How to Select an RGB Pixel Layer in Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo color management is simple in most cases. You just select your desired color and use it in conjunction with your favorite editing tools. However, it can get quite complex if you must recolor multiple unconnected pixels such as when setting transparency. Then, you may want to select an individual pixel layer.

Generally, you select RGB pixel layers in Affinity Photo by choosing a pixel layer with a defined RGB color profile. Color profiles are how the editor defines how colors function. You can use them and other color management tools to highlight and edit pixels of a particular RGB color.

Affinity Photo may also ask you to select an RGB layer when switching to one of its modes. By reading further, you will learn when these flags occur and how to ensure you always have an RGB layer selected.

Affinity Photo RGB Pixel Layer Color Management

In most cases, using color in Affinity Photo is simple. You just import your photos, select your favorite tool, and color, and go to work. You rarely need to consider the color space or the other color management options available to you.

You only really deal with the advanced color controls if you must change the working color space.

Affinity Photo Color Spaces

The color space of a graphics editor defines how it displays and stores color information and functions similar to a box of crayons. Different color spaces offer different benefits as such your desired final output determines which space you use. To that end, Affinity Photo offers the following popular color spaces, which are called color profiles:

  • sRGB – suitable for online publishing and printing
  • Adobe RGB – required for CMYK or inkjet printing
  • ProPhoto or ROMM RGB – Archival and high-quality applications and workflows

Affinity Photo also makes setting your working color profile easy. You just select it from the “RGB Color Profile” option under the “Preferences>Color” menu. The setting defaults to sRGB, and you can set it for each layer of your photos. Although, you will want to uncheck the option that converts all open files to the working space and has Affinity Photo warn you when it makes those changes.

Selecting and Converting RGB Pixel Layers

An RGB pixel layer is just a regular Affinity Photo layer with a defined color profile. Affinity Photo will assign your current default to any new empty layer, but it will retain the original profile for any imported or copied layer. As such, these methods can produce layers without a profile.

You can then assign or change the color profiles of the layers, though none of your changes would be permanent. Instead, Affinity Photo creates an adjustment layer for the changes. This feature lets you test different profiles until you find the one you want.

You can access this feature from the Color menu to make such adjustments as:

  • Soft Proofing – Provides a general output preview of the color profiles
  • Gamut Check – Highlights the colors that output cannot produce

You just select the different profiles from the popup window to make your adjustment. In either case, the change is not permanent until you save the image. You can also use these techniques to alter the color saturation and texture to create unique effects.

You can then embed the profile into the image by selecting the checkbox in the save window. While normally not required, embedding the color profile can help third-party display apps such as web browsers correctly render your image.

How to Fix “Select an RGB Pixel Layer” Errors

Under most circumstances, color management is an optional feature. However, there will be times when Affinity Photo will require it. The reasons will vary depending on the situation, but most revolve trying to access a function that requires a color space. At which point, Affinity Photo will demand that you “select an RGB pixel layer”.

The problem pops up when you try to use a color-modifying tool such as Develop without an active layer. Because there are no active layers, Affinity Photo does not know what to open. So, it flags the incident as an error. To fix the problem, you just select the layer you want to edit.

These situations arise from what many people consider a bug in the software. Some Affinity Photo functions create temporary layers as a part of their operations but leave the layers unselected. Some tools may even deselect other layers in the process. During these moments, an easy solution is to select the topmost layer and do a layer merge before you make any additional adjustments.


Affinity Photo uses RGB color space profiles to direct its color controls. Most of the time, you can ignore these profiles and simply use the defaults. However, there will be times when you must ensure your layers have the appropriate RGB profile for your desired application.