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Hour 5. Color Modes and Color Models > Color Bit Depth and Why It Matters

Color Bit Depth and Why It Matters

Bit depth is a way to describe how much color information is available about each pixel in an image. It's also called color depth or pixel depth and, as with so many other things, more is better. Greater bit depth (more bits of information per pixel) means more available colors and more accurate color representation in your digital pictures. Consider this: a pixel with a bit depth of 1 has only 2 possible values, either black or white. A grayscale pixel with a bit depth of 8 has 2 to the 8th power, or 256 possible values. And a pixel with a bit depth of 24 has 2 to the 24th power, or about 16 million, possible values. Common values for bit depth range from 1 to 64 bits per pixel. You will find that your Photoshop images tend to be either 8-bit or 16-bit. More information means larger files and longer times, of course. And it also means truer color.

8-Bit Color

It's actually a little bit misleading to call 8-bit color by that name. Depending on the color mode you've chosen to work in, you have anywhere from 8 to 32 bits of information for each pixel. In RBG mode, you have 8 bits each of the red, blue, and green color channels, making 24 bits of color information. In CMYK mode, you have 8 bits each of four channels, or 32 bits in all.


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