Black & White – So Many Choices

Like most things in life, when you want to convert a color photo into black and white, there is more than one way to get the job done. When you want good enough, life is simple. Got Picasa? Hit that Black and White button. Even in Photoshop, you have a few options:

  • Image -> Adjustments -> Desaturate
  • Image -> Mode -> Grayscale

Black & White Conversion - How To

Want to learn about a few more choices, by all means, click for the rest of the post.

If you are staring down the barrel of a copy of Photoshop CS4, you’ve got a brand new option which used to take a whole lot of screwing around.  Do you know how to use the Channel Mixer? I can muddle through, but I’m not happy about it. I’ll attempt to show you how to use that one at the bottom. Those of you who recently “upgraded”, welcome to the dedicated Black and White tool! To get here, you’re going to want to hit Image -> Adjustments -> Black & White…. Oh wait… maybe we want to be a little careful first. Let’s do this in a new layer. Layer -> Duplicate Layer…. Give it a name. How about “Layer for Black And White Stuff. Which will be in here.” Or something shorter – up to you. After you’ve got your new layer, Start up that Black & White tool like I showed you before.

Black & White Photoshop Conversion, Step 2

Now you have to decide what you want to emphasize in the image. The Black & White tool lets you either select using the sliders or choose using a bunch of presets. If you’re new to this, I’d just look through them until you found something that makes you happy. Pretty nice, right? Very flexible. If you want to play around a bit more, it’s time to adjust sliders. If you’ve never done too much B&W, remember that the higher percentage of a certain color, the lighter the area that was originally that color will get.

Black & White Photoshop Conversion, Step 2

The last option you have at the bottom is the Tint checkbox. If you select that, you will be able to add a base tone other than black to your “black and white” image. Sepia toning, for example, is just a click away. You can make some great effects here, if that is what you’re after.  I’ve got a picture of a rusty can, so I’m going to keep it real.  Real black & white.

Black & White Rusty Can

Not too shabby, right?  That’s what I thought.

Alright – so you’re saying “Hey Ari – I’ve got Photoshop CS2 or somesuch – how do I play Black & White games without having the new version?”  To you I say “Dammit!  Now I have to figure out how to use the Channel Mixer again?”  It goes a little something like this:

Instead of copying our background layer, let’s make a new adjustment layer.  Layer -> New Adjustment Layer -> Channel Mixer.  Give it a name.  On your side menu there, you should have a box that says Monochrome.  Check that bad boy.  Now you have a black and white image and a few colors to mix.  Bear in mind that you’re going to want things to add up to somewhere around 100%.  It’s just how it is.  I’ve been told by the good folks at Photojojo that 30% Red, 60% Green, and 10% Blue is a good place to start.  I tend to agree.  Use the Constant slider to adjust the overall brightness of the image.  That wasn’t too bad now, was it?

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