Home > business, personal, smugmug > This is your Mac on drugs

This is your Mac on drugs

February 14, 2007

Why the web can look wonky on a Mac by Chris MacAskill, President of SmugMug

I'm a Mac.  And I'm a PC.

The PC is a soldier. When Direktor Gates demands color #e3823c, PC responds “Sir, Yes Sir!!” Color #e3823c looks identical on the PC whether it’s in a JPEG, GIF, PNG, CSS, or HTML.

The only colors Direktor Gates tolerates are found in the box of crayons called sRGB. Internet standards like HTML, CSS and Flash march in step with the same colors.

The Mac Thinks Different. Color #e3823c is different on Macs. Except sometimes*.

If you have a Mac with Safari, check out this wonkiness (if you don’t, here’s a screen shot). Now check the page with Firefox. It looks completely different than it does in Safari, and different from Firefox and Internet Explorer on the PC.

Why this is a big deal:

Most people don’t have light-controlled rooms with color-calibrated monitors. I don’t, and you probably don’t, either. Almost everyone will see your photos slightly differently than the next person. We’re not talking about perfect color precision here, because on the net, that’s an impossibility.

What *is* important, though, is for your photo to match the rest of the page. If you’ve selected a background on a PC to match the blue in your subject’s eyes, you don’t want background and eyes to be mismatched on a Mac. Or your photo to look different in some Mac web browsers than it does in Photoshop.

Yet this is exactly what’s happening. And the fix is simple.

Demystifying the wonk:

#1: Macs ship with a display gamma of 1.8. The word gamma was probably chosen to make it sound like nuclear physics, but it’s fairly simple. It’s a setting, like brightness or contrast, that adjusts your image. Halfway between black & white (midtones) the changes are greatest; they change less as the colors get darker or lighter.

If you’re a mime with white makeup and black clothes, photos of you on the Internet will look similar on Macs and PCs. But if you’re gorgeously mid-toned, you’ll lose some of your tan on a Mac. Except sometimes*.

Internet standards, including HTML, CSS, and Flash, are based on a gamma of 2.2, making colors partway between black & white appear darker and higher contrast than 1.8 gamma makes them appear. Examples.

#2: Some Mac browsers (IE, Safari and Omniweb) go part way in preserving the artist’s intent: if you know what an ICC profile is, you can attach it to your photo and the Mac will render your photo with a gamma of 2.2. Then it will look like it does in Photoshop on your Mac, or on the Internet on PCs.

There are three problems:

  • Safari still won’t know to adjust the rest of the page, such as borders drawn in CSS or background colors specified in HTML, leaving you with color mismatches like you saw on the wonkiness page.
  • Other Mac browsers like Camino, Opera and Firefox don’t know for ICC profiles. The good news is they don’t get color mismatches. The bad news is nothing on the page matches your intent. (Except sometimes*.)
  • Very few photos on the web have ICC profiles because they slow down browsing, especially on thumbnail-sized images. In this case, Safari doesn’t render them with a gamma of 2.2 unless your monitor is set to 2.2.

#3: PNG images have their own issues with Safari, unless they’re specially prepared, as you saw near the bottom of the wonkiness page. Read it and weep.

What’s this ‘except sometimes’?

If your Mac’s gamma is already at 2.2, you’re golden. Unfortunately, this is rare. Macs ship with a default gamma of 1.8, even though Apple recommends you and your friends change your gamma to 2.2. Here’s what they say:

Apple recommends a gamma of 2.2 for you and your friends

If you calibrate your monitor with a Huey, for example, you’ll be asked what you do with your Mac. If you answer photo editing and web surfing, it will quietly set your gamma to 2.2 to make web pages match the artists intent. The good news: theoretically, now web pages look the same in Firefox & Safari — and on the PC. Photos look the same as they do in Photoshop. And in print. Color mismatches disappear.

In practice, devices like the Huey are not 100% accurate and the calibration they provide is influenced by the room’s lighting. So if you’re using Safari, you’ll probably notice that color mismatches will be reduced but not gone on the wonkiness page.

If you want to see almost no mismatches on the wonkiness page, go to Apple > System Preferences > Displays > Color > and pick sRGB IEC61966-2.1. Then quit Safari and restart it. Now everything should be as it is on a PC except the PNG may not match perfectly. It will match in Firefox.

What would Photoshop do?

If your monitor is set to the factory default, Photoshop is between a rock and hard place. It knows to display your photo with a gamma of 2.2 because it’s smart. But how should it preview your photo when you choose Save for Web? It has no idea. Will you be viewing your photo in Firefox or Safari? Will you be seeing it with an ICC profile or without? On a Mac or PC? It can’t know.

So by default it plays the odds and takes its chances: you’ll probably end up viewing it on a Mac and since few photos on the web have ICC profiles, it shoots the crap and renders the photo the way your monitor is set, with a gamma of 1.8. Tens of thousands of photographers are tormented by the shift in color they see between an open photo in Photoshop and the save for web preview they see of the same photo right beside it, and they wonder why Photoshop is so wonky.

Photoshop guesses you'd like to see just how washed-out your photos will look on the web

If you set your monitor to sRGB IEC61966-2.1, that color shift goes away.

What should Steve do?

It seems to me…that artists and photographers want their admirers to see the web the way they intended, which they would if Mac browsers used a gamma of 2.2 for everything on the page.

I worked for Steve’s company in the NeXT days so I can understand the dilemma. High-end publishers standardized on 1.8 gamma before consumers seized the web. But publishers understand words like gamma, ICC profiles, and calibration. Try saying gamma to a consumer. They just want the web to look right.

As it is, companies like Pantone are deciding for Steve to set the gamma at 2.2 with their Hueys. Except sometimes*.

And let’s not forget that Apple already recommends changing the gamma to 2.2 after you buy your Mac.

Why not ship OS X with gamma at 2.2 and say farewell, wonkiness?

UPDATE: The story gets worse. 😦 Turns out the right sRGB profile isn’t included by default on the Mac, so you can’t fix things yourself without some outside help. Photoshop installs it for you automatically, as do some other apps. You can download the right profile here and stick it in /Library/ColorSync/Profiles yourself to fix things up.

Categories: business, personal, smugmug
  1. February 14, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Interesting. I’ve had all my Macs set to 2.2 for so long that I just assumed that Apple switched over years ago.

    On new Macs, I guess my habit of using a Spyder2Pro handles it.

  2. February 14, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Your PNG’s can indeed match the colors set by xhtml and CSS. The trick is to strip out the gAMA chunk of the png using pngcrush. A nifty little app called gammaslamma (http://www.shealanforshaw.com/introducing-gammaslamma-10-for-osx/) will do this for you. The bonus is that 1) IE6 also has problems with displaying pngs properly due to the gamma info in them and 2) your pngs get crushed down to about half the size they were.

  3. February 14, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    @Mike Lane:

    We know, since we use PNGs a ton around SmugMug. In the article, I say “unless they’re specially prepared”, and I was specifically referring to things like pngcrusher.

    But Safari should still do the right thing even without the gamma stripped.

  4. john
    February 14, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    nice article if all you do is surf the web. but if you are working in PRINT then ignore this totally and calibrate your display with your press.

  5. February 14, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Dan – This is the most helpful blog post I have read in the last year, by far! It had never even occured to me that the color shift when coming from Photoshop was caused by the gamma setting in OS X being overridden!

    Calibration now switched to G2.2 D65! I don’t do much print work these days, just web stuff, so this is a magic fix. Thanks very much!

  6. February 14, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    This is one of the reasons I’ve used BergDesign’s “SuperCal” (http://www.bergdesign.com/supercal/) for the past five years to calibrate colors when I get a new Mac or a new monitor.

  7. rasterbator
    February 14, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Gamma has been used by Adobe and Apple for many years to calibrate monitors and color environments. 1.8 was always the setting if you were working on color for commercial printing. 2.2 was the setting if you were doing work for slides, video, etc.

    If you are working on critical color on a Macintosh that will be sent to a printer for offset printing, DO NOT use Gamma 2.2. Your work will look like shit. (But if you are doing color for commercial printing, you better already know this!)

  8. February 14, 2007 at 4:11 pm


    Re: printing, I think Apple has really good advice:


    Most people who read this will print at Kodak, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Mpix, Whitehouse, Costco, etc. — and all those printers expect your display to be sRGB (gamma 2.2). The most common complaint from Mac users is their prints came out darker than expected: Here’s why:


    I hope this helps.


  9. Ned Baldessin
    February 14, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    For those interested, an interesting blog post by Dave Hyatt, one of the developers of Safari, about why it would be hard to color correct a whole web page.

  10. Anne
    February 14, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Hi, I’m a mac user and photographer and I know that whatever monitor you use needs to be calibrated with your printer…. thankfully Mac allows us to make those very customized calibrations and even upload, download, and swap color profiles from our labs without all of those funky gadgets that people like to buy to calibrate their monitors…. also… there is no difference between my safari and firefox browser colors.

  11. Kakaze
    February 14, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    This problem isn’t just going to be fixed by changing the gamma settings. If you look at your example pages and change the gamma from 1.8 to 2.2 you’ll notice that, while the images do change in appearance, they only become darker or lighter.

    The colour profile tells the computer how to change the colours in the image compared with their actual numbers to the size of the selected gamut. A 255 red is going to look different in Adobe RGB compared to sRGB because Adobe’s RGB gamut is bigger than sRGB’s. Adding gamma into the mix is going to make it look different still.

  12. February 14, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Hey, this is Dave Hyatt, Safari developer. I blogged about this topic a while back.


    We would like to do color adjustment very much in Safari, but at the moment we’re being held up by Flash. The problem is we don’t control Flash’s rendering, and too many Web sites rely on the colors used by Flash matching the colors of the Web page. This requirement is preventing us from doing the adjustment.

  13. Pork Rind
    February 14, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    “If you are working on critical color on a Macintosh that will be sent to a printer for offset printing, DO NOT use Gamma 2.2. Your work will look like shit. (But if you are doing color for commercial printing, you better already know this!)”

    Yeah, great advice 10 years ago. In the modern world, you calibrate your monitor at D65 2.2, adjust the luminance to match your lightbox then CHARACTERIZE that setup by making a good ICC profile. Then you can change your proof simulation space a dozen times in a day so that your not calibrated to A printer, you’re matching EVERY printer.

  14. Dave
    February 14, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    In other words, Safari is on drugs, my Mac with Firefox renders everything accurate..

  15. February 14, 2007 at 4:46 pm


    Actually, it’s not. I wish it were, but unless you’re using the sRGB profile linked at the bottom of the article, or have otherwise set your display to use a 2.2 gamma, Firefox is showing a washed-out version of your photos because the Mac uses a different gamma.

    The problem is OS-specific, not browser-specific. It’s just made more difficult to understand and fix by the ways the different browsers approach the problem.

  16. Kakaze
    February 14, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    But the problem IS browser specific.

    Firefox and Internet Explorer ignore ICC profiles whereas Safari doesn’t. Colour space is a different animal from gamma.

  17. February 14, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    Excellent post and great work :]

  18. February 14, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    @Dave Hyatt,

    Nice to see you here. I had just finished posting a comment on your blog (which is awaiting moderation) before I saw yours on ours.

    I almost mentioned in my post that Safari can do what other browers can’t: correctly render Adobe RGB and ProPhoto files. Here’s a convincing demo:


    My perspective is this is an OS issue, not a browser issue, and if the OS shipped with gamma of 2.2, the pressure would be off you and the other Mac browsers.

    Am I wrong?


  19. February 14, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    @Kakaze: The now defunct IE on the Mac is ICC profile-aware. I believe it’s an OS issue because 99.99% of images on the web have no profile and you want them to be rendered as sRGB and gamma 2.2 (part of sRGB) when they don’t. Shipping Macs with a gamma of 2.2 would fix that.

    Rendering different color spaces is a whole different issue. I think we should render the Internet standard sRGB right first.


  20. February 14, 2007 at 4:59 pm


    No, it’s not. Safari is color-aware, but still broken. Firefox isn’t color-aware, and it’s broken.

    The basic fundamental problem is that the Mac uses a different gamma and color space than the rest of the world, and than the rest of the internet standards use.

    Since billions of photos online don’t have ICC profiles attached to them, Safari renders them poorly. So does Firefox. If the Mac OS would use the sRGB color profile with a gamma of 2.2 as the default, both of those problems would disappear.

    Firefox and Safari would both look right AND both look identical.

    Safari can then still work it’s magic (and it is magic, and I love it) of making images in other colorspaces, like Adobe98 and ProPhoto, look just right, too, something Firefox can’t or won’t do.

    • Jetrel
      April 19, 2009 at 7:16 am

      Problem solved – apple is moving to 2.2 default gamma in OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard".

      I have to hand it to steve jobs for being willing to axe many instances of "being different for no good reason". The list includes:
      – QuickDraw 3D -> OpenGL
      – SCSI, ADB, and various 'mac' cords -> USB
      – PICT images as the OS default -> TIFF, PNG, PDF
      – text in a resource fork -> .TXT files
      – .sit, .hqx, etc -> .zip
      – PPC -> x86
      – ??? -> MP3, MP4

      Being different isn't worth it when it has no advantages.

      • Jetrel
        April 19, 2009 at 7:17 am

        Oops, almost forgot:
        – crappy proprietary OS underpinnings -> UNIX.

        Now if only MS would do that, too. 😛

  21. Tony
    February 14, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Hmm, I’ve standardized my pc and mac all on 1.8 on warm white (or page white). I’ve always had to use Adobe gamma to fix the broken default gamma on my pc. This always looked “wonky on PC’s” other than my own. Go figure.

  22. Kakaze
    February 14, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    Safari renders the untagged images in this example exactly the same as Firefox renders the tagged and untagged ones regardless of gamma.

    Gamma is only a tiny part of the answer and not the whole answer.

  23. February 14, 2007 at 5:07 pm


    You’re right about it rendering the untagged just like Firefox.

    But that’s still wrong. That’s not how the photo looks in Photoshop and it’s not how the photo look on the PC. And it’s not how the photo looks in Safari when it’s tagged. Photoshop, PC, and Safari with profile all look the same.

    If the Mac would default to sRGB with a gamma of 2.2, we’d all be set. All of the scenarios above would look identical.

  24. February 14, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    So…I’m a bit confused. All my Macs have their monitor display profiles set to PC Gamma (2.2) with a white point of D65 (neutral white).

    Is the concensus that (web designers) should use the sRGB IEc61966-2.1 display profile instead? Maybe it’s just me, but that profile looks really blue and unnatural.

  25. Kakaze
    February 14, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    The photo looks different in PS because PS automatically shows you your images in your working colour space. If you turn colour management off then the images should look just as wrong as you say Safari makes them.

  26. February 14, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    u know the babel tower story? yep.. like that. the great artist of the computer, the old old one, i mean the computers’ god, mixed their language for variation..

  27. February 14, 2007 at 5:50 pm


    We’re not really trying to advocate anything other than “We wish Apple would fix this.”

    It’s clearly an OS problem, and we’ve discovered internally that we can work around it using the sRGB IEC profile, but really, it should just work right out of the box.

    Millions of people take photos. Millions of people browse the web. Both of those operations are typically done using sRGB with a 2.2 gamma.

    Offset printing and high-end prepress isn’t done by millions of people, and it’s really the only reason to use 1.8 gamma that we can think of.

    So clearly there’s been a decision somewhere to please the minority while annoying the majority, and we think that’s wrong. We hear about it daily from our customers, so we think we know it’s wrong.

    Wish we had a real solution to advocate, but I think it’s “Call or email Apple about this issue.”

  28. Omar
    February 14, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    I use the Mac 1.8 gamma setting because I think it looks better, even on the Web.

  29. Nate
    February 14, 2007 at 6:21 pm


    Wallgreens, Snapfish, Costco, and a few others all use HP Indigo Digital Press 3050’s. How do i know this? I folded a few tens of hundred thousands of their holiday cards a couple months ago. 🙂

    Since the 3050 at my shop runs Windows XP, i wouldn’t be surprised that prints have a gama of 2.2.

  30. null
    February 14, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    The irony is that your home page shows a mac world image with quote “terrifc value”. Good article nonetheless.

  31. February 14, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Mda… not good at all

  32. no
    February 14, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    macs are for noobs that dont know how to build their own computers.

  33. Steve Chen
    February 14, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    I agree with Todd Dominey. Once switched over to sRGB IEc61966-2.1, the whole OS looks bluish and unnatural. I then tried to use the old profile and just switched to gamma 2.2 and D65. The wonkiness still remainds. Is there a better soltuion where images will display correctly and my OS X doesn’t turn blue?

  34. February 14, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    @null: I didn’t want to reveal our bias, but we’re actually fanatically in love with Macs. We even use Apple XRaids in our datacenter.

  35. craig
    February 14, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    The proper assumption for anything on the web is to assume sRGB for anything not tagged otherwise. Apple *could* make safari work right, at least for anything they render themselves, regardless of the OS’s color model. The fact that they don’t means that safari is broken. Yes, changing the OS could fix it, too.

    BTW, sRGB is a color space and gamma is part of the definition. Saying “sRGB with a 2.2 gamma” is redundant. If the gamma isn’t 2.2 then the color space isn’t sRGB.

  36. Brad
    February 14, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    your are oh so fucking wrong…

    open up the page on safari and firefox and put them side by side – you will see that the left safari and both firefox images are the same. nice try though.

  37. February 14, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    @Chris & onethumb

    This is not an OS problem, it is a problem of rendering colors that are not properly defined. It’s a result of the lack of color management on the web. An RGB color space needs more than just the red, green and blue components to be rendered properly. As Dave Hyatt mentions, Apple has already done some work at making Safari render undefined colors in sRGB. My guess is that Safari will eventually default to rendering everything that doesn’t have an embedded profile in sRGB. Other Mac browsers should do the same.

    This is an application issue, not an OS issue. You don’t change the way that color is rendered for the entire operating system, and thus for every application that runs on the operating system, because the Internet accidentally defaulted to rendering undefined color in sRGB. Yes, a few applications (the web browsers) will need to change to render in sRGB by default, but that’s better than making a system-wide change that effects every other Mac application. This is why color profiles were invented, so that color could be reproduced properly across different display devices and OSes. Safari is ahead of everyone else in that they do support embedded profiles, but Apple needs to complete what they started and have Safari render undefined colors in sRGB. Browsers on Windows will eventually need to become color managed as well, at least if they are going to properly support CSS3 and its ability to allow embedded ICC profiles ( http://www.w3.org/TR/css3-color ).

    I agree that Safari (and other Mac browsers) need to be properly color managed, but this is not a problem at the OS level. This is a problem at the application level that Internet applications on the Mac need to solve. At least Safari does do some color management, even if it’s kinda broken right now. On Windows they haven’t even started.

    For more reference and background you can read some of my comments on Digg here:


  38. JT
    February 14, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    @ Dave Hyatt

    What about supporting embedded ICC profiles for the entire body or untagged images (inline or in a style sheet)? Mozilla has been working on this for a while (you should remember):

    This would put the designer back in control and would make untagged images render correctly, yes? The designer knows if they need to worry about Flash or the wrath of their Safari users complaining about page rendering speed.

    Out of curiosity, how long was the slow down when you rendered the entire page to sRGB?

  39. February 14, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    color is as it’s perceived. there is no right or wrong when it comes to screen color. you can get as close as possible to the intended hue, but there’s just too many variables to alter the color. browsers, platforms, technology used, color code system, monitor setting, monitor technology all have an effect on color. Let it go man, color is like beauty, in the perceiver’s eyes.

    printing is another story, ink color is different, buy a pantone swatch book. if I still did print, I’d prefer a CRT over all these flat screens. My 14 year old monitor has better color range than my 1 year old LCD.

  40. Jay
    February 14, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Jeffrey Friedl also has an excellent write up of this problem:


  41. February 14, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    @craig: > BTW, sRGB is a color space and gamma is part of the definition.

    Yes, and white point of 6500 too. Thanks for making that clear and sorry we didn’t.

  42. February 14, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    @Brad: > you will see that the left safari and both firefox images are the same.

    Yes, both oh so fraking wrong…. Was there something we disagreed on?

  43. brock
    February 14, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    That’s funny. I never noticed this wonkiness you claim.

    In fact, I prefer the orange color of the sample you give at the first of the article better on the one labeled Mac. PC orange is just, well, wonky…..

    Unless you have a PC and a Mac right next to each other, how would you even know. When I see a site that looks bad, I am betting that 99% of the time it is just that.

  44. Kevin
    February 14, 2007 at 10:40 pm

    I run my Powerbook G4 and use Camino as my main browser, I have never messed with any gamma settings or anything to calibrate colors, and I must say none of your rollover examples have any “wonky” colors. Everything looks the same.

  45. February 14, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    I agree with Dave Thorup. This is an application problem, but it’s actually even more complex than that, since WebKit is used not just to render Web pages but also to render UI in other OS X applications. Therefore color management will have to be an opt-in addition to the WebKit APIs (with Safari opting in once all of the issues are ironed out).

    This is clearly something we’re interested in doing, and I’m sorry that the progress is slow.

    The thing to remember is that it is more important for uncorrected colors to match *everywhere* (in CSS, Flash and images) than it is to do color correction only for some objects (e.g., CSS and images but not Flash). Too many Web sites are built around mixing all three types and expecting the colors to match for us to risk breaking that until we have a solution that is applicable to all of them.

  46. Jonathan
    February 14, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Wrong, my Mac Pro came with sRGB, it wasn’t the default profile, but it came with it.

  47. ola
    February 14, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    yes very true

  48. February 14, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Jeffrey Friedl also asserts in his article that we made the decision to eschew color correction because of Flash even though only a miniscule percentage of Web designers would be affected. Believe me, it wasn’t miniscule. Understand that this was actually *on* in internal Tiger builds for a long time, and the bugs just poured in.

    The use of Flash to blend with CSS colors and backgrounds is pervasive and widespread on the Web. It cannot be ignored.

  49. February 14, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    @Dave Hyatt:

    I’m positive that the problems are far more complex than we realize.

    But from my point of view, setting the OS default to sRGB (and thus, a gamma of 2.2 instead of 1.8) by default seems to solve all of these problems, does it not? On both my Mac Pros and my MacBook Pro, this is definitely the case.

    Flash magically looks great. CSS does too. JPEGs without a profile. The list goes on…

    Even Firefox and other non-color-managed browsers magically look right.

    By “look right” I mean “matches what the artist intends, using Photoshop or some other color-aware editor” in addition to “matches other components on the page”, both of which are important considerations.

    I completely 100% agree that the most important goal is to make sure all the page elements match, whether they be plugins (Flash), CSS, HTML, JPEGs, PNGs, GIFs, etc.

    In a perfect world, every browser would be color-aware, and every browser would assume images & colors without profiles are sRGB. Since that’s not performant in WebKit, doesn’t setting the OS to sRGB make a lot of sense since you get the right color matching “for free”?

    Or am I missing something obvious in my ignorance? 🙂

  50. February 14, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    My photographs look perfect with Safari , Internet Explorer and other browsers just the way the colors look in Photoshop . However, the colors and even the B&W images look washed out in Firefox. I don’t know the reason for that or any solution for it either. Any ideas? The people here who wrote that their images look the same in Firefox and Safari – how do you get the same color saturation?? Help!!

  51. February 14, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    @Jonathan: all Macs come with and sRGB profile but if you install Photoshop it installs a second, different sRGB profile. Try them both and you’ll see they’re different.

  52. ranathari
    February 15, 2007 at 1:07 am

    It’s worth pointing out that using a gamma of 2.2 will turn your Finder windows blue. I use UNO so I don’t know if this is the same for Brushed Metal windows, but it certainly is noticable and distracting when using a Milk theme.

  53. trtrtr
    February 15, 2007 at 2:30 am

    I use 1.8 even when designing web pages, gives me a much more accurate view of colour.
    Windows wed designers always pander to extremes of colour.

  54. Michael
    February 15, 2007 at 3:48 am

    1. You also forget that mac’s come with very accurate colour calibration -coloursync.
    2. Pc’s come with NONE
    3 Macs are used far more broadly for retouching becuase of this.

    It is the vast array of unclaibrated devices that constituet the PC world.

  55. February 15, 2007 at 4:00 am

    I’m a Designer, a Web Developer, a Photographer AND a Mac user…

    My monitor is set to a Gamma of 1.8

    Images edited for the web in Photoshop are converted to an sRGB profile and With ‘Proof Colors’ turned on in Photoshop and ‘Proof Setup’ set to ‘Windows RGB’

    Images are then exported with ‘Save to web’ with ’embed profile’

    All my images look exactly the same when viewed in Safari/Firefox on a Mac and in IE/Firefox on a PC.

    So the problem is not the OS or the browser it’s the USER

    PS. I’m not entirely certain of this, but doesn’t IE7 now support ICC Profiles?

  56. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 5:03 am

    I don’t see the problem. You try to make it a — the Mac still caters to print, while everyone else uses a narrower gamut, so reset the gamut to everyone else’s issue.

    That’s not the issue. It’s a producer versus consumer issue. If you are a producer, you should know how to account for this (all that you need to account for is color matching of images to other web content) so consumers will not perceive a problem. As long as all of your elements are color-matched, you’re okay. Yes, content will look different between a Mac and a PC if you aren’t using profiles or from an app to another, but CONSUMERS are the ones without the knowledge… Their monitors are not calibrated anyway. Their brightness and contrast will simply be set to a WONKY setting in the first place.

    As to making this an issue pertaining to editing photos for print… that seems like a stretch. The average consumer producing his own edited photographs is doing simple editing: cropping, resizing, basic adjustments of all colors… And they probably expect the colors to be a bit different because they know that they don’t know enough about color, producing content, or printing.

    That’s not to say that this isn’t an issue at all… I’m just surprised that this can be treated as anything new or not known to anyone who is producing content (that actually cares enough to want to know).

    As for the notion that setting Macs to a 2.2 gamut solves the problem. That’s simply not true. You are always going to have disparate color profiles. The fact that Apple supports a wider gamma, color profile management, and syncing… and has done so for a very long time is a good thing. That they are extending color management for non-profiled content to WebKit is a very good thing. It’s unfortunate that the PC world is stuck with a relatively crude gamma for what are devices are capable of displaying. I prefer and will stick with the default Mac gamut.

  57. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 5:29 am

    Also, it should be noted that the PNGs do not look the same (all the time) on the PC despite the statement that all image types look the same without profiles on the PC.

    If the end result of this is that more PC web developers are finally caring about the Mac (as I alluded to, previously people just didn’t care about the marketshare of the Mac or didn’t have enough knowledge to have a care or accepted that color matching could not be achieved universally and easily) and/or PC web developers are awakening to the issues of disparate color profiles, than it’s a good thing.

  58. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 5:40 am

    (Sorry for all the posts but…)

    Conversely, if the end result is the stifling of color management by endorsing a universal gamma correction which is shallow (I do not like the higher contrast and colors of the “PC” images) simply to explain to customers why their prints are darker than they appear on their Macs at home or to allow PC web developers to continue to ignore such issues, I think your recommendations are problematic. (Using and/or at least understanding profiles is a good thing… resetting the default Mac gamut is not a good thing.)

  59. Questioner
    February 15, 2007 at 6:07 am

    What in the world do you mean by “Other Mac browsers like Camino, Opera and Firefox don’t know for ICC profiles?”

    Did you mean to say “don’t know _about_ ICC profiles?”

  60. February 15, 2007 at 6:16 am

    its not just a mac/pc thing. the whole problem is OS specific! as i am currently working alot with linux, i have these issues with the same browsers (firefox) on linux and windows.
    if you’re working as a webdeveloper, you should already know about this.

  61. February 15, 2007 at 8:32 am

    The best comment I’ve seen is tim’s a few above mine. It’s a producer versus consumer issue.

    I could set my gamma to 1.2 and still produce images, CSS, and Flash content that matches each other. Unless a producer is using color management in part of his toolchain and failing to use it in other portions, it’s unlikely “mismatched” images will appear.

    I despise gamut 2.2 – it’s too contrasty and too dark. I’ll stick with 1.8 – as I have for decades without any problems.

  62. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Thanks, Erik.

    (Again, sorry for continuing to post, but the more I consider this blog entry, the more it bothers me and makes me want to come back to it…)

    The entire point of this posting seems misguided and dangerous. It seems to advocate projecting any and all gamma correction values into one standard gamma. Why?

    The sRGB with 2.2 gamma is not more or less better than another (of course, other values get very bad very fast, but…). 2.2 is actually more high contrast, darker, and less true to color even if it has become a default.

    Moreover, as we move towards OSes, apps, and web standards that support color management and profiles (finally the whole community is catching up to Apple), why would we want to move backwards?

    The issues raised seem like non-starters. Image-editing software provides a preview of “Web Safe” output. I know of no one who is not aware that outputting to a “web safe” format is going to affect the colors. Mac OS and Photoshop (and other apps) provide excellent tools to manage different profiles.

    For the web, the only issue is for designers who are using PCs to focus on the PC while never looking at a Mac. These designers aren’t going to change their habits and expand their knowledge to properly accomodate the Mac users. This has always been the case. The web has been pervasive for a decade. Why should Mac users now change their default color gamut? (It’s not as if your own sample images don’t have many, many shades of orange making it difficult for me to tell exactly which orange you were trying to match is. Or that an image of a person with a background to match their eye color is going to be so jarringly off as to put Mac users off using the web after putting up with it for a decade.)

    Mac designers, however, have been cross-testing in most cases for a decade and handle all of this already.

    The only “real” issue would be with Mac users confused by darker prints of digital photographs. And even in the entry that you link to Chris, you cite Brightness settings of new LCDs (presumably print returns are not a Mac-specific issue if it is the largest cause of returns) as the primary culprit. In other words, the average consumer doesn’t understand these issues and a number of other settings on their monitors will create the same, if not worse, problems anyway… for both Mac and PC users. So how would fiddling with an obscure, color-theory-specific value help them any when a simple odd preference for a particular brightness or contrast could be producing or even magnifying the same problem? (Particularly when gamma can be more easily addressed in a color profile than a quirky monitor brightness setting)

    So…. is there some agenda to this, MacAskills? Because, although it’s an interesting topic that clearly many people are not well-informed about, I would think more interesting questions would be:

    1. With current monitor technology, why aren’t others adopting a richer gamma value that Apple and many entire industries standardized on 2 decades ago?

    2. Why are other systems, apps, and standards still lagging if there is such a variety of color systems and displays of those colors when the technology has been rock solid and available for so long?

    (Most simply, I would ask these 2 basic questions…)
    If appealling to quality web designers, shouldn’t we be talking about color profile support in CSS3 and getting Microsoft and others to move along to get that community up to speed? (Microsoft and its developer base are pretty new to Color Management.)

    If we are appealling to photographers, quite simply, which of the images in the rollover do photogs prefer? Do these photogs use Adobe 1998 or RAW or some other colorspace (with whatever x gamma value) in their camera and their editing?

    [I would also like to note that “And let’s not forget that Apple already recommends changing the gamma to 2.2 after you buy your Mac.” is specious at best. The tech note you are referencing is specifically for Aperture users, i.e. a professional tool for advanced users. Beyond that, setting the gamma value to 2.2 is only mentioned after reviewing the colorspace presets on your camera and other devices (and they advocate RAW then Adobe 1998 THEN sRGB in that order), then calibrating your display using professional hardware and/or using Expert Mode to calibrate yourself, and THEN when they get to setting gamma values, they actually say: “The correct choice depends on how you are most likely to use your images” before giving the general rule of thumb. It’s not like their is a tech note to the average consumer that says: “When you start up, the first thing you should do is change the gamma value to 2.2.”]

  63. February 15, 2007 at 9:45 am


    I completely agree that this is a CONSUMERS vs PRODUCERS argument. And I believe that’s exactly what we’re arguing:

    There are millions of CONSUMERS on the Mac. In this category, I also include the millions of consumers who are also technically producers, because they shoot with a digital camera, use iPhoto, etc, but don’t know or want to know how to really produce images for display or print other than putting them on the web. They really belong in the CONSUMERS bucket because they don’t think like or view themselves as PRODUCERS.

    Then there are thousands of PRODUCERS on the Mac. There are orders of magnitude more CONSUMERS than PRODUCERS. And the PRODUCERS are the ones who know about gamma, ICC profiles, color matching, etc.

    So shouldn’t the default be for the millions of CONSUMERS who don’t know, and don’t want to know, how to make their photos look the same on the various Mac browsers and the same as their PC friends?

    And then the PRODUCERS, who understand this stuff, can use the Mac’s great tools to customize the Mac to their heart’s content so they can get their colors just right?

  64. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 10:08 am

    “So shouldn’t the default be for the millions of CONSUMERS who don’t know, and don’t want to know, how to make their photos look the same on the various Mac browsers and the same as their PC friends?”

    Simply: NO. As you said, they don’t know and don’t want to know. (Not only in producing but CONSUMING as well.)

    When you are judging between CONSUMERS who don’t know and don’t want to know and PRODUCERS who do know and do want to know, I would make the judgement at the actual PRODUCT level.

    The 1.8 gamma setting (or an even better colorspace entirely) produces a better PRODUCT when the PRODUCT is viewed properly. Various brightness/contrast settings, and the actual capabilities of the device(s), and other settings as well are going to produce disparate and wide ranging differences anyway… even if Mac users gave up a better looking PRODUCT for the sake of a “consistent” experience across platforms.

    The only true consistency can only be achieved ultimately with education, proper colorspace definitions, calibration of devices, and management of device profiles.

  65. February 15, 2007 at 10:16 am


    I have thousands of customers on the Mac asking us why their photos don’t look like they should every day.

    Am I supposed to educate each one of them on the intricacies of color correction, color profiles, gamma correction, etc?

    Most commonly heard? “I switched from a PC to a Mac because it’s supposed to work with my photos better. But now my photos look nothing like how I shot them! They look fine on my friend’s PCs…”

    To me, that’s a problem.

  66. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 10:32 am

    “Am I supposed to educate each one of them on the intricacies of color correction, color profiles, gamma correction, etc?”

    No, but I don’t see how trying to answer that question can lead to such trivialities as “This is your Mac on drugs” nor does it relate to producing web sites properly or outputing edits from Photoshop.

    If there images were produced in sRGB with 2.2, they are still that. Their friends still see that. If they are opening them and editing them in Photoshop (a $300 app) and overwriting them again, they should know how to properly save them.

    I would not be trying to paint this as an Apple problem when it’s really a problem for YOUR business which you haven’t properly solved (but still encounter with PC users as well, surely — I won’t bother to question the thousands of Mac complaints per day statement) when the best and only true solution is proper color management… which is very realistic and practical… even for the most limited of users.

    The fact that it isn’t, also, is not Apple’s fault. It’s actually Microsoft and Mozilla and others lagging behind in supporting something that was pretty much obvious to the most basic Mac consumer twenty years ago. However, in 5 years time, color management support should be pervasive and consumer-friendly, if not consumer-transparent…

    I don’t see why Mac users should compromise a better product now just to mitigate a support issue you could always have without the more technologically progressive that should arise with work and education.

  67. Bill Minor
    February 15, 2007 at 10:37 am

    False assumption that people surfing the web (a) know that photos look different and (b) care.

  68. February 15, 2007 at 11:07 am


    I think you may be missing the point, or I’m misunderstanding you.

    A) No, PC users don’t have this problem. When they edit their photos in something like Photoshop, and use Save For Web, and then see them on the web, they look the same.

    B) Mac users do have this problem. When they edit their photos in something like Photoshop, and use Save For Web, and then see them on the web, they look different.

    It’s not a problem for my business, it’s a problem for Mac users all over the world viewing the billions of photos online which do not have an ICC profile attached. They don’t see them as the artist (or themselves, if they happen to be the artist) intended.

    Even if Firefox and IE and all the other browsers become color-aware (which I fervently hope they will) over the next 5 years, as you suggest, I’ll bet you right here and now that they do “the right thing” with images that don’t have profiles: they’ll assume they’re in the sRGB color space.

    If they don’t, they’ll magically make nearly every photo on the web (billions and billions of them) look broken as soon as they release color-aware versions.

    I’m certainly not advocating compromising a better product – I own two Mac Pros and a MacBook Pro and love them. I’d hate it if color-awareness were disabled or something. I just want them to properly render non-profiled images like the rest of the Internet does (and the Internet standard specs call for).

  69. February 15, 2007 at 11:09 am


    They do when the photo they see in their web browser doesn’t match the photo on their hard disk or in Photoshop.

    I know, because they scream at me all day about it. 🙂

  70. February 15, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Excellent article! In fact it answered a question we recently had on iBAM. Linked and Dugg! Thank you!


  71. February 15, 2007 at 11:18 am

    “In fact, I prefer the orange color of the sample you give at the first of the article better on the one labeled Mac. PC orange is just, well, wonky…..”

    There’s no better or worse orange. The point is that with default color profile, Safari will display colors differently than other browsers. If you design a web site with your desired shade of orange, and only preview it in Safari, the rest of the world will see it a bit differently than you intended.

    It would be like using a different ruler than everyone else. There’s objectively no right or wrong, but if your ruler doesn’t match up with everyone else’s, its inconvenient.

  72. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 11:22 am

    “A) No, PC users don’t have this problem. When they edit their photos in something like Photoshop, and use Save For Web, and then see them on the web, they look the same.”

    The same to themselves but not to other PC users.

    “B) Mac users do have this problem. When they edit their photos in something like Photoshop, and use Save For Web, and then see them on the web, they look different.”

    Not different than the preview/image they last saved/looked at.

    “It’s not a problem for my business, it’s a problem for Mac users all over the world viewing the billions of photos online which do not have an ICC profile attached.”

    It is a problem for your business. Otherwise, the complaints are no concern or deserve zero response.

    “They don’t see them as the artist (or themselves, if they happen to be the artist) intended.”

    And in most cases they look BETTER. I prefer all of the “incorrect” Mac images to the contrast heavy “correct” images in your examples.

    “Even if Firefox and IE and all the other browsers become color-aware (which I fervently hope they will) over the next 5 years, as you suggest, I’ll bet you right here and now that they do “the right thing” with images that don’t have profiles: they’ll assume they’re in the sRGB color space.”

    I’m not suggesting a future where color management exists but is not used. If all systems/apps have proper color management systems, we can move to a future where the profile is an inherent part of the output.

    “If they don’t, they’ll magically make nearly every photo on the web (billions and billions of them) look broken as soon as they release color-aware versions.”

    “Looking” broke is not broke. That’s my whole point. You seem to be missing that.

    “I’m certainly not advocating compromising a better product – I own two Mac Pros and a MacBook Pro and love them.”

    You are if you are advocating 2.2 over 1.8.

    “I just want them to properly render non-profiled images like the rest of the Internet does (and the Internet standard specs call for). ”

    And they are working on it. I would hate it if every Mac user had their standard “broken” across their operating system just because you want to assume that any and all image consumption on the Mac is intended for web-based PC images.

  73. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 11:28 am

    “The point is that with default color profile, Safari will display colors differently than other browsers.”

    No, the point is: you don’t have to alter your color profile to properly color match elements within a web page no matter what browser you are using.

    For the non-Mac, non-Safari users, the color may be consistent across different applications but this is not a common way of consuming (viewing the same content in multiple apps simultaneously). However, from user to user, PC to PC, you will still see variations in the colors despite the common gamma setting.

  74. February 15, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Hahaha, I was pretty certain some people would passionately prefer 1.8 gamma, especially people who’ve been in the industry a long time or work in high-end publishing. I was a big advocate of it in my NeXT days.

    But 3 things happened to change the world:

    1. Consumer printers like Zazzle, Cafe Press, Shutterfly, Costco, Target and even pro printers like Mpix and Whitehouse drew in hundreds of millions of consumers. Those 1.8 gamma consumers wonder why their 2.2 gamma prints are darker than what they see on their Macs. We know because we deal with thousands of them regularly.

    2. Brighter monitors, typically LCDs, swept the landscape, making 2.2 gamma look much better than it used to.

    3. The Internet & PCs adopted 2.2 gamma and started interoperating with TVs (2.2 gamma).

  75. February 15, 2007 at 11:56 am


    See, now you’re just arguing that 1.8 looks better to you. And that’s fine – taste varies with each person. Personally, I could care less about 1.8 vs 2.2.

    I care about images matching each other. I care about a photo being displayed matching how I edited it. I care about the background on a page matching the other elements on the page.

    I could care less who likes what orange. I just want things to match.

  76. February 15, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Don: question for you given your statements here . . .

    What exactly is the color #e3823c _without_ a profile attached and how should it look (given that it’s converted RGB color values)? How does that relate to LAB (without a color profile)?

    I’m kind of shocked to see this information coming from you.

    For those that want the answers to my question, it’s simple. Without said color profile attached, they are dangling colors and can be rendered however the application in question feels like it.

    i think you’re missing the whole point of profiling here and providing a lot of 20th century/oldschool information. Please get with the times. ALL browsers should be honoring the profiles.

    As for “commercial printing” they are still using 19th century technology. We are in the 21st century. Google Bill Atkinson and do some reading on his workin color profiling if you want some bettter background.

  77. February 15, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    The problem (as i see it), is not entirely Safari’s fault (although it’s very odd), Safari (actually the core images routines of OS X) does colour correction on images with colour profiles (good), but treats “unlabeled” images and colours (HTML and CSS) as being the native display profile (bad), that leads to the problems (changing the display to sRGB neatly scoots around the issue)

    Now PC browsers (and other mac browsers) seem to be stupid, Firefox and IE7 support no colour correction that i can see, and on the mac it’s the same (and Opera for Mac also ignores colour correction).

    So ideally, the best option (IMO) would be for all browsers to colour correct against sRGB (CSS and HTML colours are sRGB anyway), then do correction for labeled images, which apparently only IE5 for Mac can currently do.

    Of course, i’m new to the whole thing, so i’m sure i got something wrong.

  78. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 12:18 pm


    1. This isn’t a valid reason for eliminating all gamma values not equal to the printers though. It just points out that some consumers cannot reconcile the notion of two different colorspaces (or variables within the same colorspace) even if they are actually encountering them all the time. It also points out that 1.8 is better (“my pictures are darker and more high contrast than I would like them” — higher contrast can be a desired feature, but usually the user expects to alter this manually… otherwise, it should be as close to the phenomenal world observed when taking the picture, no?).

    2. Doesn’t follow to me. Increased brightness will be the same throughout the image, but contrast still increases more rapidly with the higher gamma. The image overall may look brighter, but the contrast remains higher. The degrees of colors remain the same, they are just brighter.

    3. This is the same as the first. Different gammas look different, yes. Some gamma values look better, yes. Because the majority of devices are of a lower quality, that does not mean I should abandon a higher quality for consistency with the lower quality.

    Being a photographic site, I don’t understand why you would argue for a LCD (Lowest Common Denominator). (Well, to avoid the confusion of your uneducated customers obviously…) But if we use the example of traditional photography where finer degrees of color tints can be achieved and far subtler ranges of contrast achieved on film through the processing and paper to achieve higher and lower “gammas”… would you recommend one standard level of quality? Would you be disappointed if the contrast was more appropriately subtle and the transition of shades of colors was finer?

    Shouldn’t a photographic site advocate higher quality rather than commonality?

    You say the world changed. Yeah, five years ago. Now, it’s changing again to a world that can support better standards and we can move content from one to the other without having to default everything to a lowest common denominator.

  79. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    “See, now you’re just arguing that 1.8 looks better to you. And that’s fine – taste varies with each person. Personally, I could care less about 1.8 vs 2.2.”

    It’s not just a taste issue. The contrast and shading is more refined. Simple. Seems absurd for someone running a photo-based company not caring about quality. It is brighter which is subjective, but the contrast and shading is objectively superior.

    “I care about images matching each other.”

    And prefering one gamma value for another doesn’t prevent matching from being possible.

    “I care about a photo being displayed matching how I edited it.”

    And Photoshop, the only app you’ve mentioned, displays the image as you edit it and previews how you export it. You aren’t not seeing anything.

    “I care about the background on a page matching the other elements on the page.”

    And if you are building the page on the platform where the difference is discernable you will be color-matching by other methods than assuming a color code is a color code is a color code.

    If you aren’t on that platform and aren’t doing other methods to color match, you are not regarding those people on that platform anyway — why would you care if they make an effort to match your lack of concern for them?

    “I could care less who likes what orange. I just want things to match.”

    And that’s unfortunate. That’s equivalent to saying every picture should support a maximum threshold for contrast and color gradation. In an era where multiple qualities and standards cannot only coexist but can be properly managed through devices that will display things differently despite one variable anyway is a damn shame. Particularly from a photographic company.

  80. eyes
    February 15, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    You make the (wrong) assumption from the very beginning that images look better on a PC. They don’t. They look different. But they don’t look better. Images on my mac (which is right next to my PC) always look better than on my PC.

  81. Sprocket999
    February 15, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Brad Says: “your are oh so fucking wrong…open up the page on safari and firefox and put them side by side – you will see that the left safari and both firefox images are the same. nice try though.”

    Wow. Brad. Try again. They are nowhere near the same. Look at the orange bars again.

    Interesting article that raises more issues than it appears to solve, and by reason, makes my head hurt (along with all that reverse type – ouch!)

  82. February 15, 2007 at 1:34 pm


    Actually, you clearly misunderstood the point.

    I’m not arguing that things look better or worse on a PC.

    I’m arguing that the same color matches everything using that color on PC.

    The same cannot be said of the Mac.

  83. February 15, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    @Mark: Bill Atkinson is one of my greatest heroes since he has done so much to advance the Mac, photography, and good color. I worked with him for two years and exchanged several emails with him about this issue.

    I don’t think color #e3823c is dangling. It’s on the Internet and the standard is sRGB, so we know exactly what it means including a gamma of 2.2 and white point of 6500. No browser needs a profile to know that.

    There’s a reason browsers don’t require ICC profiles: they’re big, byte-wise. It isn’t practical to add at least 2.7K to each tiny image and bog down the web when you can standardize, as the web has done. CNN, eBay, Amazon….they’re never going to add ICC profiles to all their images and pay the performance penalty. But every browser knows how to render them correctly because they all know exactly what e3823c means in sRGB.

  84. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    “I’m not arguing that things look better or worse on a PC.”

    But why isn’t someone running a photography site willing to discuss the quality of a colorspace and its values when he is advocating one over the other (for whatever reason) and people have valid concerns about making such a compromise?

  85. tim
    February 15, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    “There’s a reason browsers don’t require ICC profiles: they’re big, byte-wise. It isn’t practical to add at least 2.7K to each tiny image and bog down the web when you can standardize, as the web has done. CNN, eBay, Amazon….they’re never going to add ICC profiles to all their images and pay the performance penalty.”

    The profiles neither have to be embedded nor do they have to be associated for every single image.

    Provide a simple block of html that applies to all pages on a web site, when the browser hits the first instance of an ICC profile association, it is downloaded and is forever available to any images referencing that profile as long as that profile is stored.

    There are elements of value in your points (although I disagree with many of the conclusions here); don’t blow everything by making stuff up.

  86. February 15, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    tim- your comments seem to be pretty narrow-minded.

    As a designer for the web, colors need to match each other, whether created on a mac, or pc, or whatever. I need to know that #1a2b3c is exactly the same color whether it is in my CSS code, an image Saved For Web from photoshop, or some element in flash.

    Apart from this the biggest frustration for me in relating to this (and why this article interested me in the first place) is spending time working something to perfection how I want it to look and then trying to save it in Photoshop and suddenly the colors shift from what I’ve been working with. You say that this “shift” causes whatever I was working on to “look better.”

    I spent plenty of time getting that to look exactly how I wanted it to look… and from my eyes Photoshop “broke” my image.

    If switching from 1.8 to 2.2 in gamma allows my working environment in Photoshop to look like my end product then I’m willing to “sacrifice” slightly more accurate (in your opinion) color.

    Also, several people have mentioned “Mac Users have been dealing with this for over 20 years, this is nothing new.” Well considering the huge growth of the Mac user base in the last few years, this is very new to a lot of people. So please have a little bit more of an open mind for us Mac newbies that haven’t been in the industry with macs for 2 decades.

  87. February 15, 2007 at 3:54 pm


    We certainly are willing and interested in discussing the quality issues around colorspaces. We do so every single day over at dgrin: http://www.dgrin.com/

    But that’s not this discussion. This discussion isn’t about colorspaces, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a discussion worth having.

  88. February 15, 2007 at 3:54 pm


    Show me how to embed a piece of HTML that makes all of this work right like you describe and I’ll do it in a heartbeat.

    Where is it?

  89. February 15, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    And another note… I’ve always thought that my mac didn’t have enough contrast and when coding using software that colors the text, it was sometimes difficult to read text. After changing to 2.2 it’s much easier to read and I greatly prefer the slightly higher contrast.

  90. February 15, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    How and where do you set your monitor to sRGB IEC61966-2.1? In photoshop, the mac os or both?

  91. tacopop
    February 15, 2007 at 5:15 pm


    How can you fail to see how awful a mac looks if you set the system to sRGB? You’re rendering the entire OS and every other application incorrectly in a dark, cold tone because you want online photo’s to look darker? That really doesn’t seem like a solution or an overall “improvement” to me.

    I’ve been making websites on a mac since 95. Like everyone else I have photoshop set up in sRGB and design for the way it’s going to look on a pc. I’m used to them looking lighter and a bit washed out on mac. It would be nice if safari rendered everything in sRGB by default, but I understand Dave Hyatts concern about flash. I wouldn’t mind turning on this preference for myself to see how bad it really is. Is there a way to turn this on for testing in safari?

  92. February 15, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    @Jesse: Exactly. You elegantly expressed what we hear every day from customers who write us.

  93. February 15, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Setting to care factor 0.

  94. February 15, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    Nice article !

    This problem appeared to me form time to time and now I have th reason why !
    Thank you !

    Anyway, as for me, viewing the same object with two different angles is a very interesting experience.



  95. diciu
    February 15, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Many thanks for the eye opener.

  96. February 16, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Hi Don,

    Thanks for a very informative blog and it has certainly cleared up this mystery for me ! However the problem I’m having is that any other color profile that I choose in the Display Preferences or if I go through the calibration wizard, I end up with a blue hue. The only profile that I do not have a blue hue is the default “Color LCD” profile on my Macbook Pro. Do you know a way of changing just the gamma and whitepoint without messing with the colours ? That is, it’d be great if I can somehow just edit the Color LCD profile and change the gamma and whitepoint.

    Any advice is very much appreciated !

    Thanks !


  97. February 16, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    @Christopher Chan:

    Yes, and the nice thing is it’s fairly easy to do. I should have mentioned this in the article, my bad.

    Go to System Preferences -> Display -> Color and then choose ‘Calibrate’. You don’t need the expert settings.

    Set your gamma to 2.2 and your color tempraure to D65 (6500K).

    You should be all set!

  98. February 17, 2007 at 1:14 am

    (I’m the Jeffrey Friedl mentioned earlier in some of the comments)

    It’s really encouraging to see Dave Hyatt sound in here. Dave, what do you think about having Safari recognize the ColorSpace and InteroperabilityIndex Exif/DCF tags? Those won’t generally be present in created-for-web-design images like logos, nav images, advertisements, mastheads, etc), but are in pretty much everything produced by today’s digital cameras?

    It seems like a step that doesn’t compromise the cross-technology integrated color talked so much about in the comments here, but does allow those wishing to display the full and rich color of their images to do so, right out of the camera. It would even allow photo hosting sites (like, oh, say, SmugMug 🙂 to have color-managed thumbnails without the cost of full-blown embedded profiles.



  99. February 17, 2007 at 9:35 am

    @Jeffrey Friedl:

    That’s a fantastic idea. We’d support that in a heartbeat.

    Your pages, examples, and research helped us to understand the problem, BTW. Thanks so much for all of your detailed analysis.


  100. February 18, 2007 at 10:14 am

    Setting the white point to D65 (no matter the gamma) on my PowerBook G4 makes the screen look blue. I can play with the Calibrator all day, but it still looks blue. Period. I don’t notice this on PeeCees.

    When I set the gamma to 2.2 and the white point to D50 photos look warmer and whites don’t have this blue tinge. My photos don’t have a blue tinge, so I’m guessing D65 is not good, at least for my G4’s LCD.

    Yes, my Safari photos and colors don’t match, but the photos seem to look more real. Am I wrong?

    After all this reading it seems there is no correct answer. I’m convinced that:

    A. If you care about your photos matching prints, make a test print, hold it next to your monitor, and adjust everything until the monitor matches the photo

    B. If you don’t care about prints and just want everything to look good on your monitor, adjust your monitor for that. Of course, when others view your photos they won’t see your view…

    The bottom line is even if the world is set to sRGB, each monitor’s screen will display the colors differently. I think calibration with a device must be the way to go…

  101. Luc
    February 18, 2007 at 10:16 am

    Tim: Thank you!! I’ve been looking for information and a solution for this for over a year now!!

  102. David
    February 19, 2007 at 7:35 am

    The term Gamma comes from the photographic film processing world.

  103. February 22, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Don’t you guys get it? Mac’s are “better”. And to show that they’re “better” they have to be “different”.

    Face it, they’re appeal is being a cool, “alternative lifestyles” platform. So of course their colors have to be different. They can do whatever the heck they want, and continue to lose market share, while the rest of the world marches forward.

  104. February 22, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Great article and I read most of the comments.
    I was having problems with my monitor colors myself. I haven’t noticed many differences in photos, but I do paint on Photoshop. And I do get color changes even in between photoshop and a regular previewing software (Preview.app).
    I have both PowerBook G4 and a PC. I can totally see the difference in between them.

    Now I’m confused and have few questions, I’d really appreciate if someone could enlighten me.

    My mac has both “sRGB profile” and “sRGB IEC61966-2.1”. So I set it to “sRGB IEC61966-2.1” it looks way darker and blue-ish. Then I calibrated and it looks aweful. (i wish i had a way to show this, but i don’t know how…) All my colors look dark and details are almost invisible.

    Then I looked at my PC to see the color profile it has. It says something like “Default Monitor” (i’m translating it from another language, so please bear with me). And then underneath it says “Default Monitor Profile: None” ?!? So what is my color profile?
    There’s a list I can choose from though…

    I didn’t have many problems viewing my images on the web on various computers. Mostly my colors are the same as I have painted them on my Mac screen, except for few.

    I have checked some other images I got earlier from the internet, they look pretty fine on this setting. I also looked at digital paintings that I’ve done earlier, their colors look the same as before. But the last two paintings I’ve done on Photoshop look way too dark. I put them on my PC, they look so much better, a little dull on bright spots.
    I had printed one of them out recently, and I had lost contrast (even black wasn’t black) -but that maybe the printer too.
    So on and so forth..

    Basically I still have problems with this.. Have no idea what’s going on, so I’d really appreciate your help (ps: i’m not a computer guru at all either.. heh)

  105. yokenny
    February 26, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Hmmm, very interesting. We’ve been trying real hard to get things totally setup here – but for offset printing. So we’re at D50, 2.0 (compromise), and 95cd/m2 brightness. We getty pretty darned good matching with press proofs, all things considered.

    But now we’re designing a project for the web, so we probably need to switch gears a bit.

    I also tried applying different profiles, and they all give pretty drastic results.

    – I ran the basic calibration set to D65, 2.2 G and that looks identical to sRGB IEC61966.

    – sRGB looks similar to those, but brigher.

    – And I made a custom profile (with a device) set to D65, 2.2G and 120 cd/m2 and that looks VERY blue and not as bright as the others.

    So which would be the best to set monitor at for designing/color correction?

  106. March 2, 2007 at 12:52 am

    Saving images to web in the new PS CS3 (still in beta though) has the option to remove the sRGB and export the image as the designer intended.

    Open the Save for web dialog and from the little arrow menu remove the check from “Convert to sRGB”. Works like a charm.

  107. March 8, 2007 at 11:09 am

    This article neglects to mention that the sRGB colour profile has a low gamut, designed to reduce colours to the lowest-common-denominator SVGA monitor sold with the average PC of the late 1990s.

    If you have spent money on a good display for colour work, then it is wasted if you apply an sRGB profile at the system level. sRGB may be useful for calibrating web site graphics, but should be avoided for any serious print or photography work.

    But why not let Mac-based visitors to your photography web site see higher-gamut photos, properly calibrated with ICC profiles? If they are not too dark, then they will still look as well as can be expected on a budget PC.

  108. March 15, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    I’ve been chasing a weirdness in Safari for days now and this seems to be the culprit. If you use JPEGs as CSS film-strips for rollovers: in Opera, FF, & IE the background of the rollover looks identical to the actual background (meaning seamless) however on Safari there’s a ghosty block in the rendering of the background which ruins the rollover effect. This error seems to be worse the farther you get from either white or black(AKA mid-tones). Yellows and extremely dark blues and purples are the least offensive where as orange lite blue and green are blatant…

  109. April 23, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Adobe Fireworks also creates web safe PNGs that do not suffer from this gamma issue — when exporting PNGs for the web, Fw omits any embedded gamma data and color does not stays consistent with other colors rendered by your browser on any system.

  110. Arnel Enero
    May 13, 2007 at 12:36 pm


    Some comments:

    1. That page is a BAD EXAMPLE. It is generally not a good idea to attach a color profile to an image for Web. If your intent is only to force the Gamma to 2.2, hoping that browsers like Safari will do it, you’ll achieve that BUT you’re only making things WORSE in many cases.

    Let me explain… a color profile not only defines GAMMA but also COLOR TINT. Most LCD monitors esp. on laptops need COLOR TINT correction on the OS level, and this is what Mac OS X does (and even latest, greatest Windows Vista does NOT) by assigning the “Color LCD” corrective profile by default. Without this corrective profile, everything looks too bluish (same thing that plagues most Windows-based laptops, go figure). This makes gamma the least of our problems.

    Your main contention is that it’s not the color integrity that web designers should be concerned about, but rather that the photos must match the rest of the page. Your wonkiness page gets wonky on Safari because it tells Safari to use sRGB on some photos, and not on the rest. I get back to my statement that the page is a BAD EXAMPLE, because by telling Safari to use sRGB, not only does it set the photo’s gamma to 2.2, but it also overrides any color TINT correction (common on LCDs, and most Macs use LCD!) that the OS-level profile imposes on that photo. No web designer would wanna do that! And setting the OS gamma to 2.2 does NOT solve the wonkiness, because unless you set the OS profile to sRGB (which is again a BAD IDEA for LCD), you still get parts of the page tint-corrected and others non-corrected (sRGB).

    As you see… gamma is the LEAST of your problem with your wonkiness page. Although I do get your point, your example does not support your point at all.

    2. I do agree with you that using Gamma 2.2 would allow Mac users to view web pages closer to the designers’ intention. However, I don’t agree that setting your OS color profile to sRGB is the solution (actually it’s asking more trouble). The solution is rather as simple as calibrating whatever color tint corrected profile you have now, and adjusting the Gamma to 2.2 but leaving everything else as-is.

    3. But again I realize, the point of this whole article is INCONSISTENT. You say color accuracy is not much important for web because “most people don’t have light-controlled rooms with color-calibrated monitors”, and that what matters more is that color is CONSISTENT throughout the page… so why are you so concerned about gamma after all?

    I think this inconsistency of thought is brought about by the confusion caused by your “wonkiness page” which as I pointed out is a BAD EXAMPLE. This example has misled you to a false “problem”, which in turn has led to your “solution” (Gamma 2.2).

    In summary, my point is… It’s true that the different gamma that Macs use may pose some color integrity problems for web designers, it’s not as bad as one fundamental issue that plagues ALL systems (PC, Mac, and the rest)… that color displayed by different monitors can differ so much that the gamma issue becomes neglible in comparison. So don’t sweat it if Macs have 1.8G… many PC monitors out there will also wash out colors in the same way, if not mess up the color tint altogether (which is much worse… look at the bluish tint on many Windows laptops!) At least Macs come with correcting color profiles that match their LCD, while many PCs with LCDs suffer from the blue tint.

    Out of context, but personally I think the 1.8 gamma makes web pages look better, photos look sharper on the details albeit with less contrast, everything is more lively than on Windows. But that’s me.

    Good stuff anyway! Cheers!

  111. Charles Badland
    May 17, 2007 at 7:30 am

    Finally! Some reason! Thank you Arnel Enero for pointing out the color inconsistency example is not caused by the Mac 1.8 gamma. And for enlightening me why this happens. I had never heard of LCD color tint corrections. The “wonkiness” example is NOT reproducible on a CRT monitor.

  112. July 26, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    Well this helped me. It was driving me crazy getting images the way I wanted them in Aperture, and then having them look light and faded on smugmug. The “corrected profile helped a lot. Now things are looking about 95% of what they should be. Looks better on a PC as well. Thanks.

  113. Dan
    August 13, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    I just bought a Dell 30″ monitor as a secondary display to my MacBookPro. The original idea was to match all the colors so I could run them right next to each other, but thats almost impossible from what I’ve understood. Apparently the dell 30″ is able to produce colors so vivid and bright, that my macbook can’t touch it. If I set them to match, I would be robbing myself of the performance produced by the dell 30″. I had the same “blue cast” problem with the sRGB 2.1 profile. The best solution I could find was to set my macbook to the Color LCD profile with the 2.2 gamma enhancements – this produced the most reasonable color. On my Dell 30″, I used the sRGB 2.1 profile, and it looks great, with a miniscule loss of brightness from the factory profile (something I can deal with at the cost of a standard profile)

    The Dell 30″ is pretty bad ass by the way.

  114. Mart
    December 6, 2007 at 9:25 am

    I used to wonder why Mac uses 1.8 gamma back in the early 90s while working in prepress. It wasn’t well known then and seems to be completely forgotten now, but the reason is that Apple graphics subsystem had 1.4 gamma correction built in. So if you looked 1.8 gamma corrected image in your mac then what you saw was really image in 2.2 gamma color space.

  115. December 10, 2007 at 6:48 am

    I hope all your readers are knowledgable with the basic issues, which are extremely well explained and illustrated there:



  116. Mr_G
    December 21, 2007 at 4:06 am

    The amount of ignorance on these comments is astounding…

    Tim is right.

    Apple does the right thing but gets slammed since the status quo is lazy / ignorant / low-quality content producers / application developers!! Go figure…

    Safari is not “wonky”. It just does what all browsers *should* do, respect color profiles.
    Unfortunately, since most don’t, lazy producers just ignore color profiles when making web content, relying on the fact that they all default to sRGB… It’s this defaulting to sRGB and ignoring color profiles that is wrong….

    Images on PCs all “match” as people say… well, yeah that is true… because all PCs and browsers except Safari have the same essential flaw!… Just because this is how things ARE, does not mean that this is how thing SHOULD BE…

    And gamma 1.8 vs 2.2 is a completely different problem…
    Basically, 1.8 IS objectively better, simply because it has a wider tonal range…

    Using 2.2 when monitors are capable of more is basically compressing everything into a lower quality…. just plain stupid, wasting a quality display, reducing yourself to a lowest common denominator (as was said before) just to cater to the dominant (but mistaken) PC user/producer…

    Truly, the tyranny of the majority…

    I shall remain using my superior 1.8 and shall recommend all Mac users to do so… It’s just a matter of investing a small amount of time into learning your photoshop to avoid all this sillyness…

  117. Scott
    December 21, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    My issue with Safari is that it is displaying images differently than even the other color managed applications on my computer. My monitor is calibrated with with a Spyder2 at gamma 2.2 and D65. I get the photo to look how I want it in Aperture and export as a JPEG converted sRGB Profile with the profile embeded. It looks the same in Photoshop and Preview, but when I open it in Safari it is significantly darker. This happens no matter what I set the gamma of my monitor to. If the color management was working correctly the images in Aperture, Photoshop, Preview, and Safari should all look the same right?

  118. Jim
    January 12, 2008 at 3:41 am

    Yet another issue for LCD monitor users:
    The vast majority of LCDs currently in use by “regular” consumers are 6-bit displays at the hardware level, especially on laptops where there are only 6-bit displays being used. [Do not color-correct on a laptop’s built-in screen, if at all possible.] This means they can natively render about a million colors; the other ~15 million are approximated by clever use of sub-pixel dithering — that “sparkly” effect you see on some screens even when you and the screen aren’t moving relative to each other.

    The vast majority of LCDs generally in use by non-regular consumers (designers, pro photogs, et al), if they use LCDs at all, are almost certainly 8-bit or more at the hardware level. This means they can natively render 16.7 million colors — still trivial compared to CRTs, but most video cards can’t generate more than 16.7M colors anyway.

    This is why it’s nigh impossible to calibrate a MacBook Pro laptop’s internal display with an external 30″ Dell display. Yes, you paid in excess of ~$2500 (and so did I) for a laptop with a 6-bit display. It sucks.

    At this point in time, it’s impossible to be certain your work will be displayed on-screen as intended everywhere or even in most places. Get a color calibration device if you’re at all concerned about it; make your screen(s) look good; process your photos only on calibrated 8-bit (or greater) displays; don’t stress about it, except where you can actually fix things, because there’s really nothing you can do about how a user wants to adjust their screen — even if their web browser uses your color profile, if their screen’s built-in controls are out of whack, as they’re almost guaranteed to be, it ultimately won’t matter one bit what’s in any photo’s profile. No need to worry extra about prints, I think: Who’s going to buy a print that looks like crap on their screen, even if its crapitude is their screen’s fault?

    And in the future when all display devices render colors in agreement, you’ll *still* only need to worry about your displays looking right. 😉

    Bonus point:
    For the poster who suggested holding your prints up to the monitor to eventually calibrate the two devices (assuming you weren’t joking): not a good use of time. 🙂 Why? Because, among other things, reflected light (the print) and projected light (the monitor) will never, ever look identical. A Spyder2Pro (Suite package), for less than $100 these days, will enable you, with software, to calibrate both your monitor and printer, though, so all is not lost. 🙂

  119. Jim
    January 12, 2008 at 3:58 am

    And speaking to the Huey/Spyder point about controlling room light (mostly because it’s no longer strictly relevant):

    The new HueyPro and Spyder3 compensate for ambient light in real-time. Just do the initial calibration under the most common lighting conditions in the room and afterward they’ll adjust the display as appropriate if/when the ambient light changes.

    Now, who do I complain to about this expensive-as-hell 30″ Cinema Display not having a damn built-in contrast control so I can “perfectly” calibrate the thing? Ugh. 😛

  120. romy
    February 16, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    great post is there profiles avail. online that have been set to 2.2


  121. March 26, 2008 at 5:37 am

    I have done some work for a customer, slicing up a page and creating links etc.
    When this is displayed on a windows PC using IE or FF it displays fine. But when its displayed
    on a MAC it looks as if the slices have been pushed about!

    Are there differences?



  122. David B.
    March 27, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    THANK YOU, Don, for explaining just WTF is up with my Mac when I choose “Save for Web” in Photoshop. I have been frustrated for all-too-long at how the colors get all washed-out.

    IMNSHO, the Mac’s behavior for displaying untagged image files is seriously broken. The vast majority of such files are sRGB with a gamma of 2.2. That’s what the Mac should assume by default.

    I find it preposterous (and totally counterintiutive) that when I change the Monitor driver settings, the displayed difference between a tagged and an untagged file can evaporate. Logically, changing the settings on a display device should affect all displayed images equally — it’s a device setting, not a per-image setting.

    Color management should make things more consistent between systems, not less. And one of the reasons I’m a Mac user is that it (normally) frees me from tearing my hair out over technical details like I’ve just spent this week doing with regard to web colors.

  123. July 5, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    I work on a mac and use a pc for the web, and the article describes the colour changes I have noticed. Great article,, so now I ve ideas on how to remedy them.
    Macs are great to work on, but most people use pc s .
    thanks for the article

  124. Ideas At Random ...
    December 6, 2008 at 2:52 am

    Wow! This is exactly the article I needed to read today while I work on a new web project … glad to know I'm not the only one that had this question … Thanks for the post 🙂

  125. December 30, 2008 at 8:40 am

    In the next version of OSX, Leopard 10.6 Apple will change the gamma from 1.8 to 2.2.

    -"Default Gamma Changes

    To better meet the needs of digital content producers and consumers, the default display gamma has been changed from 1.8 to 2.2 in Snow Leopard. Applications that override the deftault and assume a gamma 1.8 setting may have different onscreen and printed output than they did in previous releases of Mac OS X. Please report any visual differences that you encounte"


  126. February 5, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Эээ, объясните, плиз, а то я чего то не совсем в тему въехал, это как?

    July 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    2.2 looks so shit though, colours lose all subtlety, 2.2 is a punch in the face, and 1.8 is a gentle caress

  128. August 13, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    I'm on a macbook pro, with OS X 10.5.7.

    When i calibrate my display to have a gamma 2.2 and whitepoint d65, the display looks different than the profile that I downloaded from the link in this article. Those 2 calibrations look quite different, with the downloaded one being much more bluish.

    I'm using the calibrations to edit in aperture for photos to be used on the web. Which of those 2 calibrations will give me the closest approximation of what the viewers with a PC will see?

  129. August 25, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    So many misinformation here it's making my head spin…

    Safari displays images with embedded .icc profile correct.

    Any Mac user should be using Gamma 2.2, ideally on a calibrated screen. No reason whatsoever to use 1.8. Images will look identical if viewed color managed anyhow.

    If you want an image and a background to match in any browser, strip the .icc profile. Easy.

    FF 3.0 with color management enabled color manages like Safari should.
    FF 3.5 does it the Safari way by default, but can be set to fully color manage.

    @Paul: Calibrate the screen. sRGB is *not* a display profile, and should *not* be used as one.

  130. October 9, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    Hmm, I've standardized my pc and mac all on 1.8 on warm white (or page white). I've always had to use Adobe gamma to fix the broken default gamma on my pc. This always looked "wonky on PC's" other than my own. Go figure.

  131. November 23, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Thank you very good information..

  132. December 18, 2009 at 7:28 am

    Nice little bit of coding there. Ty, now I understand an issue that IE6 has with some websites (usually putting in a sideways scrollbar)

  133. December 20, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    thanks for the summary, i will buy a mac then i will do it

  134. December 27, 2009 at 5:49 am

    nice article if all you do is surf the web. but if you are working in PRINT then ignore this totally and calibrate your display with your press.

  135. January 2, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Thank you very successful and useful site I have received the necessary information …

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