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If you have any power over it at all, it's always a good idea to scan every photo in color--even the black-and-white ones-- so you have the option of color channels. Why are color channels important in a black-and-white image? Well, they are great for assessing damage in a photograph to see if more or less damage is contained in one particular color channel, therefore making restoration a little easier. It's also a good idea to have color channels because many of the adjustments in Photoshop aren't available unless working in color, as opposed to grayscale.
But one of the best reasons for working in color modes is that you can simply make a better-looking image. But what if you don't have the luxury of scanning a photo in color? Say you were sent a file of an image that was scanned in grayscale and the person who sent it doesn't have the original. Well, you just have to create your own channels. For instance, let's look at this image scanned in grayscale, scanned in black and white, and the same image after the color channels have been rebuilt. We want to get from this to this.
So let's look at some of the differences. We will notice over here there is one channel, Gray, and we go over here to our Adjustments panel. All of these adjustments are grayed out; you can't use them in grayscale. Now let's look at the RGB version. All of your adjustments are back again. You can use them all, and let's go to our Channels, and we have four here. Actually, there is the combined, and then your three channels: Red, Green, and Blue. So let's get this grayscale channel into RGB by going to Image and Mode.
You will notice Grayscale is checked. Go down here and check RGB Color. Now we have our channels. The only problem is every channel is the same. So what we want to do is make them different, make the red the lighter, green a little darker, and blue darker still. Red is already light because this is a very light image. This could differ with your images if they are a little darker. You may even have to lighten the Red channel, but we will start here in the Green. Go up to Image > Apply Image.
We are going to start in the Multiply blending mode because it's the best for making something darker. It could be any one of these darkening modes could work, but Multiply is usually your best bet. If you want to make it lighter, for some reason, if it's a very dark image, Screen is a very good one to use. So we are going to keep this at Multiply and 100% and click OK. Now we need to make our blue even darker. Since this is such a light image, we will start out--again Image > Apply Image--we will start out with Multiply and at 100% and click OK.
Well, of course we did that with the Green, so they are the same. To make the Blue even darker, go again to Image > Apply Image, and we are going to have a Multiply and another 100% Opacity on top of that and click OK. Now all our channels are a little different. The Red is the lightest, Green little darker, Blue darker still. And our combined image has this color on it. You can take care of that later if you don't like it.
In fact, you can do that in the adjustments that are now available to you, by clicking, say, Black & White. And now you can go through all your adjustments, all your filters and they work. Scanning images, even black-and-white images, in color gives you the power of image adjustments in Photoshop, but if you don't have the choice, you can get the power back by rebuilding color channels.
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