Color Modes in Photoshop Elements 10 - dummies

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

Regardless of what output you prepare your files for, you need to consider color mode and file format. RGB (red, green, and blue) color mode is what you use to prepare color files for printing on your desktop color printer or for preparing files for photo service centers.

You can also use color modes other than RGB. If you start with an RGB color image and want to convert to a different color mode, you have menu options for converting color. Photoshop Elements uses an algorithm (a mathematical formula) to convert pixels from one mode to another.

In some cases, the conversion that’s made via a menu command produces good results, and in other cases, you can use some different options for converting modes.

Another mode you may have heard of is CMYK. Although CMYK mode isn’t available in Photoshop Elements, you should be aware of what it is and the purposes of CMYK images. CMYK, commonly referred to as process color, contains percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black colors.

This mode is used for commercial printing. If you design a magazine cover in Elements and send the file to a print shop, the file is ultimately converted to CMYK. Also note that most desktop printers use different ink sets within the CMYK color space.

You’ll need to convert images from RGB to the mode of your choice: bitmap, grayscale, or indexed color.

Convert Photoshop Elements 10 images to Bitmap mode

You can acquire Bitmap mode images directly in Elements when you scan images that are black and white. Illustrated art, logos, your signature, or a copy of a fax might be the kinds of files you scan directly in Bitmap mode. Additionally, you can convert your images to Bitmap mode.

The Elements Bitmap mode isn’t the same as the Windows .bmp file format. In Elements, Bitmap mode is a color mode. A .bmp file can be an RGB color mode image, a Grayscale color mode image, or a Bitmap color mode image.

One important thing to keep in mind is that when you combine images into single documents you need to convert bitmap files to grayscale or color if you want to merge the images with an RGB image. If you convert to grayscale, Elements takes care of converting grayscale to RGB mode.

Convert Photoshop Elements 10 images to Grayscale mode

Grayscale images have black and white pixels and any one of an additional 254 levels of gray. By converting an RGB image to grayscale, you can make it look like a black-and-white photo.

You can convert an image to grayscale in one of three ways, but remember that one of these methods isn’t as good as the others. Avoid converting to grayscale by choosing Image→Mode→Grayscale. When Elements performs this conversion, it removes all the color from the pixels, so you lose some precious data during the conversion and can’t regain the color after conversion.

If you were to convert an image to grayscale, save the file, and delete the original from your hard drive or memory card, the color image would be lost forever. You could save a secondary file, but this method can add a little confusion and require some more space on your hard drive.

A menu command was introduced in Photoshop Elements 5 for converting color images to grayscale. Choose Enhance→Convert to Black and White in either Full Photo Edit mode or Quick Photo Edit mode, and you see the Convert to Black and White dialog box.


This dialog box contains many controls for adjusting brightness and contrast in images that you convert to grayscale. You can select from some preset options in the Select a Style list. You move the sliders in the Adjustment Intensity area and view a dynamic preview in the After thumbnail area.

If you want to keep your original RGB image in the same file as the grayscale version, duplicate the background by choosing Duplicate Layer from the Layers panel’s More menu. Click the background and choose Enhance→Convert to Black and White. The conversion is applied only to the background, leaving the Background copy layer in your original color mode.