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Explanation of Different Color Modes in Photoshop

If you have just started using Photoshop, you may not know the power of different color modes present in Photoshop i.e. Bitmap, Grayscale, RGB, CMYK etc. In this tutorial, I am going to explain every mode present in Photoshop that will make your life as simple as possible especially if you are a photographer and love to print your photos.

By default, every camera captures the image in RGB format as it is a universal format. You can change the image mode by going to Image>Mode>[Your Desired Mode]

Let’s start understanding one by one.

1: Bitmap

The bitmap is used when you need only White and Black color not even the slightest part of Gray is allowed. It is just 1 bit per channel so if you are using 16 or 32 bit per channel image, you need to convert an image first to 8 bit per channel This works perfectly when you are dealing with a high contrast image like a text document. You can make the text appear bolder and clear once you convert the image to Bitmap mode from RGB mode.

To convert an image to Bitmap, you must convert it first to Grayscale mode. You can do it by Image>Mode>Bitmap.

Below is an example of an image in Bitmap mode with 50% threshold.

2: Grayscale

In this mode, Black, White, and Gray are allowed. This mode is just an extended form of Bitmap mode. 8 bits grayscale mode contains 28 shades i.e. 256, 16 bits grayscale mode contains 2^16 shades i.e. 65536, and 32 bits grayscale mode contains 2^32 shades i.e. 4294967296 shades.

You can set this mode by Image>Mode>Grayscale.

Here’s an example of an image in Grayscale mode.

3: RGB

This is a universal mode which your desktop and camera use. RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue so it shows colors as a mixture of Red, Green, and Blue on a scale of 0 to 255 i.e. 256 shades. So total color that you can achieve is 256 x 256 x 256 i.e. 16777216 (16 million approx.).

For example, a pure Red has an RGB value of R=255, B=0, and G=0.

You can change to this mode by going to Image>Mode>RGB

Here’s an example of an image in RGB mode.

4: CMYK

This mode is used in printers whether it inkjet, commercial, or digital press. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black.

This mode has lesser shades than RGB and whenever you switch from RGB to CMYK, you’ll see that little bit color fades away. This is the only reason, printer prints a less vivid image as compared to what we see on our desktop.

To use this mode, you can go to Image>Mode>CMYK.


5: Lab Color

This mode is based on how human eyes can see a color regardless of the mode RGB, CMYK etc. It eliminates all the colors that the human eye cannot detect.

This mode may look so promising but its biggest advantage is its biggest disadvantage. Sometimes you’ll struggle to create a color that you want in this mode as this mode limits color.

To use this mode, go to Image>Mode>Lab Color.


And we are done with this tutorial. I hope you have found this tutorial interesting.

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