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Photoshop's Color Modes

Jul 31, 2008
Photoshop itself can be a challenge to those first learning the program. All of the features and how to use them can be quite a mystery. Many are intimidated by the different color modes offered and shy away from experimenting with them never knowing the dramatic impact color modes can have on the final image.

Color modes determine the color model that should be used to display and print digital pictures. Anyone serious about professional quality digital imaging should learn about the color modes and models and how to apply them in Photoshop. Certain color modes are best for particular applications and so on. Most good Photoshop tutorials and training aids will teach user how and when to use which color modes for the best results depending on the particular project.

But what exactly are color modes and why are there different models? Let's take a moment to learn the basic color modes in Photoshop and how they work.

To start, digital images are displayed using several different color modes. This tutorial highlights the basic color modes you will come upon when working with digital images.

RGB

RGB stands for Red Green and Blue. In the RGB color mode colors are produced by mixing these three primary colors. Essentially you are working with three color channels in RGB mode, each of which the intensity level can be adjusted separately to attain various degrees of colors. White is created by combining all of the three colors.

CMYK

CMYK is for cyan, magenta, yellow and black. While RGB creates colors by mixing colors CMYK essentially creates color by subtracting varying degrees of each color. For example, if white is needed all colors would be reduced to zero.

You will see huge improvements in your digital imaging once you understand and are familiar with color modes. One important tip is that printers use CMYK color while monitors use RGB. This can result in there sometimes being a difference in what you see on your PC monitor and what is printed on paper. You can overcome this by installing software that will calibrate your monitor colors to that of your printer. By doing this, what you see on your monitor will be an accurate depiction of what your printer will produce.
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