space (is policy dependent)

Interpretation of untagged data

  • always sRGB, the WWW standard colour space
    • pros:
      • mostly unambiguous
    • cons:
      • sRGB is limited regarding saturation
  • always osX standard RGB ??
  • always Adobe RGB(1998) ??
  • take data as in monitor colour space - a traditional point of view used up to date by CM unaware applications
  • differentiate between input path for colour data:
    • WWW sites -> sRGB
    • Files from outside of the computer -> selectable profile
    • Files from inside the computer -> selectable profile

As the source of images, whether they come from out- or inside the computer, becomes more and more fuzzy, this concept is difficult to implement.

  • programs use the platform specific colour space
  • cross platform toolkits should specify a policy, to which standard they adhere, most useful would be sRGB

Save onto an untaggable image format

  • warn user about losing colour space information during saving
  • warn on export especially about a colour space different than the assumed one



Average User

Most people belong to the Office User type. They need an reliable conversion behaviour. Simplicity is the main goal there. sRGB serves this behaviour well. Defaults should be set to:

  • assumed RGB - sRGB
  • editing colour space: sRGB
  • convert always data to editing space (before a save, not nice, but the most reliable in mixed CM aware environments, this was repeatedly criticised)
  • don't prefer mixed colour space documents (keep it simple)

Graphics Distribution

Graphic Designers and other specialist may want to use own settings. Here some defaults:

  • assumed RGB - sRGB or Adobe(?)
  • no pop-up for untagged images
  • editing RGB - Adobe,ECI or L-Star (large gamut)
  • convert RGB data during editing to editing space (don't pop up dialogs)
  • no pop-up for conversion
  • don't convert CMYK data (because of possibly failed black preserving capabilities)
  • allow mixed colour space documents (warning for internet PDF's?)

Device Settings

The device to device colour path contains as well the settings to receive and to output colours. This makes the storage of these settings necessary for a working colour management. Currently such settings are spread over various places. They are partially stored in application and OS databases or only partially embedded in profiles, like the vcgt tag. There should be a format developed and used, which makes it easy to combine both colour and settings characterisation.

Device Settings

Elektra namespace

The idea is to comply to Elektra naming schemes and be extensible to other data bases too like XML files or possibly the JSON format suggested by Graeme.

Elektra keys are ordered like paths, and thus separated by a slash. The top level entry is something like "sw" for application specific things. In order to get colour stuff recognised, I would suggest to use a top level category "shared" for system wide colour management settings in Elektra. Elektra has even a layer above to feature a user/system distinction, but it shall not matter here. This is the Elektra specific part. In Oyranos I call this the top part of a configuration path.

Top: the top section for the Elektra data base; e.g.


The following generic part is to create paths and keys based on the following arrangement. Each element has to be appended:

Domain: a hint about the standard the keys adhere to; e.g.

             "" for shared and specified keys
             "" for specific things

Type: tell about a classification; e.g.

             "colour" for default colour settings and "colour_icc" for ICC CMM specific keys
             "colour_icc" for a ICC colour conversion CMM

Possible is "colour" for a colour transformation workflow, "colour_icc" for a ICC CMM, "tonemap" for HDR to LDR mapping, "image" for image handling, "generic" miscellaneous. Other words should be possible too but are probably outside of Oyranos' understanding.

Application: a real application or a group for standard settings; e.g.


Option: the logical value; e.g.



This would lead to the following path + key: a default Rgb editing space:


for a plug-in or application setting:


The actual value is then to be associated to the key. Which keys shall be visible to backends? The "Type" level seems the most easy one to handle that. The option would be passed to the CMM.


How split into advanced and basic settings? Add a advanced keyword to the Option level (last level) after a point. The point workes here slightly like a XML attribute. Basic is the default and maps to zero, so it should not be specified in the option level. The behaviour of the following example is to be matched on a higher level and thus the key would not be visible to a CMM.


An other keyword is front for frontend options, which are useless for backends and should not appear to them.


Should be possible by accepting of options not only as keys, but as logical endity. The actual keys containing values are always the last ones in a configuration tree.

User Interface

Profile Selection

  • use a flat directory to store all files
    • easy to read by all applications
    • needs several mechanisms to distinguish profiles for devices, editing ...
  • use directories hierarchically
    • allow all kind of distinguishing even if not supported by Oyranos, other may use nevertheless
    • easy grouping of device, editing ... profiles
    • needs a layout and specification

Common Gui elements

Profile selectors can to a user present the internal stored name and the external file name. Ideally both should coincide, with the possible exceptions of the space sign and the file type ending. In case the profile is a in memory one the internal name might not be detectable.

XML Plug-in options

Simple Toolkit Abstraction is the name of a project idea on the GSoC2008 OpenICC page. Its goal is to provide a simple way for plug-ins and CMM's to describe options and have some slightly control over its presentation layout. Jon A. Cruz gave some helpful suggestions on what to focus on this area. The dataflow could be something like this:

XFORMS + XML -> xslt -> toolkit XML -> native toolkit widgets


  • based on W3C technology (Xforms, Dom ...)
  • callback mechanism (possibly to pass the changed serialised widget layout, like a diff, to the callback)
  • callback as C function or CTL for portability?
  • easy separation of layout (widgets) from data (options)
  • widget set: tabs, groups, lists, choice list, sliders, buttons, check button, radio button, text box, drawing area
  • define orientation (horizontal/vertical for grouping inside a pack style widget)
  • select one widget per group for scaling; place this widget at top, bottom, right, left, centered or to fill as specified
  • serialise and deserialise from and to XML
  • support console applications
  • converters for at least Qt, Gtk, FLTK ...

Some links to explore:

  • XML Schema ( to get a grip on data inside XML
  • "Useful Datatypes" ( @ xformsinstitute
  • rendering of XFORMS inside Mozilla (
  • Xslt ( @ wikipedia
  • Simple Toolkit Abstraction ( OpenICC GSoC2008 project idea


The goal of using manipulations is to get an good image correction for special cameras, media or special scenes. The process is as well known in the film industry as colour grading.

Manipulations exist as profiles of ICC type abstract profiles. They are use by CinePaint or Photoshop for instance. On OS X they are part of the color management system ColorSync. Therefore I would think at least the ICC profile version could be included in Oyranos.

Curves today used by CinePaint, Gimp and UFRaw are originally proprierity ones delivered with Nikon and other software. People translated them to use in these programs. The format is basically a response curve telling which intensities should come out for an given value. These curve files can contain single curves or curves for multiple channels, like Value, R,G,B, Alpha + ?

Not shure for the curves. Maybe they can be converted to abstract profiles. Gutenprint handles an own curves format for print settings. It is XML-based and Robert Krawitz calls them piecewise curves.

One interesting aspect of the Gutenprint XML curves is that they are editable. For profile editors an approximation algorithm is needed. An edited profile can be more easily written as CLUT but would probably loose precision during conversion from an matrix based one.