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3.1 Bit Depth

In this lesson you will learn about the two most common bit-depth settings. You’ll find out which one is best for working on your file, and which one is best for print.

3.1 Bit Depth

Welcome to Chapter 3. In this chapter, we're going to prepare our file for print. In this lesson, we're going to talk about bit depth. We're going to discuss the two common bit depth settings and which one is best for working on your file versus which one is best for print. And the first thing we're going to do is to create a copy of it in order to make sure we're preserving our original. You always want to reserve your original file. So head up to image and then duplicate. And we'll go ahead and leave the standard name in there for now, but we will change it later on in the course. And go ahead and click OK. And you'll see that opens up a copy of the file. So you can go ahead and close the original. Okay. Now, let's talk about bit depth. There are two common bit-depth settings, 8 and 16. JPEGs come in 8 bits, while higher quality files, like PSDs, TIFFs, and RAW files can come in 16 bits. Now, with 8 bits, there are 258 tones per channel, which translates to 16.8 million colors. With 16 bits, there are 65,532 tones per channel, or 281 trillion colors. So you get quite a few more colors with 16 bits. You may have noticed that we're using a 16-bit photo for this course, and you can see that right here in the upper right-hand corner, where you see the 16 right there. This photo originated as a raw file that was previously edited in Lightroom and then exported as a 16-bit file. This is because working with the 16-bit file preserves the color detail in the image and prevents color banding as you work on it. Color banding is when you lose so much detail in Photoshop while you're editing that it can't display the color transition smoothly. Although not always initially visible to the human eye, it does make a difference as you edit the photo. And we are going to be making some slight edits to this image throughout the course. In general, when working on professional photos, you want to work in 16 bit as long as you can in Photoshop. And then when you're done editing, you can either save the file as the 16-bit version in case you think there's a chance you may come back and work on it later, or you could simply save it as an 8-bit file, which will save your precious hard drive space. Then when it comes to printing, you're going to use the 8-bit version of that file, which we'll get to later on in the course. To change the bit depth per channel of your file, you can access it via image and then mode, and then you have your options for 8 bits per channel, 16 bits per channel, or 32 bits per channel. If you'd like to read up more on bit depth, check out the Tuts+ article titled Bit Depth Explained In-Depth. Okay. That concludes this lesson. We talked a bit about bit depth and why it's important while editing your image. In our next lesson, we'll explore proper resolution for printing.

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