Photoshop CS4 Tutorial: Black and White

Without further ado and as promised, here’s the tutorial I prepared which will help you convert your colored digital photographs into impressive black and white images. This guide may have been prepared using Adobe Photoshop CS4 but they are still very much applicable if you are stuck with Photoshop 7 or CS3.

1. First, open a photograph of your choice.

Initially, press X to toggle your foreground color to black (you can toggle between white and black foreground colors by pressing X. This may come in handy with other Photoshop techniques out there). You’ll observe the effect in the upper right hand corner of your CS4 window on the “Color” box as shown in the image below (try pressing X several times and observe what it does with the elements in said box).

2. Now go to the Layers palette and add a new “Gradient Map” adjustment layer like in the following screencap.

This screen will then appear (as a pop-up in CS3 or Photoshop 7) above the Layers palette. Just leave all the values alone as they were initially.

At this stage, your image will have already changed from colored to black and white but we are far from done yet.

3. Next, as in #2, create another adjustment layer but this time, choose “Channel Mixer.” The image will still look the same when you do this but everything will change as we proceed.

Right now, you have three items on your Layers palette: Background, Gradient Map, and Channel Mixer.

The screen below will then replace the “Gradient Map” pallete on CS4 (Channel Mixer will still appear as a pop-up in either CS3 or Photoshop 7), above the Layers palette. Make sure the “Monochrome” box is checked thereby making the “Output Channel” show a “Gray” selection (ticking the “Monochrome” box will automatically choose “Gray” for you).

The next step will call for values depending on how bright your image is. It may also depend on the effect you would like the lighting to be in your final B&W output.

4. There are four adjustable values in Channel Mixer. First thing’s first, bring down the value of “Constant” to -8. Now, darker images may need to be adjusted to around -6 and brighter ones may call for an even lower than -8 value. The lower the value, the darker the image (initially, but this is just normal). At this point, have Constant rest at -8 and fine tune it after we have pegged the value of the other variables in the next steps. For this photo, however, I used a -7 value.

Next, slide the value of the “Red” channel up between +70 and +75 (I used +72 for this photograph).

Now, the tricky part is finding the right values for “Green” and “Blue.” Drag the slider for Green to the right first and let it rest to around +20. Do the same with Blue. Please note that their values may most probably be different from each other depending on whether you think you have already achieved the “right” mix. Personally, if the whites have already taken over details in a photo that I think are important, then I’ve already overdone it with either of the Green and/or Blue values. Adjust one after the other and keep their values relatively close (a +20 Green value and a +40 Blue may still work for some photographs so just experiment while keeping an eye at your image).

For this photo, I used the values below.

Here’s the final output we got by using this technique.

Had you done it by merely selecting Image > Mode > Grayscale, you would have gotten this, instead:

Again, here’s the original photo as shown way up in this post:

I hope you liked this nifty tutorial. It’s the very same technique I used with my Batman on Gargoyle statue photographs featured in the previous post.

Until next time!

Original image in this post was taken using a Sony DSC-W300, if in case you are wondering.

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