Graphics & Design: Black and White Conversion Techniques

For this tutorial, we were introduced to the many techniques of black and white conversion and how we can apply them to our photography. We learnt that during this tutorial it is not as simple as going in to photoshop and simply converting a colour image by pressing the black and white adjustment; as there are different shades to black and white that can be applied depending on what suites a certain image. We also looked in to how to tint certain parts of the image to create an almost “Sin City” feel to an image, along with adding more quality to black and white images by using a channel mixer which also keeps the tonal value. I found this tutorial to be relatively easy in parts, specifically the examples that I will be showing below in this post as I have used them before; however I found the tinting and channel mixing layer technique to be quite difficult and I still have not got the technique sussed. I felt that this wasn’t explained as well as it should have been; this was evident as many of my fellow students found it difficult to achieve as well and so it was not only I who had a problem with it. Although I understand the importance for this technique greatly as it has helped me to appreciate both colour and black and white images.

The image that I will be using is one that I have taken for another module with the theme or Travel. This shot really is far more interesting when in colour, however, it shows a good example of the shades and tones that can be found when converted to black and white which is often hidden in colour photographs.

The simplest techniques to achieve a black and white conversion is to go in to Photoshop, and Desaturate the image by going in to Image>Mode>Lab Colour, and then to choose  Image> Adjustments> Desaturate. The outcome for this technique is a fairly dirty mono-conversion, however it is has more quality to it than the typical desaturate command while in RGB.


 As mentioned above, the outcome for this is a basic black and white converted image, which usually means a large reduction in tonal quality.

The next technique is slightly more advanced although still relatively simple, as it is often used in order to obtain a more balanced tone and a greater quality than the previous shown. The technique here is to simply use the Channel Mixer menu that can be found in Image>Adjustments>Channel Mixer. Then, in order to make the image black and white, change the preset to Black and White Infrared and the image should then change to this. You can then change the source channel sliders to suite the tonal range of your choice.


 The result with this image is vastly different to the other converted image above, as this technique has been applied to keep the tonal range in this image, giving a higher quality image overall.


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