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Color mode

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Colour modes are the basis for the representation of a pixel's colour value. Between different installations of Photoshop, a document will be interpreted the same way by the basic image processing system. Along with colour profiles, colour modes determine how an image will be represented on screen or in print.


List of colour modesEdit

Every image has a colour mode. These modes differ in how many channels are used to represent a colour, and how deep each channel is.

Basic colour modes Edit

The most basic mode, consisting of a single channel that maps values to grays, from black to white.
An 8-bit mode that translates each of the 255 possible color values into an RGB triad. Indexed color mode is not considered to have a channel, but is still useful in certain applications.

Full-color modesEdit

A minimum of three channels is needed to represent the majority of colors visible to humans. The act of dividing each color into the different channels is called separation, and the act of combining them is called compositing—these are handled differently by each mode.

(Red-Green-Blue) The most common color mode, which most closely resembles the sRGB profile that is standard for the majority of monitors and best describes how they generate color.
(Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black) The next most common mode, it describes how colors will be composited by common printing processes.
Intended to approximate human vision, and allows for certain edits that are useful in photo and video.
(Hue-Saturation-Brightness/Lightness) Two color modes based on cylindrical coordinates. The two differ in how the second and third parameters (saturation and brightness or lightness) interact. Although no longer present as color modes in current versions, HSB remains as an option in the Color Picker, Info, and Color Sampler palettes; the Hue/Saturation adjustment and the Luminosity blending mode is based on HSL.

Special color modesEdit

A printing-oriented mode that, contrary to its name, allows for monotones, duotones, tritones, and quadtones. Channels are not directly accessible, but are manipulated by proxy through Curves.
A "super-mode" that allows for spot colors to be used. All other modes can be considered special cases of Multichannel mode. In this mode, Layers are disabled, as compositing is too complex to allow their use.

Why change Colour ModesEdit

Colour modes use different values to represent similar colors. In addition, a color available in one mode might not have an equivalent in another mode.Also, some adjustments and filters are not available in certain color modes.

Because of these issues, changing an image's color mode is a serious decision.

In the case of CMYK mode—particularly limited in range—the View > Gamut Warning command shows what colors cannot be properly rendered. The image should be adjusted to eliminate these out-of-gamut colors—changing to CMYK mode will automatically map such colors to their nearest equivalent, which may adversely affect the image.


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