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Photoshop: Colors

Version: Adobe Photoshop CC 2021. Be aware that different versions of Photoshop will vary in appearance and functionality. Full Guides: Photoshop: Images, Photoshop: Graphic Design

Each Photoshop document is set up to use a certain color mode. This is done when creating a new document. The two most basic color modes are CMYK, which is for printing, and RGB, which is for screens. If a document is printed or exported and the colors look significantly different than they do in the document, it may be the result of an incorrect color modeor it may be the result of a faulty printer!

To change the color mode, navigate to Edit > Convert to Profile and select an option from the Profile drop-down. The two most common profiles are Working CMYK and Working RGB. Before converting, consider navigating to View > Proof Setup and selecting an option to preview what the new color mode will look like.

Expand each section below to see its content.

The Color Picker can be used to select custom colors. To open the Color Picker, double-click the foreground or background color square from the bottom of the Toolbar.  

To choose a color visually, click within the large square and use the slider on the right. When a color is selected, the numbers in the fields to the right will change. These numbers indicate the colors code in various color modes. Alternatively, if a specific color code is known, enter them into the fields to select the color.

RGB - Web

RGB stands for red, green, and blue, and represents how colors are coded for digital screens. Every color visible on a screen is made up of a combination of red, green, and blue, and altering these numbers (from 0-255) changes the intensity of that aspect of a color. For instance, a pure blue would be R: 0, G: 0, B: 255no red or green, full blue.

CMYK - Print

CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (which is black). This color set may be familiar to anyone who has changed color cartridges in a printer before. Any color thats printed is made of these four colors, with intensities measured in percentage.

Hex Codes

Hexadecimal codes, usually called hex codes, present colors as a string of either 3 or 6 numbers (0-9) or letters (A-F), marked with a # symbol. The hex code is visible in the bottom-right corner of the Color Picker. Similar to RGB, this code marks colors meant for a screen, but is used in coding and website design rather than document design. Most current browsers can read both color codes, but hex codes can be used as well.

Color swatches can be used to save a color and quickly apply it to elements. This is especially useful when working with a color theme or palette because it will save time when applying colors through the document. Swatches can be applied to both fill and stroke. Swatches are accessible in the Swatches panel.

To save a color as a swatch, click Add to Swatches from the Color Picker window. The color will apply to the selected element, and be added to the Swatches panel for later use at any time.

A gradient is a gradual blend between two or more colors. Gradients can be applied anywhere that color can, including as a Fill or Stroke.

To apply a gradient to a shape (fill or stroke):
  1. Select the layer for the shape in the Layers panel.
  2. Select a shape tool.
  3. Click the fill or stroke from the Options bar, and select the gradient option from the top of the pop-up that appears. A black-to-white gradient will be automatically applied to the shape.
  4. Click the small squares, called stops, that are located below the gradient bar to select the colors of the gradient. Gradients have at least two colors.
  • Add more colors: click just below the gradient bar and a new stop will be created.
  • Adjust transparency: click the stops that appear above the gradient bar and change the opacity level.
  • Select a preset: navigate through the folders to find a desired preset gradient.
  • When done, click OK.

  • Modify the gradient as desired, such as:
    • Position: click-and-drag the stops left-or-right to change their starting positions.
    • Opacity: click the stops above the gradient bar to change the level of opacity (transparency)
    • Style: choose between gradient styles such as linear (default), radial, angle, reflected, and diamond shapes.
    • Angle: click within the circle to the bottom-right to change the angle of the gradient, which is set to 90 degrees for a linear gradient by default.

    To apply a gradient to text:
    1. Select the layer for the text in the Layers panel. 
    2. Click the fx button to the bottom of the Layers panel, and select Gradient Overlay from the pop-up that appears. The Layer Style window will open.

    3. Click the gradient color box to open the gradient editor.

    4. Adjustment the gradient as described in step 4 of the previous instructions.
    5. When done adjusting the gradient color, click OK.
    6. Adjust other settings as desired, and click OK when done.

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    KeywordsRBG, CMYK, hex codes, graphic design, painting, illustration   Doc ID106191
    OwnerJanelle B.GroupPacific Lutheran Univ
    Created2020-09-25 12:59:46Updated2023-08-04 16:28:58
    SitesPacific Lutheran University
    Feedback  3   0