How to Convert to 8 Bit in Photoshop CS4


If you shoot photography in RAW format, then you are probably used to working with 16-bit images. In terms of digital imaging, the pixel contains several bits, which are units of color information that each have a choice to either be a 0 or a 1. The combination of all of these pixels creates a unique pattern of 0's and 1's, ending up as the image we are able to see. Because of the complexity of information presented in a 16-bit or 24-bit image, software applications cannot fully render an image at that level in all situations. When preparing an image for everyday use, you will need to convert the image to 8 bits.

  • Scan your image at 16 bits or higher. If converting a photo, the image must have been taken using the RAW format to be in true 16-bit color depth. Import or open the image you wish to convert in Photoshop by clicking "File" then "Import" or "File" then "Open."

  • Perform any edits, filters or other modifications to your photo or image while it is still in 16-bit, 24-bit or 32-bit mode. The higher depth allows most filters and effects to be applied to the image more evenly, resulting in a higher-quality result once the image is converted. When working with gradients or photos with a high dynamic range, editing the image at a higher color depth will also reduce the risk of banding or other undesirable effects.

  • Convert the image by clicking on "Image" then "Mode" and selecting "8 Bits/Channel." Verify the conversion did not cause any adverse affects to the look of your image and make any corrections where required. Save the image in an 8-bit format such as a JPG or PNG file. Note that directly saving the higher-bit image as a JPG file will automatically convert the saved file to 8 bits as well.

Tips & Warnings

  • Scan, photograph or create images in 16-bit mode or higher whenever possible and only convert to 8-bit before saving a copy intended for the web or a specific application.
  • Always save or backup copies of the higher-bit image.
  • 16-bit and higher images can be very large in file size and cause your system to perform slower when editing.
  • Avoid reducing the bits and then increasing them again in an attempt to restore quality. Use the undo function instead. Increasing the bits of an 8-bit image will not increase the quality.

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