Enabling Color Management in Maya

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This information is outdated. It is available for informative purposes.


Render no colormanagement.png
Render colormanagement linear-to-sRGB.png

When using file textures, you may encounter a problem with the textures looking washed out, or light not behaving the way you expect it to.

Maya 2015 and older

By default, Maya is not set up to work in a 'color managed' workflow. The result is that Maya expects file textures to be in a different color space than they actually are, causing these problems.

Maya 2016 and newer

In recent versions of Maya (since 2015), Color Management works quite well and is pretty easy to set up. So there is little reason not to do it. You should make it part of your standard workflow. Since Maya 2016 Color Management is on by default. Take care to turn on Color Management in your Preferences when opening a Maya 2015 file or older.

Enabling Color Management

This chapter explains how to enable color management in Maya 2015 and earlier.

Render Settings

Since Maya 2016 a major overhaul has been made to the user interface. This also affects the standard tabs in the Render Settings of mental ray. It is possible to change it to legacy tabs similar to Maya 2015 and earlier.

Make sure the mental ray plug-in is already loaded! Open Windows » Settings/Preference » Preferences and choose Rendering in the Categories panel. Check the boxes Show Maya Legacy Passes and Use Legacy Render Settings and click Save.

Reload the mental ray plug-in or restart Maya to see the changes.
Maya rendersettings color management.png
  1. Open the Render Settings. In the Common tab, locate the Color Management section.
  2. Check Enable Color Managment
  3. Set the Default Input Profile to sRGB
  4. Set the Default Output Profile to Linear sRGB

This configures Maya to expect file textures (input) to be in non-linear sRGB color space, which is default for most images on your computer, internet, etc. And it sets the internal rendering process to be in linear sRGB color space (gamma = 1.0), which works best when dealing with lights and color values of shaders.

This causes the render process to return it's result in linear sRGB color space. If you view that on your screen, it will be too dark. That is because you screen is typically in non-linear sRGB space, usually with a gamma of 2.2. This problem is solved in the next section.

Render View

If you don't set up color management in your Render View properly, your images will be too dark:

Render colormanagement raw.png
Render colormanagement linear-to-sRGB.png

This is because in the Render Settings we've told Maya to do the entire render process in linear sRGB color space. So the result is linear, but for a computer screen we want a gamma-corrected, non-linear color space to get proper color response.

Maya render view color management attributes.png
  1. Open your Render View
  2. Click Display » Color Management...
  3. Set Image Color Profile to Linear sRGB and set Display Color Profile to sRGB.

Saving Images

When you save your renderings from your Render View or from a batch render directly, they will be in linear color space.

If you plan to use your image directly, it's best to tell the Render View to save a Color Managed image:

  • In the Render View, choose File » Save Image...Option Box (click the option box)
  • Set the Save Mode to Save Color-Managed Image
    Maya render view save image optionbox color managed.png
  • Then use File » Save Image... to save your image.

If you are post-processing your image, e.g. in Photoshop, it's recommended to save your image in linear color space and use the post-processing software to apply a gamma correction. In Photoshop you can do this using an Exposure adjustment layer.

Color Management and Physical Sun and Sky or Mental Ray Exposure Control

Mia exposure gamma 1.png

If you are using the Physical Sun and Sky (or any other implementation of the mia_exposure_simple or mia_expousure_photographic Tone mapping), you need to take special care when enabling Color Management.

The problem is that the mia_exposure nodes will also apply gamma correction, which interferes with the color management. So you need to disable gamma correction in the Mental Ray exposure control tone mappers.

  1. Find the mia_exposure node(s), either through the Hypershade (Utilities tab), or as a tab in the camera Attributes in the Attribute Editor.
  2. Set the gamma to 1.0
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