Keeping Colors in Gamut

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Keeping Colors in Gamut

*Note: Currently I am only aware of ways to check gamut issues in Photoshop. If you are aware of another program that can check for gamut issues please let me know.

What is Gamut?

What you are designing on your computer screen is not necessarily what someone will see when they print out the item you designed. Monitors and printers handle colors differently, and when we talk about keeping colors in gamut, we are talking about making what is seen on the screen as similar as possible to what is seen when printed.

Before beginning a new project, most designers choose a color palette to work with, to keep colors standard throughout the project. This will also help to keep your project within gamut, as you can check your colors before you begin. Here I've gone ahead and set up a sample palette. Keep in mind that you will have the most gamut problems with neons and other bright colors.

To check if my colors are in gamut, I can quickly turn on a gamut check in Photoshop by going to View -> Gamut Warning:

You can see that the red color has been turned gray, which means that it is out of gamut, anything I make with that red color will not print true to what is seen on the screen.

In order to find a red that is in gamut, I can browse the color wheel. Any out of gamut color will be marked with an ! and you can click around until you find a red you like.

Or, you can switch the image to CMYK and then back to RGB. Now all the colors will be in gamut.

QC with Gamut

Gamut issues are particularly tricky, mainly because unlike some QC issues it's not black and white if something is an issue. It's easy enough to turn on a gamut check in Photoshop (View -> Gamut Warning), however just because you see some areas out of gamut, does not mean that they should be reported as a problem.

Keep in mind that what we are worried about with gamut is that images print closely to what is expected from the screen. If I am expecting to print out a neon green paper, but instead end up with a muddy green, I'll be disappointed. However, if there is a very small area that is out of gamut, which often happens when a texture is applied, I'm unlikely to notice any difference in printing.

As a designer the best way to get an idea of what's a problem or not is to convert your item to CMYK and see what happens. Here is a neon paper with a slight texture

By going to Image -> Mode -> CMYK, I can see how a "print" version of the paper will look

You can see that it's significantly different from the original. An item like this I would consider to have gamut issues and should be reported and fixed.

For this element if you turn on the gamut warning in Photoshop (View -> Gamut Warning) you will see a few gray areas, which means that there are some colors out of gamut. However, if you convert it to CMYK you will be hard pressed to see a difference. I would not consider this to be a gamut issue and it should not be reported.

When designing my #1 tip is to check your palette before you begin and make sure all colors are in gamut. You should be mostly good to go then. If I'm working with particularly bright colors, I may do some gamut checks along the way to see how things going. In order to "fix" a gamut issue, convert to CMYK and then back to RGB. If everything still looks good at this point (colors, texture, etc) you're good to go.

Thank you. That is super helpful. I had no idea about gamut or how to check it.

Is there a way to check to see if colors are in gamut in PSE15? I do not see any options under Image and Mode.

Marisa, thank you vso much! It's very useful.

Donna, unfortunately, you cannot check the gamut in PSE 15 smiley

I don't know if Adobe have added the feature in Elements 2018, but probably not, which is a pain!

Great tutorial. I created an action for the CMYK switch. But now I know when I check my colors a better way to make sure I am choosing gamut colors. I did start using Pantone colors which seem to work as well.

Very useful, will try this out.

Make sure you are designing in sRGB, the lowest common denominator for all devices on the market. It will be listed wherever your color profile settings can be found. This is the only way I know to be covered as well as possible in any software or system you are using.

This is excellent information. I remember a kit I made many years ago that never printed the way it looked on screen, wish I had known how to deal with that back then. I might have to re-do that kit now, if I can find it!

Thanks Marisa I do not print my scrapbook items at all .. just do everything online .I usually make everything sRGB but I would not know there was a problem for printing .. I am hoping to to start sharing my textures and papers in the Commons if I get approved to share ( that is what I make more then anything ) is papers and textures this tutorial will help allot

Had no clue about this problem but keept this info in my mind while working on my latest projects.
I suppose the blogtrain colorpalett is made whit this in mind?
I saved the colors from this years bloggtrainpalettts as a palett with that in mind.

I have PSE 15, and you can't check gamut in it. EDIT: PSE 2023 also DOES NOT have the capability to check gamut.

The free online photo editor Photopea can check for gamut issues! They have a tutorial site Photopea Learn to teach you how to use the program.

Below, you will find how to check gamut in Photopea:

USING PHOTOPEA TO CHECK GAMUT [Instructions by Jessica Dunn]

"Well this may be a few extra steps but if you find yourself in need you could use (free and works in browser - no installs).

I tested it on a png which I created out of gamut for the purpose of testing this.

1) Open the file in Photopea.

2) In the menu select Image->Mode->CMYK (You will notice the out of gamut colors change.)

4) Now, in the menu select File->Export As->PNG (or JPG).

5) Reopen the exported file in Photopea and select Image->Mode->RGB, but since it had been saved in CMYK all the color is now in gamut but now your file is back to RGB land.

[That switch in Photopea doesn't actually keep unless you first save in CMYK, then reopen that file and save as RGB.]

A bit of a hassle, yes, but if you find yourself needing it for some reason or other it is an option."

Hope this helps!

Thanks Marisa. Learnt somethng new today.

This is useful information. I've noticed that the colors in my pages that I post online are frequently different than the colors I see on my monitor when I'm working on the page. Does this have anything to do with gamut or is it because I have a retina screen and can see more colors than online? Or is it something else entirely? Thank you!

Gamut just refers to the colors that can be printed. If a color is out of gamut it means that it will not print how it looks on your screen. How your screen is displaying colors is another question, and can be changed. I know people talk about calibrating their monitors. I don't know anything about this! smiley

Thank you, I am learning so much here and still have a long ways to go... thank you all for your help!

Thanks, for explaining the difference. I knew there was something wrong with the colors I chose in Photoshop with the exclamation point. I really didn't know why. Now I do.