Show me more colours


August 07, 2018

sRGB has been the standard for over a decade, but new screens can display wider gamut colour spaces and designs should be prepared for it.

Colour

Ironically, I'm creating this post from a 15" MBP with sRGB support. But consumers' screens are supporting wider gamut, and that's something we should add to our workflow.

In September 2015, Apple's iMac was the first consumer computer with a built-in wide-gamut display, supporting the P3 coluor space. Three years later all new iPhones - iPhone 7 included - and iPads support it. Also, Microsoft's Surface Studio, Samsung Galaxy S8 and S9, and more modern devices and TVs are adding rich-colours to their offer.

Wide colour

In the same way that we took advantage of high-density screens using 1x, 2x, 3x ... ?x assets, we now have the opportunity of using a broader colour spectrum.

Bjango explained colour management in detail in these three posts: Part 1, part 2 and part 3.

If you go through the third part, you will see that some tools don't support colour management. I guess this will change soon, but it gives us an idea of the current state of colour management.

As a whole, the industry is doing a pretty poor job of colour management for our tools. This has to change.

Our display is going to regulate the colour range that we visualise, so if you are thinking of updating your laptop or screen, it's important to have this in mind.

How to approach colour in your project

I can't speak from experience, so I'll just share some research and concerns I have about using wide colour spaces.

Metrics

Maybe a good first step is understanding the impact of this decision during this transitioning time when not all devices are prepared to manage something else beyond sRGB. We could argue if people would appreciate this change, but if a significant percentage of your users have rich-colour devices, it might be worth this change.

Performance

Which screens are candidates for this change? Should it be a global change? Performance is something that's particularly important and we must find the right balance. I haven't found much information about iOS, but this is what Android says.

Android's note: When wide color gamut mode is enabled, the activity's window uses more memory and GPU processing for screen composition. Before enabling wide color gamut mode, you should carefully consider if the activity truly benefits from it. For example, an activity that displays photos in fullscreen is a good candidate for wide color gamut mode, but an activity that shows small thumbnails is not.

Workflow

Think about how this would affect you and your team. I guess that we will all jump into rich colour spaces using DCI-P3 or others very soon, but it's more about when moving forward.

Apple resources

You can see how Apple uses sRGB for mobile assets in their latest design resources and provide both sRGB and DCI-P3 assets for TV.

If you are using Sketch, have a look at their documentation about colour management and make sure you know the implications of converting colours compared to assigning a colour profile.


Related links

© Javier Alvear

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