Converting to Black and White

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Getting to mono  means  removing the colour, so here are the top options…

Even if your camera has a dedicated black & white shooting mode, you’re far better off shooting in colour if you want
great mono results. The reason for this is a full-colour image contains more data, and it’s the manipulation of this data that
leads to the best black & white output. Different colours can display as lighter or darker greys depending on the method of
conversion, so here’s a range of different options for you to try.
Our Start image


In your menu , use Image-Mode-Grayscale
It’s pretty quick and is a great option for Elements users who don’t have access to a Channel Mixer.
The other advantage is it gives file sizes one-third the size of a colour picture, so it’s a good option for space-saving.



Photoshop and elements -Ctrl,Shift,U
Blisteringly fast with the above shortcut, and allows you to convert to mono in under a second! You don’t get any control over the tonality of the image, but it’s always worth a try because of its sheer speed.

Channel Mixer

Photoshop only.
Image – Adjustments-ChannelMixer

The Channel Mixer allows you to vary the amount of the Red, Green and Blue Channels that go into the resulting image, and by ticking the Monochrome box at the bottom-left corner, you can vary how the different colours in the mix affect the black & white output. In essence, it allows you to control how bright or dark different colours become when converted to mono. Ideally, the 3 values should add up to around 100%, but there are no rules – just make it look good!

How Channels work


Go to Window➜Channels (Photoshop only) and you’ll see that a colour image is made up of a Red, a Green, and a Blue Channel, and each individual Channel is actually a black & white pic. The black, grey and white tones in these pics shows how much red,  green and blue is present in each pixel, and when they’re combined, we get the natural colours we see. Because different amounts of R, G and B go into a full colour mix, each Channel therefore gives a different mono version of the scene. We can either use these versions directly (say by using 100% of the Red channel and throwing away the Green and Blue data) or we can mix them up in the Channel Mixer to give a vast choice of effects.

Red channel

Pure red would show as white (the maximum) in the Red Channel, so all the colours containing lots of red  reproduce as very light grey tones. Colours without much red (like the blue items in the scene) go very dark and are almost black.

Green Channel

Any item with lots of green in it will become very light in the Green Channel, and anything with very little will go pretty dark. If we check , we can see they take on a completely different character to the Red Channel’s picture.

Blue Channel

If we check the Blue Channel’s rendition of the scene, we can see that we have a completely different mix again. In fact, the only colours that remain constant over all three pictures are black and white, and that’s because these colours contain equal amounts of red, green and blue.

So there you go, black and white conversions using simple methods can give unlimited variations….
Have fun



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