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Explaining Color Modes in Photoshop

Before you begin work on a photo, it’s a pretty good idea to know what the image is going to be used for. Is the image to be printed on your inkjet photo printer? Displayed on the Web? Used for prepress? The answers to these questions will determine which color mode you chose.

Choices for color modes used for digital photographers in Photoshop include:

  • Bitmap: Not used for digital photographs. Uses black & white or color values to represent pixels in an image
  • Grayscale: This mode would be used if the original image opened in Photoshop were already a black and white image. Most of your photographs captured with a digital camera or acquired using a film scanner will be color.
  • Duotone: Not usually used for digital photographs, duotone is a mode used for specific printing purposes related to two-color print jobs. Its also used for advanced black and white printing techniques.
  • Adobe RGB 1998 (Red, Green, Blue): For digital photographers, RGB is the standard color mode used for editing photographs in Photoshop. RGB is the default color mode and is automatically setup for you when you install Photoshop. In North America, the standard editing mode for photos should be Adobe RGB 1998
  • Lab: Lab color mode is the intermediate model used by Photoshop to convert from one color mode to another. For digital photographers, Lab color mode will rarely be used, however I know of a lot of photographers that edit their images in Lab mode. Not sure why! They probably read an article somewhere.

Conclusion

As mentioned, edit your photos in the Adobe RGB 1998 color space. The reason? Larger color gamut. You can convert to other color spaces later after you make your color and tonal corrections.

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