Converting images to black and white

Have you ever tried converting a photo to black and white and ended up with a flat, dull image? Converting to black and white may sound simple, but in actual fact it requires a little more effort than simply moving the saturation slider to the left.

In this Photoshop class Karl demonstrates different techniques for converting pictures to black and white, clearly showing you how to achieve a quality black and white image with the right levels of contrast.

Karl covers methods such as the Black & White adjustment layer, Channel Mixer and Gradient Map, explaining which is his preferred method and how you can use masks to get the very best results.

This Photoshop class covers the following:

  • How to convert images to black and white in Photoshop
  • Black and white photography tips for beginners
  • Photoshop Black & White adjustment layer
  • Photoshop Channel Mixer
  • Photoshop Gradient Map

You may also enjoy this Advanced Photoshop for Photographers class with Viktor Fejes, where Viktor demonstrates his techniques for converting images to black and white.

If you have any questions about this class, please post in the comment section below.


How to convert photos to black and white using Photoshop:

Method 1: Black & White adjustment layer

Black & White adjustment layer Photoshop

Photoshop’s Black & White adjustment layer is a commonly used method for effectively converting images to black and white.

Method 2: Channel Mixer adjustment layer

Channel Mixer adjustment layer in Photoshop

The Channel Mixer is another commonly used method for black and white image conversions.

Method 3: Gradient Map adjustment layer

Gradient Map adjustment layer in Photoshop

Less commonly used, the Gradient Map adjustment layer is another way you can convert images to black and white.

Comments

  1. Thank you Karl for this very useful tutorial and mentioning variety of solutions for coloured photo to b&w conversion. I would like to ask your opinion about the argue of advantage of shooting b&w by Monochrome sensor camera (such as Leica Q2 Monochrome) which doesn’t have CFA (colour filter array). In this way manipulating and converting a colour image to a B&W (by different brands of cameras) or using Film Simulation feature on Fujifilm cameras would be not necessary. Differences of tonality, dynamic range, contrasts, and specially in paper-prints for trained-eyes would be on the other hand of course. Although even in old school of analog photography and working for hours in darkroom for dodge and burn techniques we were trying to manipulate illuminating of tones and values to make an artistic image, and current softwares are considering as digital version of traditional darkroom (like Adobe Lightroom!) with same features (but much easier). However still this topic stands for Art Photography: Black & White photography with Monochrome sensor versus RGB sensor and B&W conversion in post!
    Please share your technical opinion.

    1. Hi Art, I unfortunately have no experience of the Leica monochrome sensor as I’ve never used it. It is likely if that is what it is designed for and given a brand like Leica that it has some advantages over a traditional colour sensor. However it obviously strictly limits you to one type of photography and I’ve never had any problem producing great B&W results from a colour sensor. If your only interest is to produce the best B&W images and nothing else and the professional reviews of this camera tell you that the results are superior then of course it would be worth considering but otherwise not.

  2. Thank you for this tutorial. It’s so useful to have a different perspective on B&W printing and to be offered realistic options to achieve a pleasing result,

  3. Hi Karl. I find that the Black & White Profiles in LR are some of the best conversions around and there are loads to choose from and you can often get the look you’re after with a simple click of a button. I do however like this tutorial as it does give me a better understanding of what is happening in the Profiles and perhaps allow me to make some finer adjustments to the profiles.
    Great job as always Karl. Love this site more and more.

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