Working with ICC Profiles, Tone Curves and Process Engines

Customization / Colors

Use the Capture One Base Characteristics panel to define the camera’s default reproduction of both color and tonal characteristics. The panel also allows the upgrading of the process engine when working on images in a newer version of Capture One.

Overview of the Base Characteristics panel

After de-mosaicing the RAW files, Capture One automatically selects the recommended default ICC color profile and applies an appropriate tone curve setting for all RAW image files from recognized camera models. These color and tone settings define the overall look for the camera or digital back.

The processing engine can also have an effect on the resultant image. Although the engine is upgraded for each new version of Capture One, that's often to facilitate new features, and doesn’t necessarily mean the color rendering has changed. While all subsequently imported images will be rendered with the new engine, if some of the new tools in the latest version rely on the new engine, then you may not be able to use them on the previously imported and adjusted images, without updating them. In general, it's not recommended, especially when they've been processed or exported to a final file. However, when there is a need to do so, it is suggested that you clone the earlier images and re-render them with the new engine.

When updating to a new version you won't therefore be prompted to update your existing images, but you will be asked to migrate the database of any older Catalogs, or Sessions that you open. Although this has no impact on image quality, you will benefit from any advances made to the reliability and performance of the management system.

If you are using Capture One Cultural Heritage, the Base Characteristics tool have an additional Mode drop-down menu and specialized Cultural Heritage ICC Profiles. Read more about these here.

Select an alternative ICC Profile

All of the ICC profiles are custom made by Phase One for the specific camera model. In some cases, certain camera models have additional ICC color profiles for various light sources.

Where only one profile is offered for a particular model, it may be possible to interchange with profiles from other models, in an effort to match the color, for example. Simply select the most appropriate for your intended use.

  1. Select the image or images that you want this adjustment to be applied to. 
  2. Go to the Color Inspector.
  3. In the Base Characteristics panel, click on the ICC profile menu field. A drop-down menu opens.
  4. Select from the following options:
    • Camera model name - recommended profile, or optional profiles for that camera model, if any.
    • Show All - all supported camera models listed by maker, including some effects.
    • Import - select to import custom profiles.
  5. Go to the Curve drop down menu and verify Auto is selected, or choose from the options (see below for more details).

Select an alternative tone curve

The Base Characteristics panel's Curve option dictates the initial tone mapping for the camera model. The choices offered are intended to emulate traditional film curves.

The Auto curve option automatically selects the appropriate tone curve characteristics based on the selected ICC color profile, usually the Film Standard setting where offered. In general, this option can be left to the default Auto setting, unless you prefer a different starting point with the tonal characteristics.

  1. Select an image or images in the browser captured with the camera model that you would like apply the adjustments to.
  2. In the Base Characteristics panel, go to ICC Profile fly-out menu and either verify, or select, the appropriate profile for the camera model. 
  3. Go to the Curve drop-down menu and select from the following:
    • Auto (default) - selects the most appropriate tone curve from those below, based on the ICC profile selected.
    • Film Extra Shadow - offers similar tone characteristics to the Film Standard option, with less contrast in the shadows.
    • Film High Contrast - has higher contrast than Film Standard, with deeper shadows and brighter highlights.
    • Film Standard - gives a similar look to transparency film, with deep blacks and bright mid-tones and highlights.
    • Linear Response - has reduced contrast overall and is intended to offer maximum control of tone mapping using the separate Curve tool, found under the Exposure Inspector.
    • Linear Scientific - this is intended for scientific purposes only, and should be avoided for general-purpose photography. This option is not available for most cameras.

Fujifilm Film Simulations

Capture One 12 supports a range of Fujifilm Film Simulations like Fujifilm Provia and Fujifilm Velvia when working on Fujifilm RAF raw files. The different Film Simulations are available from the Curve drop-down menu in the Base Characteristics tool when working on an applicable Fujifilm RAF raw file.

If you have selected a Fujifilm Film Simulation style in your Fujifilm camera, Capture One 12 will automatically apply the correspondent style to the RAF raw files. This is the default behavior as long as Auto is selected in the Curve drop-down menu.

Note this is a change from how Capture One 11 rendered the RAF raw files by default since prior versions did not support Fujifilm Film Simulations and instead rendered the RAF raw files with Phase One optimized colors and tone curve.

You should also be aware that the different Fujifilm Film Simulation styles under Curve will not only affect the tone curve (e.g. contrast and light balance), but also the colors. This is because the Fujifilm Film Simulation styles have an ICC profile applied under the hood.

If you want to render the RAF raw files with the Phase One optimized colors and tone curve (like the default in Capture One 11), please select Film Standard from the Curve drop-down menu.

You can change the default behavior by selecting Film Standard from the Curve drop-down menu, then click on the action icon in the Base Characteristics tool and select Save as Defaults for FujiFilm XXX. The RAF raw files will now be rendered with Phase One optimized colors and tone curve instead of the in-camera selected Fujifilm Film Simulation style.


Save as new default settings

When you want Capture One to apply the same ICC profile and tone curve to the camera model each time you import new images or your create new variants (using only the New Variant command), you must save the choices as a new default setting.

Note existing images will not be affected. If you want those images updated with the new defaults, choose the new settings and select Save as Defaults, then select the existing images and use the Apply Defaults command.

  1. Select an image captured using the camera model you intend to change the defaults for.
  2. Go to the Base Characteristics tool, and choose new settings from the following drop down menus:
    • ICC Profile - select new profile
    • Curve - select Auto or new curve
  3. Click on the action menu icon in the title bar and select from the following:
    • Save as Defaults - save as the new defaults for only new and newly imported variants from the relevant camera model.
    • Apply Defaults - apply new defaults to selected (i.e., existing) variants from the relevant camera model.
    • Reset Defaults for [Camera Model] - reset variants back to the Capture One default settings. Note the first variant modified in step 2 is not reset; simply select the required profile and curve manually instead.

Overview of process engines

Capture One only adopts the latest process engine on newly imported images, it does not automatically upgrade the process engine on existing images.

The processing method or engine determines the way in which a RAW file is demosaiced, color managed and presented on screen. The tools and their adjustments in Capture One can therefore produce different results depending on how they interact with the processing engines. 

Although advances in engines can dramatically improve how the image is rendered, several legacy engines are included to support previously used workflows, so there's no real need to upgrade.

However, should you wish to take advantage of new tools and advances in the process engine with existing images, you can manually upgrade the engine on selected variants from the Base Characteristics tool.

Warning! If you choose to upgrade the process engine, it is recommended that important images are cloned first, so that not only can they can be compared before committing, but more importantly that you also retain a copy of the image with the adjustments.

As upgrading the engine on variants has an irreversible effect on adjustments, this is an especially important consideration if you've finalized the images for output, and particularly so, if they've already been submitted to your client.

Re-render previously adjusted images using the latest engine

In general, it is not recommended to upgrade the process engine on existing variants. Unless you specifically want to take advantage of new adjustment tools on previously adjusted and processed images, it's not usually necessary to upgrade existing images. Capture One includes several legacy engines and the relevant one will be used with those variants.  

However, if you wish to experiment to see the effect of any new tools on those images, it is recommended that you make a clone of important images and only upgrade the processing engine on the clones. This way you will be able to compare the results and retain the existing images with their adjustments using the legacy engine.

Note User Styles and Presets created using a legacy engine may have to be fine-tuned with the new engine.

  1. Go to the Color Inspector.
  2. Select images in the Browser that require re-rendering. If multiple images are chosen, make sure the Edit Selected Variants option in the tool bar is selected.
  3. From the Base Characteristics panel, in the Engine text field, verify that the images were rendered with an earlier engine. If so, the version will be displayed along with an Upgrade button.
  4. Warning! Previous adjustments will be permanently upgraded and you will not be able to retrieve them later. If unsure, ctrl/right click (macOS/Windows) and select Clone Variant (F3/F8). Clones will be made and pre-selected for the next step (the original variants are not now selected and will be excluded from further adjustment).
  5. Click on the Upgrade icon to re-render the selected images. A warning dialog opens with Upgrade Engine or Cancel options.
  6. Click on Upgrade Engine, or press Cancel to return to editing with the existing engine.

Re-render using a legacy engine

Individual images can be re-rendered using a earlier engine quite simply from within a Catalog or Session.

Note that this option is not intended as a method of restoring images that have been rendered using a newer engine to a previously adjusted state. Upgrading permanently modifies any adjustments made.

In contrast, this option simply applies the default settings of the legacy engine to the selected variants. Any adjustments made will have to be re-applied from memory. 

  1. From the main menu, choose Capture One/Edit > Preferences (macOS/Windows). The Preferences dialog window opens.
  2. Click on the Image tab.
  3. From the Editing panel, go to the Default Process Engine fly-out menu and select the earlier version as required. Several legacy versions are supported.
  4. Select the image in the browser, choose Image > New Variant, or select ctrl/right-click > New variant, or use the shortcut F2/F7 (macOS/Windows). The image will be re-rendered with the legacy engine
  5. Apply adjustments as before, and, if necessary, process them to output or export.
  6. Remember to switch back to the latest engine to adopt the latest advances in image processing and the new tools, otherwise any new, imported images will be rendered with the legacy engine and will have to be upgraded.