Colour mode

The colour mode is a setting that determines the depth to which colours can be displayed in an image file. This also affects the size of the file.

The most common colour modes are:

  • RGB mode (millions of colours)
  • CMYK mode (colours for four-colour printing)
  • Lab/CIELab
  • Index mode (256 colours)
  • Grayscale (256 shades)
  • Bitmap (2 colours: Black or white)


CMYK stands for the four printing inks Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and “Key” (Black) . These four inks are the base of four-color printing. For printing colorful photos at least these four inks are required.

CMYK color spaces depend on the printer and the paper used and therefore need color profiles to describe the exact shades.

The main CMYK color spaces are:


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