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Understanding color modes

From: Up and Running with Photoshop CS6

Video: Understanding color modes

Most of the time when you're working in Photoshop, you're working in one of two modes, RGB and CMYK. These are color modes, basically, different models of color. And let me explain a little bit about what that means. First and primarily, we have RGB that stands for red, green, and blue. And these are the color components of light and this is not a Photoshop thing, this is a, a real world sciencey thing. When the sun beams down, it's lights down to the earth, it is in red, green, and blue components, and Photoshop actually prefers RGB.

Understanding color modes

Most of the time when you're working in Photoshop, you're working in one of two modes, RGB and CMYK. These are color modes, basically, different models of color. And let me explain a little bit about what that means. First and primarily, we have RGB that stands for red, green, and blue. And these are the color components of light and this is not a Photoshop thing, this is a, a real world sciencey thing. When the sun beams down, it's lights down to the earth, it is in red, green, and blue components, and Photoshop actually prefers RGB.

However, when we go to print, the color components of ink are the exact opposite of the color components of light. The opposite of red is cyan. The opposite of green is magenta. The opposite of blue is yellow. And so we use additive color, RGB, in light, and what we call subtractive color or CMYK, when we go to print something. And because we can't get pure black with cyan, magenta, and yellow, if we mix them all together we get kind of a, a muddy dark brown color. We use black symbolized by the K here.

Now, one of the things that's important to know about these two different color models is that they're kind of opposites. So with light for example, with RGB, as we add more red, green, and blue, then things get brighter and brighter. And if we have full red, green, and blue, we get pure white. If we have an absence of light, think of like a spotlight or a light bulb or something like that. If we turn off all of these lights, the red light, green light, and blue light, then we have black. Ink or subtractive color, works the exact opposite.

So if we add all of these colors, if we have 100% red, or cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, then we'll get black. And if we have zero cyan, magenta, yellow and black, then we have pure white. An absense of any color. So far this has all been just kind of theoretical and it's hard to picuture, so let me show you how this works in the real world. I have this face image here. And as you could see, the top in this title bar where we have the name of the document, it's zoom resolution. The selected layer and we have it's color mode here, this is an RGB document.

And when we have an RGB document, the colors can get very vibrant. However, when we go to reproduce those in print, as you might have noticed, as you've tried to print images like this, you don't get the same color reproduction. Just CMYK just can't do it. So if I go up to the Image menu at the top of the screen, and go to the Mode menu, I can see that RGB color is checked. If I change this to CMYK color, it will convert this to CMYK. First, it's going to give me this little dialog box, box.

I'm going to say OK here. And it does, and look at the difference in colors. I'm just going to hit Command+Z on the Mac or Ctrl+Z on the PC to toggle back and forth between these two options. So before,uh, this is the before, and then after, so RGB and CMYK. And you could see the difference in these really vibrant colors, especially, the cool tones. We lose a lot of the saturation and vibrance when we switch over to CMYK, and again, that's just a limitation of the ink, it's nothing you can do in Photoshop to change that.

It's just the nature of the beast when you're going over to CMYK. So be aware when you are in CMYK there are some Photoshop features that will not be available to you, because Photoshop thinks in RGB, it works in RGB as its kind of native environment. Be aware also, that if you are working with a CMYK document, that you can go up to the Image menu and through the mode submenu here change the color mode.

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This video is part of

Image for Up and Running with Photoshop CS6
Up and Running with Photoshop CS6

43 video lessons · 11273 viewers

Chad Perkins
Author

 
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  1. 1m 59s
    1. Welcome
      1m 59s
  2. 3m 7s
    1. Overview
      3m 7s
  3. 19m 26s
    1. Importing images from a camera
      4m 3s
    2. Using Adobe Bridge
      7m 10s
    3. Using Camera Raw
      5m 57s
    4. Opening images in Photoshop
      2m 16s
  4. 45m 18s
    1. Creating new documents
      3m 43s
    2. Interface overview
      5m 43s
    3. Navigating documents
      4m 58s
    4. Working with layers
      9m 33s
    5. Straightening images
      3m 15s
    6. Cropping images
      3m 54s
    7. Performing basic transformations
      5m 45s
    8. Moving and aligning objects
      8m 27s
  5. 8m 36s
    1. Understanding pixels
      2m 19s
    2. Understanding resolution
      4m 32s
    3. Saving your work
      1m 45s
  6. 23m 33s
    1. Understanding color modes
      3m 55s
    2. Using adjustment layers
      3m 35s
    3. Fixing problems automatically
      2m 36s
    4. Reading a histogram
      3m 40s
    5. Adjusting exposure (brightness)
      4m 27s
    6. Adjusting colors selectively
      5m 20s
  7. 31m 4s
    1. Intro to selecting
      4m 47s
    2. Making quick selections
      6m 45s
    3. Refining selections
      8m 26s
    4. Making a collage
      11m 6s
  8. 11m 46s
    1. Removing small problems
      2m 4s
    2. Fixing bigger problems
      6m 39s
    3. Intelligently scaling an object
      3m 3s
  9. 12m 33s
    1. Creating Smart Objects
      5m 13s
    2. Applying effects
      5m 1s
    3. Adjusting applied effects
      2m 19s
  10. 26m 30s
    1. Creating text
      5m 47s
    2. Editing text
      8m 30s
    3. Using layer styles
      5m 54s
    4. Creating graphic design elements
      6m 19s
  11. 31m 14s
    1. Painting
      9m 54s
    2. Customizing brushes
      9m 44s
    3. Creating vector shapes
      11m 36s
  12. 14m 51s
    1. Understanding file formats
      3m 46s
    2. Saving for the web
      7m 6s
    3. Printing from Photoshop
      3m 59s

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