Duplicate, split, and merge channels

Duplicate channels

You can copy a channel and use it in the current image or another image.

For example, you may want to use the Duplicate Channel feature to create a channel mask; or you may want to back up a copy of a channel before you edit it.

Duplicate a channel

If you are duplicating alpha channels between images, the channels must have identical pixel dimensions. You cannot duplicate a channel to a Bitmap‑mode image.

  1. In the Channels panel, select the channel to duplicate.
  2. Choose Duplicate Channel from the Channels panel menu.
  3. Type a name for the duplicate channel.
  4. For Document, do one of the following:
    • Choose a destination. Open images only with pixel dimensions identical to the current image are available. To duplicate the channel in the same file, select the channel’s current file.

    • Choose New to copy the channel to a new image, creating a multichannel image containing a single channel. Type a name for the new image.

  5. To reverse the selected and masked areas in the duplicate channel, select Invert.

Duplicate a channel in an image

  1. In the Channels panel, select the channel you want to duplicate.
  2. Drag the channel onto the Create New Channel button  at the bottom of the panel.

Duplicate a channel in another image

  1. In the Channels panel, select the channel you want to duplicate.
  2. Make sure that the destination image is open.

    The destination image does not have to have the same pixel dimensions as the duplicated channel.

  3. Do one of the following:
    • Drag the channel from the Channels panel into the destination image window. The duplicated channel appears at the bottom of the Channels panel.

    • Choose Select > All, and then choose Edit > Copy. Select the channel in the destination image and choose Edit > Paste. The pasted channel overwrites the existing channel.

Split channels into separate images

You can split channels of flattened images only. Splitting channels is useful when you want to retain individual channel information in a file format that doesn’t preserve channels.

  1. To split channels into separate images, choose Split Channels from the Channels panel menu.

    The original file is closed, and the individual channels appear in separate grayscale image windows. The title bars in the new windows show the original filename plus the channel. You save and edit the new images separately.

Merge channels

Multiple grayscale images can be combined as the channels of a single image. The images you want to merge must be in grayscale mode, be flattened (have no layers), have the same pixel dimensions, and be open. The number of grayscale images you have open determines the color modes available when merging channels. For example, if you have three images open, you can merge them into an RGB image; if you have four images open, they can become a CMYK image.


If you are working with DCS files that have accidentally lost their links (and so cannot be opened, placed, or printed), open the channel files, and merge them into a CMYK image. Then re-save the file as a DCS EPS file.

  1. Open the grayscale images containing the channels you want to merge, and make one of the images active.

    You must have more than one image open for the Merge Channels option to be available.

  2. Choose Merge Channels from the Channels panel menu.
  3. For Mode, choose the color mode you want to create. The number of channels appropriate for the mode appears in the Channels text box.
  4. If necessary, enter a number in the Channels text box.

    If you enter a number that is incompatible with the selected mode, Multichannel mode is automatically selected. This creates a multichannel image with two or more channels.

  5. Click OK.
  6. For each channel, make sure the image you want is open. If you change your mind about the image type, click Mode to return to the Merge Channels dialog box.
  7. If you are merging channels into a multichannel image, click Next, and select the remaining channels.

    All channels of a multichannel image are alpha channels or spot channels.

  8. When you have finished selecting channels, click OK.

    The selected channels are merged into a new image of the specified type, and the original images are closed without any changes. The new image appears in an untitled window.


    You cannot split and recombine (merge) an image with spot color channels. The spot color channel will be added as an alpha channel.

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