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Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions

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So, you want to convert your photos to stunning black and white versions? If that’s true then you are in the right place. Photoshop offers a wide variety of tools for performing black and white conversions. Some are obvious – like the black and white adjustment layer – and others are more obscure.


Resources


Black And White Adjustment Layer

Let’s begin with the most obvious one: Black And White Adjustment Layer. Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black & White. Tweak the available sliders to your liking.

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 1

You can see here before and after:

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 2
Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 3

Gradient Map Adjustment Layer

Another way to convert to B&W is the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer. Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map and choose a black to white gradient.

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 4

You can see here before and after:

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 5
Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 6

Bonus tip. For a more dark and contrasted look duplicate the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer (Ctrl + J) and change it’s blending mode to Soft Light. Here’s how it looks:

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 7

Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer

Channel Mixe Adjustment Layer is another way to go. Choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Channel Mixer and check Monochrome. Play with the Red, Green and Blue sliders to achieve the effect you want. I went for some really blown out Highlights.

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 8

You can see here before and after:

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 9
Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 10

Desaturate

Another option for converting photos to black and white is the simple Photoshop command Desaturate. Press Ctrl + Shift + U and your image will be converted to a grayscale version. This is the simplest way but it is the least flexible and it doesn’t look so great.

You can see here before and after:

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 11
Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 12

Lab color mode

Maybe the most obscure way to convert a color image to a black and white version is by using the Lab color mode. To do this choose Image > Mode > Lab Color. After that discard the color channels by selecting Image > Mode > Grayscale.

You can see here before and after:

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 13
Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 14

Learn complex/advanced techniques

Those were some simple techniques for converting to black and white. Let me share with you some of the more complex/advanced techniques.

One thing you can do after you’ve done one of the conversions above is to add a monotone, duotone or tritone effect.

One of the simplest and obvious ways to achieve this is to first convert a image to Grayscale (Image > Mode > Grayscale) and afterwards choose Image > Mode > Duotone. The options window is pretty self-explanatory so I won’t be covering it.

The way I like to do it involves Blending Modes and Solid Color Adjustment layer. It allows for more unexpected and beautiful results than with the Duotone command. Here’s how to do it:

First convert the image to black and white using one of the techniques from above. Afterwards add one, two or three Solid Color Adjustment layers. Use a different color for each. Now start changing their blending modes. Good blending modes for this kind of toning are Overlay, Soft Light, Color and Color Dodge.

Here’s some of what I made using the City picture from above (after converting it to black and white):

A dark/blue Solid Color with the blending mode set to Overlay:

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 15

A dark red Solid Color with the Color Dodge Blending Mode and a dark blue Solid Color with the Color Blending Mode for a duotone effect:

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 16

Another advanced technique is to simply go through the image Channels (channels hold information about image color and luminosity) by holding Ctrl and pressing 3,4 or 5. Once you find a channel you like press Ctrl + C to copy, create a new layer (Ctrl + Shift + Alt + N) and paste it (Ctrl + V).

You can see here before and after:

Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 17
Convert your Photos to Stunning Black and White Versions 18
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  • http://suruha.com Su Hall

    I had no idea there were so many different ways to do black and white! Thank you for the tips!

    Su

  • http://mahmud100.blogspot.com Mahmud Mithu

    It is my first journey on your site. But after reading your good tutorials I am sure to come again.
    Carry on dear.