In this paper, color encoding strategies for different image database applications are discussed. The color image workflow is examined in detail, and master and derivative file encoding strategies are outlined in relation to capture, maintenance, and deployment of image files. For the most common image database purposes, recommendations are given as to which type of color encoding is most suitable. Advantages and disadvantages of sensor, input-referred, output-referred, and output device specific color encodings are discussed in relation with image usage. The role of ICC color management in an image database environment is also considered.