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How Designers Choose Right Color Mode In Adobe PhotoShop


Well Today I am going to write an informative article about how designers choose right colors while designing images in Adobe Photoshop. When we design an image and save that in image in a format like PNG, JPEG and other , every file is assigned some color mode which is called image mode or lain mode. If you want to check the mode of an just look at the titlebar of an image or you can see Image -> Mode in the menu bar. The color modes are used to define the values of colors which is assigned to images. See Tile bar to see mode in the image using Adobe PhotoShop tool. I want you read this articles so you should have Basic Information About Colors.


No. of Modes and Limitations

There are total 8 modes available for image in photoshop, you can also convert these modes from one mode to another modes. When you are choosing modes for an image it depends on some factors which you must follow to do professional designing.

  • First you should know in which file format you are going to save you designed image. Some modes can support a particular format which must match if you want to set that mode. Well some of the modes do not support certain formats so you must choose this before.
  • Second thing where you will be going to publish your designed. Are you going to submit on web? or you want to print that design in the printing paper.

RGB and CMYK Colors

Well I am going to discuss about the theories of Basic RGB and CMYK colors. When you assign a color mode RGB to an image then its all colors in the image will be composed of three basic colors that is Red, Green, Blue. These RGB colors are the basic primary colors of light. Well I am listing some basic information regarding these RGB color in bullet point so you may easily understanding these Points.

  • Naturally there are also three types of cones inside human eye that correspond with the three basic colors thats is RGB.
  • These colors are the colors that are basically produced by the dispersion of white light coming from the sun.
  • The color used in computer monitor which displays image on screen is CMYK. These colors are called subtractive colors. These colors are displayed on the light absorbing quality of ink on paper. When white light hit these colors some the colors are absorbed and some of the colors are reflected back into human eyes. So CMYK subtractive basic colors are composed of 4 colors. Well this is for those designers who are going to use their designs for printing.

Modes Information

Colors modes has great effect in changing the looks of your design, also its effects size of the design and number of channels used in designing an image. Each mode in the design is represented by some channels in which colors are stored. Gray scale images which looks like non-colorized image contains only a single channel-black.  While CMYK color system has four color channels cyan,Magenta, Yellow and Black.




RGB Mode

Well RGB is very famous and most used color in many different fields. Like most scanners uses RGB color scheme. Almost all kinds of digital camera uses these color techniques. Many printers like inkjet printers, laser printer and many more also uses this color scheme. RGB color scheme supports following file formats and designer must know this detail, this is very very important for the designer. Well RGB supports all file formats except GIF. This is very good and most usable mode. All photoshop commands are accessible in RGB mode.  All filters and image adjustment techniques are available in this mode. Below You can see Sample RGB image.


Well if Each color that is Red, Blue and Green is of 8-bit combining all three colors make 24 bit images which produce up to 16.7 million colors on the screen. Well you can also produce 48-bit images that is by assigning 16 bits for each color.  Most of the scanners, monitors and printers scans, display and print RGB colored images. To differentiate between RGB and CMYK new designers should use these color modes and take print using both modes of same image then I will get know the true difference. RGB also supports HDR technology which is High Dynamic Range.

 CMYK Mode

As already explained about CMYK colors are used for printing purpose. Its a standard of images that are color separated mostly used in color printing. Some printing devices are made dedicated to support only CMYK colors. CMYK supports mostly all file formats except it cannot support GIF file format. CMYK images are composed only these four colors CYAN, MAGENTA, YELLOW and BLACK. Percentage of all these colors are different, darker colors have larger percentages and lighter colors have lower percentages. When all four colors have 0 value of percentage White colors is produced. 



The above image is CMYK mode. You can convert mode by selecting image->mode->desired mode.  Well before converting image to CMYK make sure image is finalized because you can’t access some of the image editing tools in CMYK mode.

GrayScale Mode

GrayScale image looks like black and white image but actually its not black white some other shades like gray is also included in grayscale image. Black and white images are only composed of two colors that is black and white so these images are represented by the combination of zeros and ones, but grayscale images are never 2 bit they are composed of 8 bits means there are 256 colors in grayscale images. All formats are acceptable in grayscale mode. Each pixel in the grayscale image has value in the range 0-255. Grayscale image can be scanned. They are also convertible into other modes.

grayscale image

Monotone, Duotone,Tritone Mode and QuadTone

Well this is very important for those designer who are designing for printing purpose. When printing process is concerned this process can print only 50 gray levels per ink colors out of 255 levels. While we use duotones, multitones, which uses two to four inks and these are used for increasing the range of tones of grayscale images. Now a question is raised how these Duotones, multitones are produced, these are produced by using spot and black colors. Spot colors are premixed colors. File formats supported by these tones are native photoshop or Photoshop RAW. Now to use these modes follow Image-> Modes-> Duotone -> Pop Up window appears.  Select mode and colors and then click ok. Below you can see an image set to quad mode. Means there are only four colors.



Indexed Mode

For web graphics designers mostly used indexed mode. In multimedia displays sometimes this mode is also used. This mode supports many file formats while GIF is more popular format when this mode is considered. Other supported file formats are Photoshop, Photoshop 2.0, Photoshop Raw, BMP, EPS, IFF Format, ElectricImage, Large Document Format, PCX, PDF, PICT, PICT Resource, PNG, Targa, and TIFF.


When image is converted into indexed mode, Photo creates a lookup-table comprising of colors, which saves and indexes all available colors. If the color in the original image and its not in the table, then photoshop matches closed colors to those found in the original image from its color library. So using this file size is reduced that is why this is very popular on web.

Lab Mode

Some times designers want to make consistent color display, for this kind of activity Lab mode is used which is very efficient for high end image retouching.  Image can be saved in following formats native Photoshop, Photoshop Raw, EPS, TIFF, PDF, JPEG 2000, Large Document Format, or Photoshop DCS 1.0 and 2.0 formats. All 48-bit images can be used in this mode. This mode is very expert because this mode is device independent. It consist of a light channel and there two more channels in it.

Bitmap Mode

Well this is very high level mode which is used of you want to work with lines, for example line drawing in an image , line drawing in signatures. While using this mode be sure that resolution is set to 1200ppi to get a good quality bitmap image. File formats used for this modes are Photoshop 2.0, EPS, TIFF, PDF, BMP, PNG, GIF, Large Document Format, PCX, PICT, PICT Resource, Portable Bit Map, and Wireless Bitmap. Its a kind of black and white image but here you will see lines of pixel instead of single dot pixels. Before choosing this mode you must convert color image into Grayscale image. After this you can access bitmap mode. 

bitmap eye effect

When you will convert this image into grayscale after then click on bitmap a new pop up window will open, there are drop menus and many options there, click ok for default options otherwise there are several patterns which you can select from drop down menus. You can convert white part of image into transparent areas.


This mode is special mode and is used in printing. This mode also act as intermediate mode when converting between color modes. It also supports file formats same as like listed in above modes. Multi channel mode comprises many multi grayscale channels and each channels.


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