About histograms

A histogram illustrates how pixels in an image are distributed by graphing the number of pixels at each color intensity level. The histogram shows detail in the shadows (shown in the left part of the histogram), midtones (shown in the middle), and highlights (shown in the right part) A histogram can help you determine whether an image has enough detail to make a good correction.

The histogram also gives a quick picture of the tonal range of the image, or the image key type. A low‑key image has detail concentrated in the shadows. A high‑key image has detail concentrated in the highlights. And, an average-key image has detail concentrated in the midtones. An image with full tonal range has some pixels in all areas. Identifying the tonal range helps determine appropriate tonal corrections.

Photoshop Histogram examples
How to read a histogram

A. Overexposed photo B. Properly exposed photo with full tonality C. Underexposed photo 

The Histogram panel offers many options for viewing tonal and color information about an image. By default, the histogram displays the tonal range of the entire image. To display histogram data for a portion of the image, first select that portion.

Note:

You can view an image histogram as an overlay in the Curves dialog box by selecting the histogram option under Curve Display Options, and in the Curves Properties panel, or by choosing Curve Display Options from the panel menu, then Histogram.  

Histogram panel overview

  • Choose Window > Histogram or click the Histogram tab to open the Histogram panel. By default, the Histogram panel opens in Compact View with no controls or statistics, but you can adjust the view.
    Photoshop Histogram panel -- expanded view
    Histogram panel (Expanded view)

    A. Channel menu B. panel menu C. Uncached Refresh button D. Cached Data Warning icon E. Statistics 

Adjust the view of the Histogram panel

  • Choose a view from the Histogram panel menu.

    Expanded View

    Displays the histogram with statistics. It also displays: controls for choosing the channel represented by the histogram, viewing options in the Histogram panel, refreshing the histogram to display uncached data, and choosing a specific layer in a multilayered document.

    Compact View

    Displays a histogram with no controls or statistics. The histogram represents the entire image.

    All Channels View

    Displays individual histograms of the channels in addition to all the options of the Expanded View. The individual histograms do not include alpha channels, spot channels, or masks.

    Photoshop Histogram panel with channels in color
    Histogram panel with all channels displayed in color and statistics hidden

View a specific channel in the histogram

If you chose the Expanded View or All Channels View of the Histogram panel, you can choose a setting from the Channel menu. Photoshop remembers the channel setting if you switch from either Expanded View or All Channels View back to Compact View.

  • Choose an individual channel to display a histogram of the channel, including color channels, alpha channels, and spot channels.
  • Depending on the color mode of the image, choose RGB, CMYK, or Composite to view a composite histogram of all the channels.
  • If the image is RGB or CMYK, choose Luminosity to display a histogram representing the luminance or intensity values of the composite channel.
  • If the image is RGB or CMYK, choose Colors to display a composite histogram of the individual color channels in color. This option is the default view for RGB and CMYK images when you first choose Expanded View or All Channels View.

    In the All Channels View, choosing from the Channels menu affects only the topmost histogram in the panel.

View channel histograms in color

  • From the Histogram panel, do one of the following:
    • In the All Channels View, choose Show Channels In Color from the panel menu.

    • In Expanded View or All Channels View, choose an individual channel from the Channel menu and choose Show Channels In Color from the panel menu. If you switch to Compact View, the channel continues to be shown in color.

    • In Expanded View or All Channels View, choose Colors from the Channel menu to show a composite histogram of the channels in color. If you switch to Compact View, the composite histogram continues to be shown in color.

View histogram statistics

By default, the Histogram panel displays statistics in the Expanded View and All Channels View.

  1. Choose Show Statistics from the Histogram panel menu.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • To view information about a specific pixel value, place the pointer in the histogram.

    • To view information about a range of values, drag in the histogram to highlight the range.

    The panel displays the following statistical information below the histogram:

    Mean

    Represents the average intensity value.

    Std Dev (Standard deviation)

    Represents how widely intensity values vary.

    Median

    Shows the middle value in the range of intensity values.

    Pixels

    Represents the total number of pixels used to calculate the histogram.

    Level

    Displays the intensity level of the area underneath the pointer.

    Count

    Shows the total number of pixels corresponding to the intensity level underneath the pointer.

    Percentile

    Displays the cumulative number of pixels at or below the level underneath the pointer. This value is expressed as a percentage of all the pixels in the image, from 0% at the far left to 100% at the far right.

    Cache Level

    Shows the current image cache used to create the histogram. When the cache level is higher than 1, the histogram is displayed faster. In this case, the histogram is derived from a representative sampling of pixels in the image (based on the magnification). The original image is cache level 1. At each level above level 1, four adjacent pixels are averaged to arrive at a single pixel value. So, each level is half the dimensions (has 1/4 the number of pixels) of the lower level. When Photoshop makes a quick approximation, it can use one of the upper levels. Click the Uncached Refresh button to redraw the histogram using the actual image layer.

View the histogram for a multilayered document

  1. Choose Expanded View from the Histogram panel menu.
  2. Choose a setting from the Source menu. (The Source menu is not available for single-layered documents.)

    Entire Image

    Displays a histogram of the entire image, including all layers.

    Selected Layer

    Displays a histogram of the layer that’s selected in the Layers panel.

    Adjustment Composite

    Displays a histogram of an adjustment layer selected in the Layers panel, including all the layers below the adjustment layer.

Preview histogram adjustments

You can preview the effect on the histogram of any color and tonal adjustments.

  • Select the Preview option in the dialog boxes of any color or tonal adjustment command.

    When Preview is selected, the Histogram panel shows how the adjustment affects the histogram.

    Note:

    When making adjustments using the Adjustments panel, changes are automatically reflected in the Histogram panel.

    Photoshop Histogram adjustment preview
    Preview of histogram adjustment in the Histogram panel

    A. Original histogram B. Adjusted histogram C. Shadows D. Midtones E. Highlights 

Refresh the histogram display

When a histogram is read from a cache instead of the current state of the document, the Cached Data Warning icon  appears in the Histogram panel. Histograms based on the image cache are displayed faster and are based on a representative sampling of pixels in the image. You can set the maximum cache level (from 2 to 8) in the Performance preference.

Note:

A higher cache level setting will increase the redraw speed for large, multi-layer files, but requires additional usage of system RAM. If RAM is limited or you work mainly with smaller images, use lower cache level settings

  • To refresh the histogram so that it displays all of the pixels of the original image in its current state, do one of the following:
    • Double-click anywhere in the histogram.

    • Click the Cached Data Warning icon .

    • Click the Uncached Refresh button .

    • Choose Uncached Refresh from the Histogram panel menu.

    For information about cache level, see Histogram panel overview.

View color values in an image

You can use the Info panel to see the color value of pixels as you make color corrections. When you work with the Properties panel, the Info panel displays two sets of color values for the pixels under the pointer. The value in the left column is the original color value. The value in the right column is the color value after the adjustment is made.

Photoshop colors values in an image
Using Levels and Info panel to neutralize the tone of an image

You can view the color of a single location using the Eyedropper tool . You can also use up to four Color Samplers  to display color information for one or more locations in the image. These samplers are saved in the image, so you can refer to them repeatedly as you work, even if you close and reopen the image.

Photoshop Color samplers and Info panel
Color samplers and Info panel

  1. Choose Window > Info to open the Info panel.
  2. Select (then Shift-click) the Eyedropper tool  or Color Sampler tool , and if necessary, choose a sample size in the options bar. Point Sample reads the value of a single pixel, other options read the average of a pixel area.
  3. If you selected the Color Sampler tool , place up to four color samplers on the image. Click where you want to place a sampler.

View color information while adjusting color

You can view color information for specific pixels in the image while adjusting color in the Properties panel.

  1. Add an adjustment using the Adjustments panel.
  2. Make adjustments in the Properties panel. As you make adjustments, view the before and after color values in the Info panel. Move the pointer over the image to view color values at the pointer location.

    Note:

    If you are using a command from the Image > Adjustments menu, the Eyedropper tool is activated (and other tools temporarily disabled) when you move the pointer over the image. You still have access to the scroll controls and to the Hand and Zoom tools using keyboard shortcuts.

  3. If you’ve placed color samplers on the image, the color values under the color samplers appear in the lower half of the Info panel. To add new color samplers, select the Color Sampler tool and click in the image, or select the Eyedropper tool and Shift-click in the image.

Adjusting color samplers

Once you’ve added a color sampler, you can move or delete it, hide it, or change the color sampler information displayed in the Info panel.

Move or delete a color sampler

  1. Select the Color Sampler tool .
  2. Do one of the following:
    • To move a color sampler, drag the sampler to the new location.

    • To delete a color sampler, drag the sampler out of the document window. Alternatively, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) until the pointer becomes a scissors and click the sampler.

    • To delete all color samplers, click Clear in the options bar.

    • To delete a color sampler while an adjustment dialog box is open, hold down Alt+Shift (Windows) or Option+Shift (Mac OS), and click the sampler.

Hide or show color samplers in an image

  • Choose View > Extras. A check mark indicates that color samplers are visible.

Change the display of color sampler information in the Info panel

  • To display or hide color sampler information in the Info panel, choose Color Samplers from the panel menu. A check mark indicates that the color sampler information is visible.
  • To change the color space in which a color sampler displays values, move the pointer onto the color sampler icon  in the Info panel. Then, hold down the mouse button, and choose another color space from the menu.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License  Twitter™ and Facebook posts are not covered under the terms of Creative Commons.

Legal Notices   |   Online Privacy Policy