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Photoshop CS3- New Tools for Black and White Conversion


For the serious photographer or designer, one of the most frustrating things can be converting your images from color to black and white. Often times, people will just click Image->Mode->Grayscale, then either leave the image as is, or use curves to adjust.

There are several better ways to do this in Photoshop- methods that give you much more control over the contrast range of your images as you convert them to black and white. I am going to show you some of the better ways to do this, including the new tools. First, let’s start with a nice, colorful image to convert.



This is the most common method of conversion, and yields the result below. While the image looks O.K- it can look much better than it does.39225_I-M-Gray

Image->Adjustments->Channel Mixer

The channel mixer should be familiar to you if you spend any time doing color critical work. This is a good way to selectively adjust your colors- giving you a bit more control than some of the other tools. The key to this method is the ‘monochrome’ checkbox on the bottom of the palette.Channel MixerOnce you click on the “Monochrome” checkbox, you will see the image convert to black and white in the background. Now you can use the Red, Green and Blue sliders to selectively control the contrast of your image. The example below, I adjusted the image for “pleasing-ness” in the Channel Mixer palette.

There is just one problem with the method- the image does not convert to the grayscale color space when you are done with your adjustments, and hit OK. So just remember, when using this method- CONVERT TO GRAYSCALE WHEN YOU ARE DONE! Otherwise, you printer might get a little annoyed that all of your ‘1-color’ images are actually RGB.CMix_RGB

The New Tool: Image->Adjustments->Black and WhiteBW Palette

This is the newest tool in this bag of tricks, introduced in Photoshop CS3. The control palette looks similar to the channel mixer palette, but has many more sliders- which means more control over your adjustments.

The best part of this tool, is that visually, it is very simple to understand. In the case, the large pile of red lumber on the right hand side of the image can be darkened or lightened by adjusting the Red slider.



Once again though, like the Channel Mixer, the images are not converted to grayscale when you finish with your adjustments, so don’t forget to convert after you finish.

Like most things in Photoshop, there are several ways any single task can be accomplished. Which way is best is often up to the operator. I hope that you have gotten something from this little blog post.

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