ColorPerfect, ColorNeg et al. & RGB / gray working spaces in Photoshop Elements (PSE)

This article is specifically about Photoshop Elements (PSE) which has a reduced feature set when it comes to dealing with color spaces. That is not a problem though - if you understand what you are facing. Before reading this text please do read the first paragraphs of the more general article about ColorPerfect, ColorNeg et al. and RGB / Grayscale working spaces. It's enough to read on until you hit a link back to this Photoshop Elements specific sub page.

While there is no explicit way to assign a color profile in PSE it's still possible

Differing from Photoshop there are very few options when it comes to color spaces in Photoshop Elements. There is the "Edit > Color Settings" dialogue as depicted below and there are three options on the "Image > Convert Color Profile" menu being "Remove Profile", "Convert to sRGB profile" and "Convert to Adobe RGB Profile". The latter two should never be used prior to converting negative scans with ColorPerfect's ColorNeg mode as they are potentially harmful to your photo's colors when used at this early stage of the process. The "Remove Profile" option however is actually equivalent to the desired "Assign Profile" command in Photoshop. The only difference is that you can't specify what profile is being assigned like you could in Photoshop. Which profile does get assigned is determined from your Color Settings instead.

"Edit > Color Settings" determins what color space is assigned upon "Remove Profile"

There is the four basic color management options in Photoshop Elements shown below. The first option "No Color Management" discards any color profile that might be embedded in any image files you open and lets Photoshop Elements assign your primary screen's device profile to the image data instead. This generally is not a good idea as it can lead to various misinterpretations of existing images. In addition there's the fact that many such device profiles are not intended to store images in so there are various potential problems in setting up ColorPerfect, too. You should not select this option.


The next two options lead to either sRGB or Adobe RGB 1998 being assigned when opening images that don't contain any embedded color profile. At the same time these determine what profile is assigned upon using the "Image > Convert Color Profile > Remove Profile" command.

If the image does have an embedded profile that intrinsic profile will be used instead of the above default unless you specifically remove it. This is sensible and important when dealing with images that have already been edited by someone.

The only downside to this is that some scanning applications do embed a color profile even when using the workflows intended to create linear scans (RAW scans) which are detailed on the scanner pages. That means that after opening the scan the embedded profile - whatever it might be - would be used to interpret the image data shown in ColorPerfect and Photoshop Elements. This is not desirable so you'll have to use the "Image > Convert Color Profile > Remove Profile" command to assign either sRGB (if you chose "Always Optimize Colors for Computer Screens" as your Color Setting) or Adobe RGB 1998 (if you chose "Always Optimize Colors for Printing" as your Color Setting). Whether this removal step is required for your scanner software's workflow is easy to determine. When using sRGB "Convert to sRGB profile" should be grayed out on the "Image > Convert Color Profile" menu after opening the file and when using Adobe RGB 1998 "Convert to Adobe RGB Profile" should be. If both are available or if the wrong one is grayed out another profile than the one desired is assigned and you should remove it. You only have to determine this once for your scanning workflow. Either you'll always have to do the removal step or you don't.

In using ColorPerfect you'll have to set the value of Gamma C on ColorPerfect's start panel according to what color space you chose. Use a setting of 2.2 for Adobe RGB 1998 or set Gamma C to sRGB when using sRGB. The setting will be remembered by the plug-in for future calls.

Make sure that you do embed the color profile you used (sRGB or Adobe RGB 1998) upon saving your processed image files so that they will be displayed and printed the way you made them in the future. To do this just check the checkbox in front of "ICC Profile: ..." on the "Save As" dialogue.

What color space is best for inverting negatives then? - sRGB or Adobe RGB 1998

As explained near the bottom of the more general article you started reading before this choice really is an artistic one. If Gamma C is set accordingly in ColorPerfect the only difference between either option's result will be what RGB primaries are used to render the final image.

Some people report that they find the skin tones too red when assigning Adobe RGB 1998 since it has a somewhat extended color gamut. If that is the case for your images use sRGB instead. It really depends on the nature of your work and on what you like best. Experiment with your own negatives and choose the setting you prefer.

The gray profile assigned upon "Remove Profile" also depends on "Edit > Color Settings"

The mechanism used for grayscale images is identical to the one detailed above for RGB images. Grayscale and RGB working spaces are linked to each other however - that is they can't be set separately. If you chose "Always Optimize Colors for Computer Screens" the gray working space assigned upon "Remove Profile" and when opening untagged images is Gray Gamma 2.2. If you chose "Always Optimize Colors for Printing" it's a 20% Dot Gain. In the first case use a Gamma C setting of 2.2 in ColorPerfect to exactly match the profile used and in the latter case set Gamma C to 1.8 to best approximate the Dot Gain.