What is colour gamut?

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Flatscreen monitor next to a laptop featuring multicoloured back lighting.
Credit: Virul Weerasooriya

With so many shades, hues, and saturations, there are a lot of colours out there. Colour gamut is the range a TV or monitor can display, letting you differentiate lime green from forest or emerald. Of course, we all see colours differently, but gamut is expressed as a percentage of the visible spectrum, where a greater number represents a broader range.

But wait, why does colour gamut matter? First, it can affect the accuracy of the colours that are displayed. A wider gamut means the best TV can display more accurate colours, which can be necessary for tasks such as photo editing and graphic design.

Additionally, the colour gamut affects the realism of the displayed images. A wider gamut can make pictures look more realistic, improving the quality of tasks such as watching movies and playing games.

Now, let's answer the question.

Is a higher colour gamut better?

A wider colour gamut means the display can produce a broader range of colours, leading to more accurate and realistic images.

However, here's the catch: not all content is created equal. Some, such as web pages and photos, may not be encoded in a wide colour gamut. In these cases, a display with a broader colour gamut will not be able to show the full range of colours in the content.

But that's not all - let's dive deeper into the benefits of a higher colour gamut:

  • More accurate and realistic images.
  • A wider range of colours to choose from.
  • Improved colour contrast and saturation.
  • Better viewing experience for HDR content.
A black and grey monitor featuring a night sky and a sand dune on the display next to a MacBook.
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Credit: Nikolay

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though, as there are drawbacks to having a higher colour gamut:

  • More expensive displays.
  • Not all content is encoded in a wide colour gamut.
  • It may not be necessary for general use.

Ultimately, whether or not a higher colour gamut is worth it depends on your needs and budget. If you are a professional photographer or graphic designer who needs to produce accurate and realistic images, then the best photo editing monitor with a wide colour gamut is a worthwhile investment.

However, a narrower colour gamut may be sufficient if you are looking for a general display to browse the web or watch your favourite soaps.

Different colour gamut types

Here are the six main types of colour gamut:

  • sRGB: The most common colour gamut in use today, sRGB was developed by HP and Microsoft in 1996 and is used by most web browsers, operating systems, and software applications. sRGB covers about 72% of the visible spectrum.
  • RGB: Red, Green, and Blue, often shortened to RGB, is the most common colour model used in computer graphics. RGB colours are created by mixing different amounts of red, green, and blue light.
  • DCI-P3: A wide colour gamut that is used in the film and television industry. It covers about 95% of the visible spectrum. DCI-P3 was developed by the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) in 2007.
  • NTSC: This stands for National Television Standards Committee. It is the colour standard used in the United States and most North America. NTSC covers about 48% of the visible spectrum.
  • EBU: The European Broadcasting Union, regularly referred to as EBU, is the colour standard used in Europe and most of the world. EBU covers about 72% of the visible spectrum.
  • Rec. 2020: This is the widest colour gamut in use today and is preferred in the broadcast and cinema industries. The Rec. 2020 colour gamut covers about 100% of the visible spectrum.
Colour gamuts plotted on CIE 1931 chromaticity diagram.
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Credit: BenQ

The best colour gamut for you depends on your needs and budget. If you’re looking for a display for general use, then a display with an sRGB colour gamut works for most people. However, if you’re a professional photographer or graphic designer who needs to produce accurate and realistic images, a display with Adobe RGB or DCI-P3 is a good choice. But then, if want a display that can reproduce the broadest range of colours, then a Rec. 2020 is the best option.

HDR vs Gamut

HDR (High Dynamic Range) and gamut are two different aspects of image quality, but they often need clarification.

HDR allows devices to display a broader range of brightness levels than traditional devices. It can be used to create images that are more realistic and immersive. For example, an HDR display emphasises the difference between the bright sun and the dark shadows in a scene, while a display without the feature may contain muddier details and less depth.


Gamut refers to the range of colours that a display can produce. A display with a wider gamut can produce more colours than a narrower one, leading to more realistic images. For example, a display with a wider gamut can show more shades of green than a narrower one.

Together, HDR and gamut can create a more immersive and realistic viewing experience, showing more detail in the shadows and highlights of a scene alongside more shades of colour. This can make images look more realistic, lifelike, and in some instances immersive.

Take the features individually, and here's the catch: a device with a wide colour gamut but no HDR support won't be able to display the full range of brightness levels that HDR content can offer. On the flip side, a device with HDR support but a narrow colour gamut can deliver the full range of brightness levels in supported content but cannot display the full range of colours.

So, how do you maximise your experience? The answer lies in using a device offering a wide colour gamut and HDR support. Combining the two allows you to immerse yourself in vivid visuals with rich colours and intricate details.

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