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Introducton to Adobe Photoshop
What Are Channels  

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[Channels Tab] Photoshop uses channels to store color information about an image or to store selections. Photoshop creates color information channels automatically and all Photoshop images contain at least one channel.
Bitmap-mode, grayscale, duotone, and indexed-color images are each single-channel modes. An indexed-color image has one channel containing up to 256 levels of density.
Indexed Color

The Web Palette with its 256 colors is an index color. It ensures predictable color on the Web or the Intranet.

[Indexed Color]
[Image / Mode] Color Modes

Modes are found under the Image menu item.

The default is 8 bits per channel. Only in RGB mode is 16 bits per channel available.

RGB is my default working mode.

Filters and Plug-ins functional in... [spacer]

They do not function in...

  • RGB Modes
  • CMYK Modes
  • Grayscale Modes
  • Duotone Modes

  • Bitmap Modes
  • Indexed Modes

RGB Color Mode

An RGB image contains three channels made up of red, green, and blue color data as shown in the sample below.

RGB output mates well with the monitor RBG electron guns. The direct color match can produce excellent color on the monitor screen.

Professional monitors are pricey but they can be tuned or matched to very precise output settings.


CMYK Color Mode

CMYK is designed to convert well into the printer's environment with its four-color plates of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black.

Counter Intuitive

CMYK contains 1 more channel than RGB but it has a smaller color gamut.

Its color gamut is designed to meet the narrower color range needs of the four-color printing process.


24 Channels

Except for the Bitmap-mode image, all images in Photoshop can have up to 24 channels. These are frequently called alpha channels. Sometimes, the alpha channel can be used to decrease file size.

Palettes Study the palette titles to the left. Photoshop Layers Palette usually includes the Channels and Paths as tab selections.

I added the Actions to my Palette set by a simple drag and drop process. Grab the Actions tab and drag it off to remove it from the Palette.

A working knowledge of Selections and Masks are prerequisites to using the Channels concept effectively. Selections were already covered at the start of this section. The next Topic will be Masks.

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