Hi @agriggio - monitor profiles themselves are blissfully unaware of whatever curves might or might not have been loaded into the video card - the curves are part of calibrating the display. The monitor profile might also contain a tag with tthe video card curves to be loaded, but that’s for convenience - ICC profile color-managed software doesn’t use this tag, even if it’s present.
Calibrating the display can mean either loading corrective curves into the video card, or making changes to the monitor itself using whatever controls the monitor provides, or both (https://ninedegreesbelow.com/photography/monitor-profile-calibrate-confuse.html). Once the monitor is calibrated, then you make the monitor profile (not the other way around).
The color management system used by an ICC profile color-managed software then converts the image RGB values from the image’s assigned ICC profile to the monitor’s assigned ICC profile. These converted RGB values are the values that are sent to the graphics card, that in turn sends signals to the monitor (leaving to one side all the other layers of software involved in displaying images on a monitor screen).
As a complete aside, I’ve never thought about monitor firmware - whatever you do to the monitor controls does affect the monitor hardware, and for older monitors very directly. I don’t know anything at all about the role of firmware vs hardware for calibrating modern monitors.
If “PSE” is PhotoShop Elements, and if PhotoShop Elements works the same way as PhotoShop from CS2 (the only version of PhotoShop that I’ve ever used), then there really is no way to assign a monitor profile because PhotoShop uses the system monitor profile.
In Windows, it used to be the case that you could assign a system monitor profile by right-clicking on the Windows desktop and bringing up a GUI with settings pertaining to the monitor. But PhotoShop didn’t “pick up” changes to the system monitor profile until PhotoShop was restarted.
Sadly this lack of direct user control over choosing a monitor profile from within the imaging software has infested, er, rather, been coded into certain free/libre softwares, for example digiKam.
If anyone really does want to understand the interaction between monitors, monitor profiles, and ICC profile color-managed image editors, here is a little “experiment kit” that I put together:
Color Management Experiment Kit: If seeing is believing, how much does your monitor profile matter? https://ninedegreesbelow.com/photography/color-management-experiments-1.html
It’s worth spending some time getting a good understanding of what monitor profiles can and can’t accomplish. Yes, a properly calibrated and profiled monitor will show you reasonably accurate colors, but only within the actual color gamut of the monitor profile. So it’s also worthwhile spending some time “soft proofing” from the image profile to your monitor profile, by choosing the monitor profile as the output/soft proofing profile. PhotoShop used to let you do this, probably still does, but I don’t know about PS Elements. GIMP and PhotoFlow let you do this, I’m not sure about RT.
The kinds of questions that you want to experiment a bit to learn while using the monitor profile as the soft proofing profile are things like “If I’m editing in the ProPhotoRGB color space, what’s the reddest ProPhotoRGB red that my monitor can display?”
PhotoFlow raw processor has code that does an excellent job of working around various limitations in LCMS soft proofing algorithms. I’m not sure whether any other color-managed software that uses LCMS has incorporated any of the PhotoFlow code. If all your images are in more or less perceptually uniform color spaces (as for example regular AdobeRGB1998 or regular sRGB), and if you aren’t working at floating point with unbounded channel values, then most software that provides for soft proofing will work just fine.