First of all, let me say that I know all about color profiles: within the overall idea of using RGB to specify color, you can choose different basis vectors. At its simplest it’s like converting between Celcius and Fahrenheit, but each axis may also point in slightly different directions. Oh, and the axes wobble a bit and the numbering isn’t exactly evenly spaced all the time.
I realize that the document needs to state what it means by the color numbers it contains, as does an output device, so abstract meaning can be converted from one measurment system to another (to the extent it can).
So, that covers document profiles and device profiles. End of story.
But what’s a “working profile” in Adobe products?
Here’s an example that shows how I don’t know what Adobe is actually doing: I wanted to re-create a gradient in InDesign from an original in Illustrator, because copying the object left a mess of tiles and paths and not a single thing I can continue to adjust. E.g. so I can drag the middle dot control to tune where the color transition “breaks” relative to the other elements on the layout.
So I open the Illustrator file and it complains that the document profile (ProPhoto) is not the same as the working profile (sRGB). I told it not to abandon color management so… what did it do exactly, since Illustrator doesn’t convert profiles? But I note the values in the gradient editor.
I assume that I can’t just copy the numbers since I expected them to be in ProPhoto. But I can’t convert in Illustrator. Esporting a PNG I espected to produce sRGB but the output file is unmanaged!
So I switch to Photoshop. I create a new document in sRGB, import the Illustrator file (as a smart object), and so far it does not complain about color profile mismatch. I flatten, and still it does not complain about colorspaces.
Using the eyedropper, I measure the same RGB values that I had in Illustrator’s gradient editor!
So was that sRGB all along? Or is it silently losing my profile (since it did not complain)?
Well, I do the same thing creating a ProPhoto Photoshop file this time, and now I measure different values. So it wasn’t simply ignoring the profile when I imported. The smaller number for the same color means I can go farther along the Red axis now if 255 is still the limit.
So… does “working space” mean it will hide the actual profile from me, and use the converted values for dialog boxes where colors are needed? But it still goes (only) from 0–255 when if I was really editing a ProPhoto file I should have sRGB-converted numbers outside that range. So is it clamping input and reporting of the values as well? Is it clamping the display of color? But isn't that what the match or display profiles are for?
And, is this different between the various Adobe tools in the CC suite?