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What is OCIO v2 and why does it matter?

With OpenColorIO v2 support now available in Affinity Photo 2.2, we answer some burning questions: What is OpenColorIO? Why is it useful? And how do you set up OpenColorIO with an OCIO configuration in Affinity Photo?


For digital artists worldwide, perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of creating stunning high-resolution digital images is managing colour–and for good reason! Colour work offers a tremendous scope of options, gamuts, tones, luminosity levels, and everything in between that can be quite daunting to master.

OCIO v2 - 3D render on a range of devices

What’s even more demanding is ensuring that the artwork consumed looks as the artist intended, no matter what device the audience uses to view it on. This is where OpenColorIO (OCIO) colour management comes in! Now, with the second version–OCIO v2, fully supported in Affinity Photo 2.2, it’s never been easier to arrive at a point where you can reliably preview and manage colours to create high-end results.

What is OpenColorIO?

Most commonly found in professional video production, the term stands for a system of colour management that ensures accurate colour reproduction. Think about it as an end-to-end solution to a situation when you need to ensure that your colours are delivered as intended when creating high-end projects.

The OCIO system is also used in digital photography, 3D renders and artwork for the same purpose. In Affinity Photo 2.2, you can access the OCIO v2 configurations from the 32-bit Preview dialog or the Adjustments panel, where colour spaces can be transformed for various intended outputs.

Affinity Photo 2 OCIO Adjustment dialog

See it in action…

In this tutorial, Affinity product expert James explains how to set up OpenColorIO with an OCIO configuration in Affinity Photo 2.2, plus how the OCIO adjustment layer should be used.

OCIO v2 in Affinity Photo 2

Why use OpenColorIO?

Perception is everything when it comes to digital artwork, especially in the current era, where we’re spoilt with the sheer amount of content and the number of devices we can view it on. Digital artists can never be sure what device their audience is enjoying their productions on, and this introduces a number of challenges.

As mentioned above, to manage colours so that they’re received as the authors intended, appropriate colour management must take place. That way, there is no disappointment at the receiving end and content is presented intentionally.

Before (left) and after (right) OCIO v2 configuration applied

Another reason for using the colour management system is to avoid making mistakes by simply evaluating outputs by eye. Our vision is influenced by too many factors that come into play when previewing the material, and so, if we were to solely rely on our eyes, we’d be bound to commit errors.

OpenColorIO system is therefore used to ensure outputs are achieved accurately and realistically by aligning them with devices–from what content was captured on, to what it will be viewed on. In addition, the system is popular with more than just videographers and photographers. If you think about it, professional and precise colour delivery is a must for projects such as high-end commercials and design campaigns, as both printers and designers use it too!

3D renders mock ups

What’s new in OCIO v2?

Among a plethora of improvements and features, OpenColorIO v2 promises to ensure accurate colour reproduction with an improved hardware performance when working with the new configurations. V2 promises to generate colour configurations in-memory, thus speeding up workflows by not needing to rely on external LUT files.

Colour configuration authors can now also assign rules to the files, which not only optimises search results but improves conversion of configurations between colour spaces.

“You are likely to experience faithful matches between the results obtained from the CPU and GPU renderers.”

These are only a small handful of improvements that are already utilised by creatives while delivering accurate colour reproduction–for a complete list of features and updates, visit the dedicated OCIO v2 page.

Adjusting OCIO v2 colour output in Affinity Photo 2 desktop

Example scenarios

We’ve already mentioned motion pictures, photography, design and printing briefly when explaining what OCIO is and why professionals use it. There are more applications of the system however, and if you were to venture into the worlds of game design, character animation, special effects (CGI), 3D modelling, texture rendering, etc., you’d find that OpenColorIO has earned itself quite a ‘business standard’ label within those circles of the creative crowd.

Affinity Photo 2 with OCIO v2 on iPad

In Affinity Photo 2.2 desktop and iPad, you may want to utilise OpenColorIO v2 as an intermediary stage to your edits where files are saved in linear response with no loss of data. This means that they can then be ported to the next stages and used in compositing, colour grading and further processing before exporting them to various formats.

Do I have to use OpenColorIO?

In short, not necessarily. However, it really depends on what type of artist you are. If you work with high-end outputs of creative content, especially within one of the industries mentioned above, you’re probably already familiar with OCIO and other colour management systems. If you’re new to it and would like to experiment with the available OCIO v2 features, it’s great to know that Affinity Photo 2 allows you to do so.

To learn more about OCIO v2, check out the OpenColorIO v2 documentation, and to find out how to set colour configurations up and use them in Affinity Photo 2.2, head over to the dedicated online help topic.