September 04, 2009

Why your Web content will look darker on Snow Leopard

If you’re a Web designer, expect your CSS colors & your untagged/unmanaged images to look darker on Snow Leopard than on previous versions of the Mac OS. You’ll also see less of a visible color shift when going from Photoshop to Flash or other unmanaged environments (e.g. Internet Explorer).

Why is that? Apple has switched to a default gamma of 2.2, which is what Windows has used for years. Colors that aren’t color-managed are going to look darker on the whole. Your whole display will now be closer to what Windows users see*.

Apple’s marketing materials (and reviews of Snow Leopard) say only that the change is “to better serve the needs of consumers and digital content producers.” Not really knowing what that means, and wondering why Apple would change the Mac to match Windows after 25 years of using gamma 1.8, I sought out more info.

Adobe Principal Scientist Lars Borg provided some perspective. Lars has spent the past 20 years at Adobe defining & driving color management solutions, and lately he’s been focused on digital cinema standards. Here’s what he said:

In the distant past, the computer world was colorless, bleak, stark black and white. No one cared about their display gamma, as gamma is irrelevant for displaying only black and white.

Macintosh, in 1984, introduced us to desktop publishing and to displays with shades of grays. Publishing at that time meant printing presses, and the dot gain of a typical press (then and now) corresponds to a gamma of 1.8. As color management was non-existent at the time (the first color management solutions did not appear until early 1990s, when color displays became more available), Apple’s pick of a 1.8 display gamma enabled the Macintosh displays to match the press.

In early 1990s, the TV industry developed the High-Definition TV capture standard known as ITU Recommendation 709, using a net gamma of around 2. Later, in 1996, IEC put forth a CRT-based display standard (sRGB) for the Web that would match the HDTV capture standard, having a net gamma of around 2.2. sRGB was slowly adopted first in the PC display market, next in the burgeoning digital camera market, and 2.2 became the dominant display gamma.

Is 2.2 the ultimate gamma? No. In 2005, leveraging color science research, the movie studios’ Digital Cinema Initiative selected a gamma of 2.6 as providing the best perceptual quality for 12-bit cinema projection. Today, few can afford a true Digital Cinema display at home, but as always prices are falling. Yes, that’s what I’ll have in my next home theater.

But, recall VHS versus BetaMax. The VHS format finally died with the last video tape. Gamma 2.2 will not be unseated easily. However, calibrated displays and functional color management will make gamma a moot point. Gamma will be for the Luddites.</blockquote

>Interesting stuff. Despite the Flash Player now supporting color management, I’m not holding out hope for Web developers suddenly starting to give a damn about the subject. At least now we’ll be less likely to hear complaints about colors “getting screwed up” when going from Photoshop to the Web.

* For what it’s worth, when I was a Web designer I’d always set my Mac monitor to gamma 2.2, the better to match the darker Windows environments on which my designs were most often viewed.

Posted by John Nack at 10:08 AM on September 04, 2009

Comments

  • Min — 10:59 AM on September 04, 2009

    Fascinating read. Had a “duh” moment realizing there were more gammas beyond 1.8 and 2.2.
    re: changing gamma to 2.2 on the Mac, I keep a Windows laptop around for the same reason (that and IE6).

  • dvessel — 11:09 AM on September 04, 2009

    Any idea if all the UI elements of the OS uses color management? The 2.2G on SL seems to make all windows and other UI widgets slightly darker. It’s not a big deal really. I’m already used to it.
    When I first started using SL, I also notice the anti-aliasing on text used more contrast. Made the text look sharper. Now it’s transparent to me as I’m accustomed to it and I might have been imagining things.
    At first I thought it would bother me but I think this was a good move by Apple.
    BTW, I remember when some Photoshop users would use a gamma of 1; complete linearity claiming edits became more accurate. I tried it for a while but it came with more headaches and ultimately wasn’t worth it. And I guess it wouldn’t apply to the whole OS since it’s simply being displayed with little internal blending of colors outside of composited windows which don’t matter.

  • Robert — 11:12 AM on September 04, 2009

    As usual, Apple’s simply copying Microsoft!
    [To be clear, I didn't say or imply that, and sRGB/gamma 2.2 aren't in any way specific to MSFT/Windows. --J.]

  • Ted Dillard — 11:19 AM on September 04, 2009

    Sorry, John, but that’s not the story I got… I think I got it from as near the “horse’s mouth” as you can- Bill Atkinson, who not only pioneered ColorSync, but built QuickDraw and helped develop the first laser printer for Apple. (I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet him at his home studio only a few years ago…)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Atkinson
    The story he tells is that they were trying to get the Laserwriter to print close to what the screen was showing- in monochrome, mind you, and the only way they could get it to work was to jack the gamma to 1.8.
    In his words… “it was the silliest thing.”
    Color Management wasn’t even a thought at the time, and it set the stage for decades of Color Management mismatch and confusion.
    I asked him about it because I read a story about gamma, and that, back in the mid-90s this team took a bunch of cards and tested them- Mac and PC, and they all tested out to around 2.1 – 2.2.

  • Jp Cooper — 12:01 PM on September 04, 2009

    If the Main Display setting si defaulted to 2.2 then everything is going to look darker!
    “JN said:* For what it’s worth, when I was a Web designer I’d always set my Mac monitor to gamma 2.2, the better to match the darker Windows environments on which my designs were most often viewed.”
    Same here – I’ve been using 2.2 on Macs as a standard since forever. Also it allows for better contrast adjustments.

  • Lars Borg — 12:13 PM on September 04, 2009

    Ah, Ted’s probably right.
    The laser printer and the printing press have about the same gamma. The 1.8 setting works OK with both, and at that time, both were driven with uncorrected data.
    Adobe PostScript, Aldus PageMaker and Apple LaserWriter came out in 1985.
    The Adobe history (http://www.adobe.com/aboutadobe/pressroom/pdfs/timeline.pdf) says the first PostScript image setter (Linotronic 100 and 300) and printer (Apple LaserWriter) came out in 1985.
    Lars

  • Jeff — 2:25 PM on September 04, 2009

    I work with photos that I will be sending to a lab, and am setup so I do color correction and all that, not them. What gamma should I use? I calibrate my display, so I can choose the gamma I am using.

  • Jim Pogozelski — 7:00 PM on September 04, 2009

    I had no idea Snow Leopard was going to do that — thanks for the detailed update.

  • Ted Dillard — 3:47 AM on September 05, 2009

    Thanks Lars- with a teenager at home, those are words I rarely hear! LOL!
    Bill was so funny telling that story… almost embarrassed, but you could taste the excitement and enthusiasm they had, doing everything they could to make this stuff work. …must have been heady times.
    [Bill was over here a couple of years back and talked about the challenges of getting the mouse to work. He vented to Steve one day about a particular engineer's "can-don't" attitude, and when he came in the next day, the problem guy was gone. Hard core. --J.]

  • dvessel — 12:19 PM on September 05, 2009

    I understand that part. I was asking if the UI was color managed since then it would prevent the change in the mid-tone.
    Silly thing to ask though since it’s easy to check by picking a profile calibrated to 1.8G. And to answer my own question, it isn’t managed with a color profile. Might not make sense to do so at all.
    And to add clarity about the anti-aliased text. I mentioned that because it seem to be related to the more contrasting gamma.

  • Eric — 8:30 PM on September 05, 2009

    I seem to remember hearing Bill Atkinson tell that story when he was lecturing at my workplace. He donated quite a few images from his book “Within The Stone” which are now hanging in the hallway outside my department. Amazing stuff.
    I also have been upping my Macs’ gamma to 2.2 for years. For one, it’s simply better to go along with the Windows-dominated world.
    Apple in this case isn’t copying Microsoft (as if). Not to mix joke genres, but it’s because they’re the proverbial chicken crossing the road – because it was chained to the elephant.

  • Richard Boswell — 11:34 PM on September 05, 2009

    I have noticed many problems with Snow Leopard and Photoshop CS4. My program crashes when trying to open images even in tiff. I am also having problems with some 3d party plugins.

  • magula dentata — 2:16 PM on September 06, 2009

    I have noticed many problems with Snow Leopard and Photoshop CS4. My program crashes when trying to open images even in tiff. I am also having problems with some 3d party plugins.
    What does that have to do with Snow Leopard’s display gamma?

  • Paul NYC — 5:03 PM on September 06, 2009

    For compatibility’s sake, this was a good move by Apple. Still, though, I prefer the more subtle palette of 1.8 gamma. I’m used to the contrastier 2.2, but feel that a lot of detail in the highlights and shadows is harder to see. It’s a shame that Apple was not able to convince the rest of the world to move to 1.8 instead.

  • DNM — 2:29 AM on September 07, 2009

    Its a sad day, 2.2 kills a whole spectrum of dark grey that I love deeply

  • John Woods — 5:19 AM on September 07, 2009

    Seems pretty reasonable to me dude!
    RT
    http://www.privacy-web.pl.tc

  • craig — 6:31 AM on September 07, 2009

    It’s misleading to say that Apple is changing to 2.2 to match the darker Windows environment. The entire computer world has been 2.2 except for Apple. 2.2 is superior to 1.8.
    For those that think that 1.8 offers superior grays and a “more subtle palette”, you are wrong. As was already mentioned in the article, gammas even higher than 2.2 are proven to be a better match to the eye. If you wanted a better palette you’d be using 2.6 or other alternatives.
    All video encodings use gamma values far higher than 1.8 (higher than 2.2 actually). One of the benefits of Snow Leopard’s changes will hopefully be that Quicktime’s color rendering for default video won’t be so horribly bad with a 2.2 gamma. Quicktime’s color rendering was always asinine.
    As for Apple’s selection of 1.8 originally, it was already mentioned in the comments that it was simply to match the Apple printer and nothing more grand than that. I suppose if you believe the entire printing industry was defined by the Apple laser printer then the two stories would be the same. Typical Apple revisionist history…

  • Jeff Potter — 6:42 AM on September 07, 2009

    If one is using a calibrated display, does gamma matter? I.e., if a designer generates the content on a display set to 2.2 and the user views it at 2.2; how does this differ from content generated at 1.8 and displayed at 1.8?
    (I can see how content generated at one gamma and displayed at another value would be impacted.)

  • Tage — 7:35 AM on September 07, 2009

    I think the move to 2.2 was a good move for my new MBP. It was as the screen had a grey overcast before SL. (And trying to correct that with creating a new color profile using the calibrate option has no happy ending, at least not for me).
    I’m happy with how things displays now.

  • Simon Strandgaard — 8:08 AM on September 07, 2009

    iirc gamma correction.. this seems like a bad move. Resulting in less precision in the upper intensity range. Giving more precision in the lower range of intensities that cannot be sensed by the human eye. With 256 intensities per color component the useful intensity range becomes more narrow.
    hopefully I’m wrong so the effect is that precision is increased for the brighter intensities.

  • Sergey — 9:50 AM on September 07, 2009

    What really puts me off is that Apple didn’t manage to color-manage their GUI. I like the light colors of all the windows. Now with a default Gamma 2.2 and Apple not doing their homework, everything looks darker. Why, Apple?

  • Gary Politzer — 10:28 AM on September 07, 2009

    It is worth mentioning here that the Adobe Photoshop Mac Forum has been recommending Gamma 2.2 for years, for professional use. I always use Gamma 2.2 because I do graphics for the web. After a while of using Gamma 2.2, 1.8 looks too bright & washed out.

  • Gali — 10:59 AM on September 07, 2009

    I think people are missing the point here. There is no superior Gamma. 2.2 is not better than 1.8, it’s just different.
    The main motivation for the change most likely has everything to do with the iTunes store. It now offers a wide range of digital video, something more suited to a gamma of 2.2 which provides more contrast in low light conditions, making it better for watching a movie on your computer in the dark. Why 2.2, and not 2.6 or whatever. Could be because that is the standard for PCs. More likely because that is the standard for televisions which iTunes videos are calibrated for in the first place.

  • Tom — 11:10 AM on September 07, 2009

    I think the move to 2.2 is a really good one, it will go towards the standarization of the web on a higher level and introduce a higher level of conformity amongst web designers and their colour swatches! I’m sure long-term Mac users will take some time to get used to it, but hopefully it will work out for the best.

  • Snowflake Seven — 11:14 AM on September 07, 2009

    …I’m not holding out hope for Web developers suddenly starting to give a damn about the subject. At least now we’ll be less likely to hear complaints about colors “getting screwed up” when going from Photoshop to the Web.

    That is not entirely fair. There are plenty of web designers/developers who want to get it right–to understand and use color management. But color management is a very complicated set of technical calibrations. And frankly, Adobe still has failed to make their portion of the process straight forward.
    So as difficult and necessary as it is for users to learn color calibration and management, the same is true of software companies that need to continue to improve the ease of use and understanding of the same.

  • Ben Richardson — 11:54 AM on September 07, 2009

    I wondered about the UI when I first heard about the gamma change.
    I assumed Apple would want the change to visibly affect the appearance of the UI, so I guessed they would have to re-draw all the 10.6 UI elements *lighter* to maintain the same appearance when rendered with the new 2.2 gamma as 10.5 did with 1.8.
    Anyone know if this is the case?

  • Ben Richardson — 11:57 AM on September 07, 2009

    Where by, “would”, I of course mean, “wouldn’t”.

  • Chris Cox — 12:07 PM on September 07, 2009

    You have that backwards. Human vision is most sensitive to value changes in dark regions, and less sensitive in light regions. That’s why we use gamma encoding in the first place: to make the best use of the bits in representing what we see. Without gamma encoding you’d have too many bits dedicated to lighter colors that the human eye can’t distinguish.
    Gamma 2.2 and 1.8 aren’t really that far apart, but 2.2 is closer to being visually uniform.

  • Simon Strandgaard — 12:47 PM on September 07, 2009

    Then this is great news. Thanks for clarifying. :-)

  • dan djorgi — 1:08 PM on September 07, 2009

    As a webdesigner I’ve been using 2.2 on Macs/OSX for years now.

  • Josh in California — 1:13 PM on September 07, 2009

    “I suppose if you believe the entire printing industry was defined by the Apple laser printer then the two stories would be the same. Typical Apple revisionist history…”
    Nobody’s made that claim here. Drop the immature BS or get lost.

  • George Wedding — 1:33 PM on September 07, 2009

    The calibration and proof preview tools available in Photoshop today mean that it no longer matters whether the gamma setting used for a properly calibrated display is 2.2¥ or 1.8¥. But reliable soft proofing tools weren’t available in early versions of Photoshop or other applications. So, photographers, artists and designers of the early 1990’s doing professional pre-press work for print, calibrated their displays to the known pre-press standard (1.8¥) — to help foresee, and compensate for, the “mid-tone dot gain” that invariably occurred in press reproductions. In those early days, Apple’s ColorSync color management tools and the use of the 1.8¥ setting made Macs the superior platform for color pre-press work — by far.
    For some years, if photographers of the day needed to create reproductions for TV or computer displays, they would have to temporarily re-calibrate their displays to the 2.2¥ setting. With today’s software calibration and proofing tools, you can easily generate and proof images for any reproduction system.
    That said, two separate International Organization for Standardization (ISO) guidelines governing gamma settings still exist. The oldest standard (with 1.8¥), was defined for darkened pre-press workplaces; a newer international standard (with 2.2¥) wasn’t officially established until 2002 — for typical (and much brighter) office environments with mixed window/daylight and fluorescent lighting.
    Really, these two ISO-standards should be thought of as recommendations for setting up a controlled color editing workspace. The computer gamma setting is just one factor in doing this. While the default gamma setting in Mac OS X Snow Leopard has changed, the need to precisely control light in your computer editing room has not.
    The existing ISO 3664:2000 (1.8¥) standard long has been used for ideal, tightly-controlled editing environments in which a measurably precise illumination level in the editing room is lower than the light emitted from the display. The walls are painted a color neutral gray and changing window light is not allowed to affect illumination levels throughout the day. In this darkroom-like editing environment, no reflective room colors would be visible in the display glass and even the computer’s desktop background ideally would be set to a neutral color. The computer operator would wear color neutral clothing and even avoid chocolate or drink coffee, because, it is said, caffeine can change your color perception. Proof prints are analyzed using special, calibrated color-neutral proofing lights (ideally not fluorescent, which have undesirable color spikes at certain points in the visible spectrum).
    In reality, if you work in this type of controlled editing environment, you WILL see colors and tonal values that just aren’t discernible in other editing environments. Fortunately, the software calibration and soft proofing tools in recent versions of Photoshop, mean you can use the 2.2¥ setting in this editing environment.
    The other standard, ISO 12646, defines a set of less-stringent viewing standards for image editing facilities. It defines the proper the conditions and settings, lighting levels, that can help you work successfully with the 2.2¥ setting that produces darker mid-tone values on a computer display.
    Back in 2001, I wrote a couple of stories on all this for http://www.creativepro.com. Most of the details remain relevant. See the two-part story here:
    http://www.creativepro.com/article/the-darkroom-makes-a-comeback
    http://www.creativepro.com/article/the-darkroom-makes-a-comeback-part-2-
    [Really interesting stuff, George. Thanks for contributing these details to the discussion. --J.]

  • JohnO — 1:59 PM on September 07, 2009

    Note that an upgrade from Leopard to Snow Leopard will not reset the Gamma from 1.8 to 2.2. Users will need to make the change in the Displays control panel.

  • Steve Moore — 3:07 PM on September 07, 2009

    I believe this is simply because Apple’s future business is focussed on using the mac os (whether on macs, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, ?tablet/remote …) for video playback.
    It needs to look more like a TV display. That’s it.

  • Jwo — 3:33 PM on September 07, 2009

    Any visuals?

  • Locke — 4:23 PM on September 07, 2009

    When I set my gamma to 2.2, the black pattern on the sides of this site nearly disappears – it becomes almost solid black. They’re much more visible at 1.8. At 2.6, about half of the torn paper type effect along the edges of the white area is gone and the image behind the menu on the right is almost invisible.

  • James — 6:51 PM on September 07, 2009

    Interesting. Personally, as a web designer, I always set my Mac’s display gamma to 2.2 anyway to match Windows – it’s just easier that way. If I use 1.8, I end up designing something that looks good on my screen but then often shows up too dark on a Windows PC.

  • Grant — 8:17 PM on September 07, 2009

    Now for the user perspective – I don’t need to fit with Windows or any professional publishing and calibrate the display to my personal preference. What gamma am I using on my late 2007 aluminium iMac? 1.4 ! Maybe things are better on LED displays, but this is quite a depressing prospect for me. I haven’t upgraded to Snow Leopard yet, because I’m waiting for my audio interface manufacturer to get the message that a new Mac OS is coming (don’t know where they’ve been for the last 18 months). Sure I can just re-calibrate to 1.4 if necessary, but 1.8 didn’t show enough detail for me, and 2.2 just plain sucks, much less 2.6!! Might as well buy a Windows computer and hack OS X onto it. I feel sorry for you guys in the pro world. And here was I hoping that televisions would improve their quality to the standard of a Mac monitor, not the other way around. I feel like Marvin the paranoid android…

  • SD — 9:51 PM on September 07, 2009

    I was ignorant about this..but thanks for this great explanation….

  • Breton Slivka — 11:02 PM on September 07, 2009

    Poynton’s gamma faq is a must read for anyone that cares about the subject. The true reason for this “gamma” business has to do with two factors:
    1. Humans do not percieve brightness linearly. In other words, if one light is measurably twice as bright as another light, it will not look twice as bright. As someone else mentioned, human eyes are adapted to see dark things more clearly.
    2. A CRT monitor does not produce linear light in response to linear voltage. Twice as much voltage does not produce twice as much light. In fact, the function which describes the relationship between voltage and light in a CRT monitor is nearly the inverse of the function between light, and human perception of brightness.
    An uncorrected video signal (gamma 1.0) would appear quite dark to the human eye, but the perception of the image would fairly accurately reflect the actual amount of light present in the original scene.
    A gamma of 2.2 or 2.4 is applied in camera, or via some kind of signal processing equipment before it’s sent to a television set. The idea is to make the image produced by the television match what you’d see in reality. 2.2 is around the right value.
    As mentioned before, if your goal is to match what comes out of a printer, 1.8 might be better. I never knew that’s where that value came from, but it makes sense now.
    By the way, in case you didn’t know, gamma is a power function. If you map your brightness values to between 0 and 1 (x), the output values are x^gamma, roughly, so gamma 1.0 is a linear relationship since x = x^1
    As to which is better, 1.8 or 2.2? Depends on what you’re doing. It’s better to know where the numbers come from and understand why you’d use one or the other than turn it into a religious thing for no reason.
    As for web developers caring about gamma, I would if any color management software actually made sense. As it stands, it’s a bunch of UI voodoo. Photoshop makes it far from easy, frequently demanding the user answers questions about color management they can’t possibly know the answers to.
    Do I want to apply the workspace color profile, or convert to it, or do nothing? How should I know? Most designers (PRINT DESIGNERS) I know have no idea what the question even means, let alone how to answer it, and just answer randomly, hoping to just quickly get down to the business of doing something useful. A random choice is worse than no color management at all. This is why, I truly believe that despite their best intentions, adobe has made the color management problem 10 times *worse* than it was before, not better.
    Color management can’t exactly work transparently either. I know that apple has this color sync technology built into the operating system, in addition to adobe’s color management. Does this mean that my images are getting corrected TWICE? How should I know, and where would I even begin to find out?
    I think I read once that colorsync once had a show stopping bug for about 5 years, and nobody noticed? It’s not that nobody cares about consistent color, just none of these color management solutions are really solutions, I think they just add to the confusion.

  • Breton Slivka — 11:21 PM on September 07, 2009

    Oh yeah, and I forgot that despite having all these color management “features”, none of the adobe software that I know of, nor any color sync software, provides any way to create a calibrated color profile for any device. In order to do that you need to shell out on some expensive photometry equipment and software. How many print designers, let alone webdesigners are going to think it’s a worthwhile investment? I’m guessing *some*. As for webdesigners, that’s a whole other mess. Thanks not only to variations in manufacturing, but the random and haphazard way various displays get calibrated, there’s pretty much no way to garauntee anything about any color on any particular display that you’re not in control of. This is why I have to laugh whenever color management systems are proposed for web browsers.
    Precisely what color space would images be corrected from, and what space would they be corrected to? The answer? From whatever random choice got the designer/photographer to some useful work fastest, to whatever the default operating system setting is, which probably doesn’t bear any resemblance to the monitor’s actual behavior!
    Imagine putting a note on your website saying that in order to optimally view the images on this site, you must first purchase some monitor calibration equipment, go through the multistep process for creating an accurate color profile, correctly install it in the color management system of the OS, and then hope that you’re not just seeing things.
    And to think, people used to complain about having to download the flash plugin to see a site!

  • Derek Currie — 11:31 PM on September 07, 2009

    In some circles, sRGB is known as ‘stupid RGB’ because of its smashed gamut of colors. For some purposes it is simply terrible, as is using a gamma of 2.2. For surfing the web, however, it is an adequate standard. The challenge is to use color management properly for the work at hand. If your work is going to go to press, stick with a gamma of 1.8, etc. As for the comment about gamma eventually becoming a mute point, I find this very misleading if not flippant. Understanding in depth color management is required in order to comprehend why the statement was made. I wish he had not bothered.

  • Chris Lockhart — 1:24 AM on September 08, 2009

    At times I’ve used a gamma of 2 to try fit somewhere ‘acceptably’ inbetween the two camps, so that I can begin designing (for web) at a suitable compromise of colours and contrast for screen. I do hate walking over to a Windows machine only to see my designs lost in darkness. For TV work I’m using a broadcast monitor to proof anyway. However a gamma of 2.2 always looks blurry and dirty to me, especially in the greys – Apple should then colour manage their UI elements, ‘cos the crispness is lost otherwise.
    As far as colour management is concerned, Breton is right. Folks in the graphics software industry talk about it as if it’s used by everyone – but really I have never met a print designer (never mind web/broadcast designer) that specifically made colour management part of their workflow or even professed to understand it. Pro software has a long way to go to make this intuitive to users – it’s not something that is regularly taught in college and it raises too many questions in the users’ mind for them to bother with it: “I have 12 images in this document, from five different sources – do I match their profiles? change their profiles? what if they’re different and don’t print right? What IS a profile? Which is the ‘right’ one to use? Do I use ColorSync or Adobe’s tools? Do they clash? …
    A bit of a mess really – even a simple tutorial built into pro software including some of the obvious FAQ’s would go far to addressing this. Going to a Colour-Management Seminar is not in the budget or time-plan of many designers.

  • alexx — 2:39 AM on September 08, 2009

    I was ignorant about this..but thanks for this great explanation…..

  • Thomas R. Koll — 3:39 AM on September 08, 2009

    I’m programmer and somewhat photographer and changed my color settings completely as I like it just a bit darker than default. I’ve just looked it up and my gamma is at 2.08 on my MacBook pro. 1.8 feels too bright for me.

  • Dominik Balogh — 4:39 AM on September 08, 2009

    TV makers let customers set a wide variety of color settings, some features should better be inaccessible. Customers love to set their TV colors totally off and crazy saturated. I can put 10 TV’s in front of you, CRTs, Plasmas, 10 computer LCD displays and none of them will show an image the same or even comparable. Changing the default gamma in Snow Leopard’s generated profiles to 2.2 will not help at all in making it “more like a TV display”. Not at all. What’s a “TV display”? Even your TV out of the box was set very incorrectly from TV maker and nowhere at all it matched gamma 2.2.
    I guess this was not even that neccessary. Maybe more of a psychological step towards what the “standard” is. Low end displays and TVs are all totally off on arrival, and most graphic designers were using 2.2 for years anyway.

  • Noel Carboni — 9:34 AM on September 08, 2009

    I think this is a good move in the long term. The plain and simple fact is that web content is viewed by FAR more Windows users, and since Macs are still highly regarded in content creation it just seems like an ongoing disparity people don’t need.
    And we just KNOW there’s a snowball’s chance a lot more apps will become color-managed anytime soon!
    Anecdote: Just two nights ago I was working with my chief software engineer and was trying to show him how one part of a window wasn’t being updated to white but was remaining the light gray of the background of the dialog. He didn’t understand what I was saying because he couldn’t see the difference in the remote view of my Windows desktop he was seeing on his Mac. In the future, when he moves up to Snow Leopard that should longer be a problem.
    Of course, by then I’ll be on Windows 7 with its freshly washed out colors…
    In the near term I’m SURE that there will be a whole host of difficulties for Mac users as programs that just *know* Mac is gamma 1.8 will present new problems. Sigh; progress is painful sometimes.

  • kl — 1:53 PM on September 08, 2009

    I was completely ignorant about gamma and color profile issues until I’ve got myself Wide Gamut montior without knowing what I was getting into. On that monitor graphics without proper color management look like acid trip.

  • Max Heim — 2:24 PM on September 08, 2009

    I’m not sure that a change in the default gamma will make any difference to the majority of users. Most people don’t even know where to find the gamma settings — they just play with the brightness control on the display (thereby defeating any color management intent).
    I would like to heartily agree with the post about “stupid RGB” (sRGB), however. Talk about “lowest common denominator” — as I recall this was invented to reflect the color capabilities of a cheap PC monitor from the mid-90s. In what way is this relevant to any contemporary viewing situation? Even in the day it was a far cry from a professional-quality Trinitron CRT, and now that everybody uses LCDs, it is utterly irrelevant and functionally obsolete. Yet it persists as some kind of misguided “standard”, enforced by digital camera makers and ignorant web producers.
    [It remains a baseline, like the 216-color "Web-safe" palette before it. Knowing what you can count on for a wide audience has real value. That doesn't mean it has to be a constraint. --J.]

  • Jeremy Selan — 3:37 PM on September 08, 2009

    I know many of the folks involved here, and just want to add a bit of additional info.
    2.6 on the desktop is not preferred now, and even in a ‘clean-slate’ universe would likely not be preferable.
    The DCI spec Lars refers is based upon a series of contrast modulation
    experiments done by Glenn Kennel and Tom Maier. The chart is
    available as Figure 4-2 (Color + Mastering for Digital Cinema – Glenn Kennel).
    The interesting thing to note is that gamma 2.6 is only maximally efficient for a *theatrical viewing environment*, which is notable in
    that it has an overall image intensity of approx. 50% of the typically
    desktop CRT (100 cd/m^2 vs 48cd/m^2), and a dark surround (instead of a light-surround).
    In a common ‘traditional’ viewing environment
    workstations) gamma 2.2/2.4 is much more appropriate.
    If I had to come up with a ‘hacky’ rule of thumb…
    2.2 — good for normal (lights on in room) surround.
    2.4 — good for dim surround (lights off in room)
    2.6 — good for dark surround (and lower luminance)
    I would also add that ” calibrated displays and functional color management will make gamma a moot point. Gamma will be for the Luddites.” is not strictly accurate. A ‘reasonable’ gamma value is necessary for an efficient use of bits between the graphics card and the display. Even in a world of transmitting 10 bit data straight to DLPs (which are inherently linear), we still choose to use a gamma != 1.0 for this reason.

  • Jeremy Selan — 3:39 PM on September 08, 2009

    I know many of the folks involved here, and just want to add a bit of additional info.
    2.6 on the desktop is not preferred now, and even in a ‘clean-slate’ universe would likely not be preferable.
    The DCI spec Lars refers is based upon a series of contrast modulation
    experiments done by Glenn Kennel and Tom Maier. The chart is
    available as Figure 4-2 (Color + Mastering for Digital Cinema – Glenn Kennel).
    The interesting thing to note is that gamma 2.6 is only maximally efficient for a *theatrical viewing environment*, which is notable in
    that it has an overall image intensity of approx. 50% of the typically
    desktop CRT (100 cd/m^2 vs 48cd/m^2), and a dark surround (instead of a light-surround).
    In a common ‘traditional’ viewing environment
    workstations) gamma 2.2/2.4 is much more appropriate.
    If I had to come up with a ‘hacky’ rule of thumb…
    2.2 — good for normal (lights on in room) surround.
    2.4 — good for dim surround (lights off in room)
    2.6 — good for dark surround (and lower luminance)
    I would also add that ” calibrated displays and functional color management will make gamma a moot point. Gamma will be for the Luddites.” is not strictly accurate. A ‘reasonable’ gamma value is necessary for an efficient use of bits between the graphics card and the display. Even in a world of transmitting 10 bit data straight to DLPs (which are inherently linear), we still choose to use a gamma != 1.0 for this reason.

  • Kyle — 9:14 AM on September 10, 2009

    2.2 Gamma is the standard for sRGB displays. It has nothing to do with Mac/PC or your personal preferences. Web designers should set their displays to 2.2 gamma regardless of what the default gamma is of your OS.
    http://www.w3.org/Graphics/Color/sRGB.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_correction

  • Anna Green (web design) — 8:28 AM on September 11, 2009

    This is a very interesting post. Its mad to think that there are issues in today’s internet world that are about because of the printing presses of old. I do think something needs to be done to bridge the gap between Mac and PC, as a web designer i work on a mac where all my customers own PC’s this present obvious problems.

  • Josh — 3:28 PM on September 11, 2009

    The gamma changed automatically for me when I upgraded to Snow Leopard. It was not a clean install.

  • GammaXRay9 — 5:31 PM on September 13, 2009

    Seems like Mac had it’s eye on matching the printing press, and PC’s/windows were going for modern HD content by adapting more quickly. And then mac didn’t want to change. In this case, by being more matched to HD, windows may have done mac a favor. No mac fan will accept that without twisting it and claiming it’s false, but actually I really think it may be true. What I really find funny is that some web designers think you need a mac to get good results because they’ve drunk the kook aid. Mac if fine! But it’s not like it’s necessary to get great results on that or even video editing. So they all run out and buy macs based on what they are told. But then they end up making all these funky adjustments to create contenet that matches what most of the world will see. I’m glad they’ve finally decided to change the gamma to 2.2. And as for the “ultimate” gamma, I don’t think there is such a thing. At least not worth getting in a fight over. Instead I think there is a range which our eyes better respond to, and the electronics can deliver. Whether it’s 2.1, 2.2, 1.9 doesn’t matter, as long as it’s close and every one agrees on something.

  • GammaXRay9 — 5:49 PM on September 13, 2009

    But also add that I think the gamma has more to do with the initial hardware, rather than the OS. In other words the way monitors were made in part. It’s just up to the OS to adapt it. But then that could partially lead to the platform and what kind of monitor. Maybe there were also some differences in the monitors early on between platforms. But again, either way, now they are all going to be 2.2 which is useful.

  • Ashely Adams : Sticker Printing — 11:49 PM on September 16, 2009

    this was great deal of information. i also use gamma 2.2 to match my windows specification. it makes my designs look the way i make them.and clients are satisfied too.

  • Frantisek — 7:42 AM on September 21, 2009

    If this website’s background disappeared when you set gamma to 2.2, your display is waaay out of calibration or outright bad. You have probably contrast too high. I am using 2.2 on a calibrated monitor, and I can see the patterns completely correctly (nice art, btw).
    [Thanks. :-) --J.]

  • chris morton — 10:03 AM on September 27, 2009

    How does this apply to actual photo-editing?
    I tried changing my mac from 1.8 to 2.2 and found I had to add .67EV to get back to normal
    And with OS10.6 set to its then correct 2.2, what will happen to ones previous 20k images?
    PS…er I don’t use CS, I use Nikon NX2

  • Chris Cox — 12:51 PM on September 27, 2009

    As long as you are using a color managed application, it won’t make any difference at all.
    If you are using a non-color managed application, you haven’t been seeing accurate color anyway – so what’s the difference?

  • Andrew Rodney — 8:32 AM on October 03, 2009

    >If one is using a calibrated display, does gamma matter?
    No and yes .
    No in that in an ICC aware application, the Display Using Monitor Compensation architecture will compensate and the net result is, we see the same previews (if not, Mac and Windows users of Photoshop would be seeing different previews of the same data). Yes in that the native TRC of most displays is closer to 2.2 than 1.8, so if you calibrate to 1.8, there has to be an adjustment in the preview path, that’s usually being done 8-bit and the net results are more banding. This is why better, higher end, displays built for color work use a high bit path in the panel. There’s no downside to using 2.2 calibration on a Mac who’s OS assumes 1.8 other than a slightly darker preview outside ICC aware applications. The possible downside of a 1.8 TRC calibration is banding hence the reason for so many years, pro’s have been advised to calibrate to either a native gamma (if the software supports this) or 2.2.

  • johnny — 12:25 AM on November 13, 2009

    I was told the gamma in OS should match the monitor’s native gamma. LCDs do not have native gamma of 2.2 or 1.8, they just designed to simulate a CRT gamma response. A gamma 1.8 OS + a simulated gamma 1.8 LCD should look the same as a 2.2 OS + simulated 2.2 LCD. Am I right?

  • Stefano Cappello — 6:36 AM on November 16, 2009

    When I Export a layout from InDesign CS4 to PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-4:2008 choosing as destination a ICC v4 class, I receive a notification, at the end of process, that ICC profile v4 has been converted to ICC v2.
    What about “conversion”? There is a possibility that “some” info are converted with some limitations because icc v4 and v2 are different?
    In our workflow we have a mixed v2 and v4 profiles.
    The message is “generic” so we don’t know if we can forget it and enable the check box “don’t show again” or considering it seriously.

  • Sandman619 — 8:33 PM on March 23, 2010

    My understanding is that the Mac U I is color managed through ColorSync, which handles color management for displays, printers, cameras & all peripheral devices. This could explain why I noticed a dramatic color shift immediately after upgrading to Snow Leopard & have been unable recalibrate my display to my satisfaction
    Cheers !

  • Rob Marchant — 3:17 AM on November 29, 2011

    As if us developers don’t have enough to contend with! The sooner the big companies realise that cooperation goes hand in hand with competition, the better.

  • Fred Campbell — 8:35 AM on December 06, 2011

    I don’t know how much it matters, I calibrated my Mac when I did the upgrade, but then I test my websites on an old PC and all the colour renditions are dreadful. From a web design point of view I reckon you have to design for the lowest possible denominator. People with Macs just see the perks. Seriously, surf the web on cheap PC and it is a dreadful place.

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