Color management

Here's a pair of screenshots of the same image, as displayed in Geeqie. On top is the version with color profiles disabled (on the View -> Color Management menu). On bottom is the default, with color profiles enabled.

I have only a very basic understanding of color management, but I thought the idea was to enable more accurate color reproduction and prevent images looking desaturated and washed out. However, to my eye, it seems that the colors are more saturated without color management.

Viewing the image in Firefox shows the saturated version. I understand that Firefox doesn't do color management, so this seems consistent.

Is this a problem with my software or my expectations? I'm using Ubuntu 14.04 and viewing images in the following programs:

eog (Gnome Image Viewer): desaturated by default.
Geeqie: desaturated by default; saturated by disabling color management
Gimp: saturated by default; disabling color management makes no difference.
Firefox: saturated by default.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ Your premise that "more saturated = more accurate" is not correct. More accurate may be more saturated or it may be less saturated than your preference / taste. I recommend using an external calibration reference and comparing your images to that. For example, take a photo of a redish brown object (or ideally a color checker) and compare the different settings you've described. Using an external calibration reference is the only way to really be confident. \$\endgroup\$
    – B Shaw
    Nov 1, 2014 at 0:30
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Inthink firefox does do color management. I recall it being recommended as having more correct behavior for certain cases. \$\endgroup\$
    – JDługosz
    Nov 1, 2014 at 2:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ For colour management to work consistently a good monitor profile is needed. If the monitor profile is generic, it is often better to switch colour management off. \$\endgroup\$
    – Iliah Borg
    Nov 1, 2014 at 2:30
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @jdlugosz: Yes, Firefox uses embedded ICC data or falls back to sRGB. \$\endgroup\$
    – TFuto
    Nov 2, 2014 at 9:10

1 Answer 1


Color management aims to reproduce the same color on different devices so that there is consistency through image capturing, editing and final output generation.

A good overview is available on Cambridge in Colour.

Accurate color in color management means the same color, not an improved or more beautiful color. To alter or improve your colors, you need to post-process images. (But before you do that, establish your color-managed environment.)

Also, a color-managed environment needs a bit more than being enabled in Settings. You made the first step forward, but your computer does not know about your viewing environment and how your monitor and video card is set up - so it has no knowledge what are the colors you are seeing. That is why, you have to calibrate your system (video card + monitor) with a calibration tool, such as an iDisplay Pro. (I like this one, there are many more cheaper or with more functionality. Also, it may be harder to find a supported device for Linux, I warn you.)

Once you completed that step, you will see colors of images with embedded color profiles the way their creator intended you to see. And creating images with embedded color profiles, you will be able to properly communicate your color intents to others (e.g. for a print shop).


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