Re-learning color workflow

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Quick Jumps:

First up, throw out all that 0-255 talk

The industry is finally moving away from this concept. From now on all colors will be talked about in the correct 0 – 1 colors space. The old 0-255 is a hold over from when we could only work in 8 bit colors, we now have better options.

8 bit space :Real Color Space

Red = 255

Red = 1.0

Green = 0

Green = 0.0

Blue = 255

Blue =  1.0

What is Linear vs sRGB vs Others (yes there are more)

  • LINEAR () : A color value goes from 0-1 in a linear fashion. If you were to check half way from 0-1 you would get a value of 0.5
  • sRGB (LINK) : Adjusts the colors to give you more colors in the mid ranges while crunching blacks and white. Mostly for Computer monitors.
  • rec709 (LINK) : Use for HDTV. Your TV maybe converting this before you see the image
  • rec2020 (LINK) : HDR Monitors

Why use Linear?
When using a file in Nuke the math needs to be correct. When you apply a sRGB curve you are messing the math up. For example 50% gray is now more like 70% gray.

*JPEG under the hood adds a sRGB curve to the image without you seeing it.

The correct way to use color in a pipeline

3d softwareCompositing softwareEditing Software
Rendered in sRGB spaceLimited color correction, wrong math appliedCrunched colors, limited color corection
Rendered in linear spaceBest color correction availabilityBest color correction availability and ability to add a LUT

Save your file in a correct file type

EXRFull 32 bit,Linear workflowNon-destructive compressionFrom 3d package to Compositing to Editing
TGA8 bit (with an Alpha)sRGB workflowNon-destructive compressionFile that are originally 8 bit ( scans, user made textures )
JPEG8 bitsRGB workflowDestructive compressionOutput to client to view on the web or email
PNG24 (Possible 32 bit)sRGB workflowDestructive &  Non-destructive compressionSome games engines support this but mainly output only to web or email


  • Digital created files should always be saved as a linear file.
  • The fact that your are looking at your render on a monitor, its already sRGB