Easy Black and White Photos in Photoshop

Today I would like to show you how easy it is to convert a color image to a very cool black and white image in Photoshop.  There are several ways that you can accomplish this. (Like most adjustments in Photoshop)

Today we are going to add an adjustment layer. This is the “safest” way, because it will allow you to go back to the color image by deleting the adjustment layer or just by turning it off. This will also allow you to make more edits if needed. As a good practice I always make a copy of the original layer, and work from the copy, so you will always have the original layer.

So, lets start with how the colors in the black and white adjustment in Photoshop work. The way the black and white adjustment layer works is by mapping the colors in the image to grayscale luminance values. It sounds very complicated, but its not. I’ll spare you the long scientific definition of what luminance is, but if you are really interested Wikipedia has a good definition. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luminance

Simply put, by sliding the color sliders to the right (brighter) or to the left (darker) will tell Photoshop how bright or dark to make that color represented in grays. This scale goes from black to white and has 255 shades of gray values in-between. Let’s see how this works.

Here is the starting image, a photo of our dog Ivy in color with a blue/purple background. I did choose a background that was dark and does not have the same colors as Ivy. ( Isn’t she a sweet girl? )

I make a copy of the background and click the create new fill or adjustment layer icon at the bottom of the layers palette.

Select black and white, this will add a black and white adjustment layer and open the properties panel for adjusting the colors.

Now look at what happens when I move the red slider all the way to the left.

Not what we are looking for. But it does give you an idea of how they work, click on the “undo” to reset it back to normal.

I’m going to adjust the colors just a bit, to get the look and feel I think works for Ivy. This makes Ivy look good, but the background still looks bad, right?

Right, because I only adjusted the Reds and Yellows, these colors are what make up the colors of Ivy’s coat, I did not adjust the blues that make up the background. Look what happens when I move the blue slider all the way to the left and adjust the magenta just a bit.

The blue/purple background turns black, well all but one small area on the left, part of what the background canvas didn’t cover. That’s o.k. we’ll need to crop the image anyway. If we follow the rule of threes this is what we end up with.

Hope you liked this, please leave a commit.- Joe

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