Clipping and Gamut Warnings in Photoshop and RAW

12/01/22 – although this post is generally still accurate,
it’s been further updated in a new post:

•  Further info on RAW files can be found in these 2 posts:





04/04/2008 – Here’s a great question from one of my clients, Adam Orr:


I have worked with the CS3 Raw Converter, but couldn’t find a way to run the Color Gamut Warning until finishing with the Raw Converter and opening in Photoshop. Am I missing something?

When I click on a Raw file, the converter opens and allows me to use all of the new tonal and color features, but it seems like Raw Converter works outside of the main Photoshop program and as thus does not offer the use of the Gamut Warning.

I primarily use my photos as a basis for abstract artwork and I push the color gamut as far as possible. In the past I came up with some very satisfying images that were essentially worthless once the gamut was adjusted so that they would print.

And here is how I answered him:

Hi Adam…

As you know, you check your gamut warning during soft-proofing in Photoshop, with your paper profile loaded – See this PDF I wrote on Color Management for more information on soft-proofing.

As for your question, the technical answer is: No, you cannot load your paper profile to check your color gamut in RAW. The practical answer: There is a tool available in RAW that a will get you going in the proper direction : The “Highlight and Shadow Clipping” Warning

Clipping is caused by a small color gamut. PC Magazine has a great definition of Color Gamut: “The entire range of colors available on a particular device such as a monitor or printer. A monitor, which displays RGB signals, typically has a greater color gamut than a printer, which uses CMYK inks. When a color is “out of gamut,” it cannot be properly converted to the target device; for example, to a different type of printer.”

I would consider the terms “gamut warning” and “clipping limit” essentially interchangeable terms, from a practical standpoint, especially when working in RAW…

To activate the clipping warning, you can click on the triangle-shaped boxes in the upper left and upper right corners of the histogram: the left triangle is for shadow clipping, and the right triangle is for the highlight clipping. You will know the clipping warning is active when the box surrounding the triangle is surrounded by a small white pinstripe.

Once you activate the clipping warning in RAW, those pixels that are clipped will show up in the color that is being clipped. In the example below. the red areas are those pixels which are clipped in the highlights; the blue areas are those pixels clipped in the shadows.

To eliminate clipping, start with the “exposure” slider, and work your way down in the various adjustments until the shaded areas disappear.

The “Photoshop Help” section warns, and rightly so: “In some cases, clipping occurs because the color space that you are working has a gamut that is too small. If your colors are being clipped, consider working in a color space with a large gamut, such as ProPhoto RGB”. I personally believe that ProPhoto’s color space is too large, and prefer Adobe 98 RGB.  More here:



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•  By the way, this is all based on my Photoshop book designed for photographers, “Not just another Photoshop Book”, available exclusively on Amazon:


Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment and tell your photography friends!


Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts 🙂



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