Best Workflow CS5: The Ideal Color Settings for Photoshop and CS5

All of my One-on-One products—whether videos or books—begin by encouraging you to adjust your Creative Suite color settings and load my custom keyboard shortcuts. The color settings file goes by the name Best Workflow (because, I argue, that’s the resulting environment); the keyboard shortcuts are dekeKeys.

I’ve received requests to distribute both. Which is the purpose of today’s post.

Photoshop CS5 recommended color settings

I explain how to make your own Best Workflow color settings today. I’ll post dekeKeys CS5 as a free download next week.

(For you impatient ones, dekeKeys CS5 is similar to the dekeKeys II file that I posted as part of Martini Hour 57, In Which Deke Gives You Part of His Brain. The podcast itself explains how they work, which is differently than dekeKeys CS4 and earlier.)

This post is devoted to walking you through the process of creating your own Best Workflow file and then applying it to the Creative Suite as a whole, if you own the Creative Suite. The steps are applicable to all recent versions of Photoshop, including CS3, CS4, and CS5.

But first, let me address why color settings are important:

  • RGB is a subjective color space. The fact is, colors shift from one screen to the next. And not just a little bit. Wildly. For example, have you ever walked into a modestly enabled tech store that sells 2 or so TVs—presumably playing a football game, cuz that’s what they’re always playing in this country—and noticed how the green field on one screen looks more yellow or blue on another? That’s because the signal contains a series of RGB codes and the TV translates them any which way it likes. Remember that game (not football) of telephone where you whisper a message into your friend’s ear? “I love meatballs” comes out “I judge street brawls.” It’s like that, only worse.
  • CMYK is a cell phone message from hell. The same thing happens when you print your images. Every printer has its own brand of CMY(MYK)K color. Which means that the old game of telephone transforms into some horribly modernized version of AT&T’s freakishly unpredictable iPhone coverage. With “I love meatballs” turning into “I @#_*^ &!*%$^@# %=$ %!#*& ^%&$@ $+#_% 1111 111 ***** 111 11 what the +&$%#!” Again, only worse.
  • Colors Settings locks ‘em down. Photoshop’s Edit > Color Settings command locks down the RGB and CMYK definitions so that the telephone message you hear cognates properly and comes out of your mouth in something closely resembling the same form. That is, my screen and your screen and our printers and all the happy monitors round-and-round the world (god bless ‘em) convey similar colors.

Photoshop and the rest of the applications in the Creative Suite are set to generate consistent color by default. The oversight IMHO is that they lock down the RGB working space as sRGB. For all that it’s routinely maligned, sRGB isn’t bad. In fact, it’s an excellent innovation for ensuring reliable consumer-level imaging. But if you use Photoshop, chances are you’re not a consumer. You’re likely working with a pro-grade digital SRL, a modern flat-panel LDC display, a capable inkjet printer (stocked with high-quality paper), and an experienced commercial print house. In which case, sRGB—which roughly approximates the color capabilities of an old-model, inexpensive CRT screen—is not for you. There’s a fair amount of conjecture over what profile best embodies the ideal RGB working space. But Adobe RGB more than suffices for professional-level 8-bit/channel work. Which is why I encourage you to use it here.

That said, here are the steps required to create your own Best Workflow color settings file:

  1. In Photoshop (the best Adobe app for this purpose), choose Edit > Color Settings.
  2. Change the first RGB setting to Adobe RGB (1998). Note that doing so has consequences, which I’ll explain in a minute.
  3. If you are in communication with a representative from your preferred commercial print house and he/she has provided you with a press profile, load that profile as the CMYK setting. (You can do so by choosing Load CMYK from the first CMYK pop-up menu.) Otherwise, leave it as is.
  4. Click on the More Options button to expand the dialog box.
  5. If your work is primarily photographic in nature, change the Intent setting to Perceptual. If it’s mostly design and vector art, leave the option set to Relative Colorimetric.
  6. If you work with a lot of screen shots, or you integrate Illustrator artwork into your Photoshop compositions, turn off the Use Dither (8-bit/channel images) check box. Otherwise, you can leave it on. (Although personally, I like it off for all work. Dithering results in noise patterns that can interfere with editing. And dithering provides only slight advantages when converting digital photographs between color spaces.)
  7. Return to the top of the dialog box and click the Save button.
  8. Name the file “Best Workflow CS5” (or whatever) and again click Save.
  9. Copy this text: “These are the settings that Deke recommends in his Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign CS5 One-on-One products for Deke Press, O’Reilly Media, and They ensure consistent color and printing across all three applications.” Then paste it into the Color Settings Comment field. Click OK.
  10. Click OK in the Color Settings dialog box to apply your changes,

Photoshop is now ready to go. But if (and only if) you own the full Creative Suite (any variety), you need to make the other CS applications aware of your changes:

  1. Choose File > Browse in Bridge to switch to the Adobe Bridge.
  2. Choose Edit > Creative Suite Color Settings. If you get an error message, it means the Bridge thinks you bought Photoshop by itself, not as part of the full Creative Suite. In which case, there is nothing I can do for you. It’s an irritating convention that Adobe has chosen to implement, but it is Adobe’s doing.
  3. Assuming however that you don’t get an error, locate Best Workflow CS5 (or whatever you called it in the previous Step 8) and select it. Then click OK.

That’s it. All applications in the Creative Suite (that pay attention to such things) are now set to observe your new color settings.

I mentioned earlier that there are consequences to shifting to Adobe RGB. They are these:

  • All of your existing profiled images will look the same on screen as they did before. However, for the sake of consistency, you may want to switch them over to Adobe RGB. You can do so by opening such an image and choosing Edit > Convert to Profile. Set the Destination Space to Adobe RGB (1998). Turn off the Use Dither (optional) and Flatten Image to Preserve Appearance (mandatory) check boxes. And click OK. If you get an error message, click the Don’t button. Check that your image still looks the same on screen. If so, all is well. Save your changes. If not, undo the change and leave the image set to its original profiled space.
  • If you open an unprofiled image, it will appear to change. I stress that because in fact the file remains the same; it’s Photoshop’s interpretation of the image that has changed. To set the image back to its previous appearance, choose Edit > Assign Profile. If you get a message, click OK. Change the Profile option to sRGB IEC61966-2.1. Then click OK. The image should now be back to its old self. Choose File > Save to add the profile. If you want to make the image match the working space, perform the step documented above. But that’s entirely optional.
  • If you create Web graphics, be sure to use File > Save for Web & Devices for that purpose. Also, confirm that the Convert to sRGB check box is on (as by default), which converts the colors so they look moderately accurate across the wide range of typically uncalibrated consumer screens.

You Web designers may well ask, why go to all this trouble if Photoshop is set by default to sRGB, the closest thing there is to a Web working space? (Most modern Windows systems are characterized to sRGB as a matter of course.) Because my assumption is that Web work isn’t your only work, and that you want as much flexibility as possible when editing your layered compositions, which is something Adobe RGB better affords.

And that, my friends, is it. One more bit of advice: If for whatever reason your world seems to have gone to hell in a handbag after applying my suggested settings, you can always restore the original defaults: Return to Edit > Color Settings and change the Settings option to North America General Purpose 2 (or the localized equivalent for those working in other countries).

I know, it’s a complicated topic. Intricate, anyway. But the results are worth the effort. And once you’ve done the work, you don’t have to do it again. Even the next time you upgrade Photoshop, you should be able to retrieve your saved color settings. If you switch to a new or different system, however, you have these steps to add you in your transition.

Next entry:Martini Hour 065, In Which We Talk More Photoshop CS5 With Bryan “Zátopek” Hughes and Some Guy Named

Previous entry:My Comprehensive “Photoshop CS5 One-on-One: Fundamentals” Goes Live


  • Thank you sir….

    I used to adopt Deke’s Shortcut…more that the defaults!!

    Black Seals ... White Reveals…!

  • Just a bit more, please :)

    Deke, thank you for this comprehensive article. Please, share just a bit more of your knowledge. Now it’s clear about Photoshop’s Color Settings, but how about monitor’s color profile?
    Let’s say I have average 22’ LG LCD screen, should I assign a profile which comes with the device or leave it blank or maybe assign something else to achieve best results?

    My bet is to assign profile which comes with the device, ‘cause I watched Color Management Essential Training on last year.

    What would you say?

  • Printed precisely

    I just printed a portrait with my Canon ip3600 using these settings and my printers’ profile. The print was just like what I saw on my screen in Photoshop CS5. I couldn’t ask for anything better than that!

  • Using a colorimeter with CS5

    What’s the best way to incorporate a colorimeter such as a Pantone Huey into CS5 color management? Does it affect the color workflow settings inside the creative suite apps at all?

    The Huey calibration software allows you to select among Color Setting presets, including Web Browsing & Photo Editing, Graphic Design & Video Editing; do you have any particular recommendations for which one to use with Photoshop and Illustrator? If this is a subjective choice, do you have any advice on how to evaluate these to determine which ones are best?

    Finally, do you recommend using a colorimeter at all, and if so, which ones work best?

  • Monitor Calibration Tool

    I use the i1Display LT tool by I had a Huey and I was having problems with it making the screen turn to magenta. I wrote Pantone about the problem and they offered me a choice of getting a free replacement with a Huey Pro or they will have Xrite send me the i1Display LT. I took the xrite product of course and I was even able to keep the Huey.

    Many of the technicians and photographers on our stock photo site swear by the Huey and say it works fine. I like the i1 product line better and it was recommended by Chris Orwig in his early videos at

  • Best Workflow CS5 - Color Settings

    Why not use ProPhoto RGB instead of ADobe RGB (1998) in this process?


  • Consistency is why

    I have not looked at the graph of ProPhoto RGB, but I am sure it is a large enough color space to be used at the professional level.  Although the color space is adequate, if you compare it to Adobe RGB there will be differences at certain points.  Adobe may be larger at one point and ProPhoto may extend out farther in another area, no two color spaces are identical (I am pretty sure).  So, it really just comes down to the fact that Adobe RGB is commonly used and if you go with that color space, your sure to be using a professional color space and also be in the same color space as the majority of other institutions that you may deal with.  At the end of the day, as long as ProPhoto is adequate it just comes down to preference.

  • ProPhoto RGB is designed for 16-bit/channel

    On the face of it, ProPhoto RGB appears to offer every advantage. It provides a wider gamut than Adobe RGB (just as Adobe RGB provides a wider gamut than sRGB), and therefore permits more nuanced color and luminance transitions, as well as more richly saturated colors.

    The problems with using it for day-to-day imaging work are two: First, ProPhoto RGB was designed to accommodate high-bit depth images, which means 16-bit/channel in Photoshop. (Adobe RGB is more than sufficient for 8-bit/channel work.) Second, the ProPhoto RGB gamut is not just large, it’s enormous, well beyond what a typical display, printer, or press can reasonably accommodate. That means highly saturated colors are going to get clipped (Relative Colorimetric) or the gamut as a whole will get compressed (Perceptual). Which increases your potential for disappointment with the final output.

    That last item might seem like a fairly damning indictment. But to be fair, what really counts is whether 8-bit Adobe RGB or 16-bit ProPhoto RGB leads eventually to the better print. My personal experience is that, where most images are concerned, it’s difficult (if not downright impossible) to tell the difference. Which is why the simplest solution is to settle with Adobe RGB.

  • graphics processing power

    Back in the day, I remember turning off the mac’s virtual memory, because photoshop used its own memory allocation. Good times.

    Now its 2010 + I’m not sure how much graphics cards really figure into today’s speed/rendering equation. How are my (sometimes ginormous) .psd’s or illustrator files effected? I do try to keep my files clean… but y’know, those files can bloat up pretty quick.

    I’m no gamer, just a graphic designer/art director/print production pro/retoucher. Monitor calibration still matters to me. (Though as I become more of a web designer, I’ve had to learn how to let go of color perfectionism). In good times, I’ve worked on some huge files, for huge clients with deep pockets, at big agencies. But I haven’t had that kind of serious work in nearly a year + a half. 

    So, I want to buy a new (refurb) mac for working at home. I’m also painfully broke. How much consideration should I give GDDR3? ATI Radeon 4670 graphics with 256MB memory, 4850 graphics with 512MB memory… How big a deal is all this really? Can I get away with buying an NVIDIA GeForce 9400M without the dedicated graphics memory? Or do I lose too much in performance by saving $300?

    Macworld benchmarked these graphics chips with photoshop CS4 + found only a 3 seconds difference.

    How does a poverty stricken high-end power user strike a balance?

  • Use a gaming program

    Folks with a Windows system have the option of using a program that turns off unnecessary processes which frees up computer resources for graphics intensive programs like gaming or Photoshop.

    A good free one is Game Booster from Iobit

    Perhaps you could find something equivalent for your Mac.

  • PSCS5 is garbage

    Deke, I’m thoroughly enjoying your training, but for the most part, I can’t do a darn thing at home about it.

    I’m running a Windows 7 x64 Pro rig with 12GB DDR3-1333 and a BFG GTX285 OC.  You’d think this would be the ideal setup.

    But PS CS5 suffers from MULTIPLE and REPEATED display driver failures and recovery.  It’s to the point I can’t work 10 minutes in the program without getting another.  Simply infuriating.

    And when you ask Adobe, they say it’s nVidia’s problem who says it’s BFG’s issue who says it’s Adobes.  Nobody wants to take responsibility for this issue, so I’ve paid $800 to upgrade to a suite that crashes the OS display driver over and over.

    I’m so disheartened too… cause I love playing in Photoshop. :(

  • ProPhoto RGB

    Thanks for the information on using ProPhoto RGB or Adobe RGB, it was helpful.  Another questions comes from you answer.  Using 8bit verse 16bit, is that also personal preference with Photoshop CS4?  I will aslo be upgrading to CS5, in the next week, does that affect the decision on 8 v 16 bit?


  • CS5 Advanced and Mastery

    Deke, I’m sure you’ve given this information before but I must have missed it.  What are the expected release dates for your PS CS5 Advanced and Mastery series on LDC?  Thanks.  DP

  • Difference between 3 featherings

    Hi Deke After making a selection with the rectangular marque tool there are three ways I know to feather the selection. The feather box in the toolbar, the feather selection box ctrl+alt+D and the refine edge feather selection.

    Seems I recall you saying somewhere that they are not the same. Could you shed some light on the similarities or differences if there is something significant?

  • They all produce the same effect

    That is, they all blur the selection using Gaussian Blur.

    The difference is utility. The Feather option in the options bar is a static control that affects the next selection you draw. The Select > Feather command affects the current selection, but with no preview so you’re working blind. The Feather option in Refine Edge works dynamically, with a preview, plus you can mix it with other controls.

    The last is by far the most flexible. But they all generate the same results, assuming equivalent settings.

  • 8-bit v. 16-bit behaves the same

    In CS4 and CS5. Color settings haven’t changed.

  • That’s what I was hoping to hear.

    I find I get a better blend with content aware fill and have the rectangular marque tool as my cursor (per your suggestion). I find myself cleaning borders and little imperfections on the fly more often with CS5 and just wanted the most convenient access to the feather control.

    Thanks for the reply. Always learn something new from watching your videos whether they be old or basic.Try to get in a few a day.

  • Power

    I’m running Photoshop CS5 on my two year old MacBook Pro, OS X.6, 2.2 gHz, 4GB RAM, Nvidia Geoforce 8600m 128 MB VRAM. Works great, snappy as all get out, lovin’ it!

  • How many separate operations in Photoshop?

    In a tutorial Deke did for, he commented, “there are over xxxx number of different operations that Photoshop can perform.” I remember the number being something like 5,000-7,000 but have not been able to find that particular movie again. I’m pretty sure he said this in reference to CS3. Anyone know this number or have any idea of how many different functions are now available in CS5? Thanks,

  • Help Deke…how to get back thumbnails

    Hi Deke,
    I watched your video on CS3 Bridge crashing and how to keep it from happening.

    Since Bridge had been crashing for me, it sounded like a very good idea.  I found the cache and deleted it.  However, I have several orders that I’m working on, and when I went to Bridge to see what photos I needed, they were nowhere to be found.  Of course, they are in the folder where they are saved, but I don’t want to open and go hunting trying to figure out which photos I want.  How do I get them back into Bridge?  I guess I should not have deleted them.  I haven’t emptied the trash, but I want to see what is in the folder without having to open all the photos.

    I went to file to see if I could just import the thumbnails from the folders, but I don’t see a place to do that….just from the camera.  Please help!

  • Bridge CS5 keyword question

    Being new here, I don’t know if it’s OK to ask a Bridge question?  I’ll ask, but if I shouldn’t please tell me.

    Using Bridge keywords, how can I choose what is common to two keywords.

    For instance, “Rivers” and ” NY.  How can I make them tell me just the rivers in NY?



    Sheila Caim
    Traditional & Fine Art Photography
      and Digital Artistry

  • The same problems just reversed.

    Before I found this article, I was using a different setup. Issues with color forced me to look around. I work on web and print. On any given day, I’m doing both.

    Old setup

    - 2 Monitor setup with Macbook Pro + 23” Widescreen Acer (Both manually calibrated)

    - Adobe CS3 suite set to Monitor color profiles

    Old setup results

    - Save for web JPEG w/ ICC profiles checked = Off color
    Since JPEG already loses data due to compression, I was fine with JPEG looking different from photoshop.
    - Save for web PNG-24 = Perfect color

    I tend to use the dropper tool a lot when working in web, color in safari always matched photoshop. When I needed true color, I would output the PNG.

    Deke Setup

    - 2 Monitors with Macbook Pro + 27” HDMI Hanns-G Widescreen (Both set to default monitor profile)

    - Adobe CS3 suite set to Adobe RGB

    Deke setup results

    - Save for web JPEG w/ ICC profiles checked = Pretty good color match. Checked on Safari, Opera, Firefox, Chrome on Mac.

    - Save for web PNG = Horrible washed out colors.

    What gives with the PNG’s now? I’m at the point where the JPEGs are slightly off but much better and PNGS are totally off. Dropper tool is now functionally dead. I will never be able to reproduce any colors I see on the web because of this strange mismatch. As for “Convert to sRGB”, it always stays checked by default.

    Like most web developers, as long as we can get the color close to where we want it, we are fine with it. Color is really all about that RGB pop now anyways. Having washed out colors for outputted PNGS totally kills any pop in color.

    Is there something extra in the process that I’m missing to bring this closer to a perfect color workflow?

    In fact, opening up the image and assigning the Monitor LCD profile will make the color perfect again, but who wants to do that as an extra step everytime I output PNGs.

  • Best Workflow CS5

    I loaded up your Best Workflow CS4 awhile back is it any different than the Best Workflow CS5?

  • problem with CMYK file

    Hi Deke,
    I need help with the following problem. I received a logo file from a graphic designer in jpg format which was created as a CMYK. Now I need to place this logo in the titleblock of various photoshop and/or illustrator documents. The photoshop documents are RGB and my color settings have been changed to Adobe RGB 1998. (‘Convert to profile’ is also set to Adobe RGB 1998). The problem is that the document image colors print great, but the color of the logo at the bottom of the document is off.
    I also tried changing the logo file from CMYK to RGB prior to placing it into the RGB document but that does not seem to make a difference.
    Any suggestions? Please help smile


  • best workflow file

    regarding the location of the file: Best Workflow CS5.csf on Mac you wrote:
    choose Go: Home and copy to Library/Application Support/Adobe/Color/Settings.

    However, for those using the Mac OSX 10.7 developers preview, the Library folder is hidden. So after you are in the Home folder you need to choose Go To Folder… and then type in Library.

  • Thanks for the info

    I hate this onerous prevention of access in the name of security. I swear, one day we’ll all have to take off our shoes and pass thru an x-ray with our underpants on our heads before we can log on to our laptops.

  • How do I tie my monitor into my colour workflow?

    How do I tie my monitor into my colour workflow? 

    I have a Dell DELL UltraSharp 2209WA

    Should I use the ICC profile for it and should I change my Monitor settings in Photoshop?

    Let me know


  • color settings

    When I try to apply the color settings to Bridge (as described above), it says:
    Could not complete your request because Photoshop does not recognize this type of file. (csf file was saved).
    Please advise.
    ... It finally showed up as an option to choose.

    Thanks so much!

  • Bringing my LCD monitors into the work flow

    Hello Deke from me in Australia! I have just followed your Photoshop CS5 set up instructions. All went in with no problems. ( Production Premium)
    I have multi screens 3 (one Primary) -  2 HD LCD’s and one LED for comparative sake.

    I am nervous about “what I see is not what I’m getting” with the Primary screen set up in particular…..does the Bridge pull the designated one into the equation?


  • best workflow cs5.csf

    Hello, I am taking the course on,

    I cannot find your download for the best workflow cs5.csf file and I cannot find it on my system.

    Can you help?


    Hi Deke, I have profiled my Eizo monitor via colornavigator software and created a profile for my Epson R1900 (Ultra Glossy Epson stock) using colormunki.  My prints are coming out about 1/2 stop too dark even though I knocked down the luminance to 75.  Room is lit 6500K.  I called xrite and Ezio and they are saying that there is an imbalance with photoshop.  Can you help.  No one seems to have an answer I tried using view- cmyk, and view- using the monitor profile and prints are no different

    Thanks much

    Jan Barkan

  • Best Workflow CS5

    Best Workflow CS5 it says install but where is the download

  • Illustrator CS5 Color Settings

    1) This post leans towards RGB settings - I was hoping you could provide a walk-through of creating a print-ready PDF (for a commercial print house) from start to finish?

    2) I was hoping you could also provide a walkthrough to set up the ideal color settings for Illustrator CS5?

    Thank you SO MUCH Deke - your website is most helpful!

  • Thanks a lot for sharing us

    Thanks a lot for sharing us about this update. Hope you will not get tired on making posts as informative as this.
      click here

  • I need help with my color setting

    I have been creating star fields in Photoshop for quite some time now. But when i go to change the levels (Image>Adjustments>Levels) it seems to have no effect. But if i apply a Level directly above the layer it works fine. Right up until i save it. It doesnt matter what i save it as it doesnt come out how it looks in Photoshop. Now i dont know if there is something wrong with my color settings or anything. If it helps i am working on a 32” HD 1080p LG LCD TV.

    It would mean alot if you could find a solution as soon as possible

    Thank you in advance


  • Question: Color Space

    I set my color space in Photoshop CS% & Lightroom 3 to aRGB, then I print from Photoshop and in Photoshop I select my paper color profile (Canon proPlatinum) to print.  Will this not give me different color from the aRGB I am using in Lightroom & Photoshop?  or is the selection of the paper profile suppose to take care of this?  (Printer is a Canon pro9500 mk ii (these are CYMK printers).

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