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How to Get Photoshop Out of Grayscale

Published: 21/07/2023

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Working on a project's color values is challenging for photo editors and graphic artists when the Photoshop document is stuck in black and white. As a professional real estate photographer and photo retoucher for most of my career, I've tried and tested various ways how to get Photoshop out of grayscale.

How to Get Photoshop Out of Grayscale

The simplest way to get Photoshop out of grayscale is to go to File, click New, and choose either RGB or CMYK as the Color Mode. If you're already working on a grayscale document, convert the file through Image > Mode, then select CMYK or RGB. You may also hide layers with grayscale tones.

Getting stuck in grayscale when editing real estate photos in Photoshop will only let you work on black, white, and some shades of gray. It's crucial that you can easily switch to other colors so you can use the most vibrant yet realistic colors for your edits.

Option 1: Set the New Document to RGB or CMYK

The first way to get Photoshop out of grayscale is to create a new document in CMYK or RGB color modes

Selecting the new file option in Photoshop for an image of a modern kitchen

The Color Mode is an essential factor in how Photoshop manages color information in a document. Whether you choose CMYK or RGB, the color channels combine to create every necessary color for printing or display.

Choosing a custom size for a new document in Photoshop
  1. Head to File and click on New.
  2. Click the Color Mode section, and select either RGB or CMYK in the drop-down menu.

Option 2: Convert the Document From Grayscale to RGB or CMYK

One of the simplest ways to get Photoshop out of grayscale is to convert the document from Grayscale to CMYK or RGB. Unlike the first method, this only applies if you already have an existing grayscale document.

Choosing the CMYK mode option in Photoshop for an image of a modern kitchen
  1. Choose the RGB Color Mode to enable the Red, Green, and Blue color channels. This will disable every color in your project instead of black and white only. To do this, navigate to Image, expand the Mode option, and then click on RGB Color
  2. Opt for CMYK if you need Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks for printing. To do this, head to Image, click Mode, and choose CMYK Color.
  3. Alternatively, press CTRL + Shift + U (Windows) or CMD + Shift + U (Mac) to switch to color mode. Afterward, select between RGB or CMYK.

Option 3: Check the Adjustment Layers

If you've set the image mode to CMYK or RGB, yet you still only see grayscale, then there may be a problem in the adjustment layers. The adjustment layers help make non-destructive edits in Photoshop. However, it's also easy to have disorganized layers when adding several elements to the document.

For example, even when using CMYK or RGB, layers for Hue/Saturation, Black & White, Color Lookup, Channel Mixer, and Vibrance can make the entire real estate photo grayscale.

Checking the adjustment presets in Photoshop for an image of a modern kitchen
  1. Go to the Layers panel in Photoshop's bottom-right corner.
  2. Scroll through the layer stack. Within the Layers panel, toggle the eyeball icon for each adjustment layer. Check if there's a layer that's adding grayscale tones to the document.
  3. If the grayscale vanishes when you hide an adjustment layer, you've eliminated the problem.

Option 4: Saturate the Image

Saturation refers to the amount of brightness of a color. This is why a lack of color can result in grayscale images. If the problem is from the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer, move the Saturation slider to the right to bring out the other colors aside from black and white.

Suppose you dragged the Saturation slider too much to the left and want to return the picture's original color. You can do so with these steps:

Clicking the Undo Hue/Saturation option in Photoshop for an image of a modern kitchen
  1. Go to Edit and click on Undo Hue/Saturation.
  2. Alternatively, press CTRL + Z (Windows) or CMD + Z (Mac). Press CTRL + Alt + Z (Windows) or CMD + Option + Z (Mac) to undo multiple desaturation commands.

Option 5: Fix the Gray Color Picker

The Color Picker is one of the important Photoshop tools because you can use it to paint, draw shapes, and fill objects with colors. However, there may be instances where you get locked out of Color Picker, leaving you with grayscale tones.

If the Mode is in Grayscale, the Color Picker will also use grayscale colors regardless of your chosen colors. The best way to fix this is to set your color choice. Although you can only do this if you're in RGB or CMYK Color Mode.

Thus, follow these steps to change the hues for the Color Picker.

Picking the RGB color mode in Photoshop for an image of a modern kitchen
  1. Go to Image, click the Mode option, and then choose CYMK or RGB Color.
  2. Head to the bottom of the Photoshop Tools column to get the Color Picker. If you don't see this, click the Window menu, and select the Tools option from the drop-down.
  3. You should see two overlapping boxes when viewing colors. One box should be slightly higher and positioned left diagonally to the other.
  4. Once you click the Color Picker box, you'll see a square box featuring a range of colors from light to dark mode.
  5. When you select a specific layer mask, the only colors available are black, white, and gray. Click the layer thumbnail to use the Color Picker again and choose other colors.
Managing the color through the Color Picker in Photoshop for an image of a modern kitchen

Why Is My Photoshop Only in Grayscale?

Grayscale mode displays a picture or document with a monochromatic palette of gray tones. This single-color palette has gray scales with varying levels of lightness, which is why you'll see whites, blacks, and grays.

Photoshop lets you use color adjustment commands to transform color details in an image. However, there may be situations where the program would stick to grayscale due to a number of reasons.

Grayscale Photoshop Document

Among the common reasons why Photoshop can't get out of grayscale mode is that you may be unknowingly working on a grayscale image. This typically happens when you download a file, you're working on somebody else's document, or the document creation settings are set to grayscale.

For this reason, make sure to set the Color Mode to either RGB or CMYK each time you create a new document.

Desaturated Adjustment Layer

Layers enable you to apply black-and-white edits in particular layers. However, there may be times when you don't notice that you're working on that certain layer, thinking that the whole photo is grayscale and you can't choose other colors.

You can either delete the layer or tweak the Saturation levels back to 0 until you can see more colors.

Grayscale Color Channel Layer

Photoshop has a Color Channel Panel that lets you see color information in every image. The program automatically selects the RGB channel, showing what the photo will look like when every channel is turned on. In contrast, if you've chosen only one channel, the picture may appear in black and white.

Related Questions

How Do I Restore a Grayscale Image to Color in Photoshop?

To restore grayscale images to color, you need to duplicate a layer, select Neutral Filters in the Filters menu, and click on the Colorize option. You can fine-tune the colors in the Adjustments options using various tools like the Color Picker.

Should You Switch to RGB or CMYK After Grayscale?

After Grayscale, switch to RGB for digital work or choose CMYK for printed designs. It's much better to use RGB if you view real estate photos on computer monitors, televisions, or smartphones. Meanwhile, switching to CMYK is ideal if you need to print your work on paper or other marketing collateral.

Why Is the Black and White Adjustment Option Grayed Out in Photoshop?

If the Black and White adjustment options are grayed out, it's because the document isn't in an RGB color space. Thus, you must convert the file into CMYK or RGB first.


To get a Photoshop document out of grayscale, create a new RGB or CMYK document or convert the image to a different Color Mode. It also helps to check your adjustment layers for grayscale layers. Once you fix the Color Mode and layers, you can easily manage colors when post-processing real estate images.


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