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How to produce high dynamic range on-screen graphics in Affinity Photo

Learn how to work with cICP PNGs for professional workflows such as broadcasting and visual effects.

The addition of 32-bit HDR PNG 3rd Edition to existing True HDR support for Mac and Windows means Affinity Photo meets all the key requirements for high dynamic range on-screen graphics for professional workflows such as broadcasting and visual effects—making Affinity the first design software package to deliver this capability!

Why is PNG 3rd Edition support important for broadcasting and special effects workflows?

In 2023, the PNG specification was updated to include support for HDR imagery via additional “chunks” of metadata, allowing PNG files to be used as a robust and lossless interchange format for high dynamic range image content. The specification also includes graceful fallbacks should the files be opened in software that does not recognise these new “chunks”.

Although there are a handful of other formats that support HDR encoding, none of them quite tick all the boxes for professional workflows such as broadcast and visual effects.

JPEG-XL, whilst mature, is not widely adopted, and the popular web browser Chrome deprecated its support last year. Although it does have lossless encoding, most software will default to its lossy implementation, meaning it is not foolproof for an environment where lossless delivery is required. AVIF, HEIF and WebP, similar to JPEG-XL, are regarded more as lossy end-user delivery formats. OpenEXR and Radiance HDR, whilst flexible and popular with VFX software, require a colour management solution such as OpenColorIO, which may be regarded as non-user-friendly.

When it comes to colour management, the PNG Third Edition specification proposes a new cICP (colour independent code points) “chunk” that signals the HDR transfer function and colour space encoding. This ensures these two crucial aspects of the image encoding are unambiguous, and therefore the rendering between different decoders and encoders should remain consistent.

How can I export this new variant of PNG in Affinity?

Affinity Photo—and by extension, Designer and Publisher—now support HDR encoding for the PNG format. Images can be encoded with both PQ (perceptual quantiser) and HLG (hybrid log gamma) transfer functions, along with a typical BT.2020 colour space. Standard dynamic range colour spaces and transfer functions (e.g. Rec.709) are also available, enabling this more robust colour management to be used for SDR imagery as well.

See how to work with cICP PNGs in Affinity Photo

The tutorial video, which can be watched in HDR if you have a supported web browser and display, covers how to export to this new variant of PNG, and then looks at interchanging with NLE (non-linear editor) software. Finally, it also covers how to develop a single RAW file directly to 32-bit HDR and then export to HDR PNG—ideal for VFX compositing workflows.

Discover more

Visit our YouTube channel for more video tutorials from our product experts, or check out the wealth of learning articles here on Affinity Spotlight.

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Product expert

James is the voice of Affinity Photo and creates most of our Affinity Photo tutorial videos as well as providing in-house training. A self-proclaimed geek, James’ interests include video, programming and 3D, though these are eclipsed by his passion for photography which has now reached an obsessional level.