Photoshop Everything Is Black And White

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(Version CS6 and CC 2020, and Span CC 2022)

A self-guided tutorial past Ross Collins, professor of advice, North Dakota Country University

Creating images in black and white

One word: Why?

The world of photography is brimful in color, and has been for quite a few years. Digital imaging makes it easy to both photograph and display color photos. Desktop printers tin produce high-quality color as easily as black and white–maybe fifty-fifty easier. We live in a colored globe. Why choose something as blowsy as blackness and white, produced at a time when moving-picture show-based colour was either impossible, or at least somewhat difficult and expensive?

The answer the graphic artists will give you is technical: High-quality publications requiring large impress runs are even so produced using start presses. It is much cheaper to print photographs equally black-and-white halftones instead of color separations. We still meet quite a few blackness-and-white photos in newspapers, for example. But newsprint (and paper more often than not) every bit a medium for media is conspicuously shrinking in popularity. Present many people prefer to look at a screen on a figurer or other device.

Black and white choice.Yet blackness-and-white photography still maintains a agree on the imaginations of non just many serious photographers, but many who dearest photographic images with a sure elementary austerity that only blackness and white tin can provide. The routine black-and-white print for many of us who grew up in film days at present has become something special, an fine art grade. In fact, it is in fine art departments where you still see about film-based photography nowadays, and the power of black-and-white hasn’t really diminished only because the peachy photos of the past normally lacked colour.

Y’all tin withal pick up a black-and-white flick, shoot with a standard SLR, process and impress in a darkroom. In a video tutorial, I show you how to do that. But digital imaging software has become then sophisticated that it’due south prefectly feasible to produce blackness-and-white of equivalent (or ameliorate) quality in your digital darkroom.

What works in black and white?

We consider, beginning, that black-and-white photography can offering us three visual tools: line, shape, and tone. The colors of our photos go tones, that is, shades of gray. The differences between these shades of grey ascertain contrast, and that is a critical aspect of blackness and white, because dramatically different colors may showroom nearly the same shades of gray. To delineate parts of an image, we can adjust shades of gray by controlling how the colors strike the photographic camera sensor. In the old days (and sometimes still, actually) we controlled how colors appeared as shades of gray by using filters. These colored pieces of glass dramatically lightened or darkened certain tones, giving usa tonal separation or delineation in our black-and-white print. For example, if nosotros wanted to darken a sky that ofttimes became white or well-nigh white in B & W, we placed a yellow or reddish filter over our camera. Most film photographers had a kit of standard filters and knew what they would practise–they had to, because there was no way to see the photo until you developed the film. If you made a error, you’d have to reshoot, sometimes impossible to do.

Today we still have to consider the equivalent of filters in digital imaging, but tools in Photoshop and Bridge arrive both easier and more precise. Other digital tools assistance us to regain contrast. Contrast is the divergence betwixt gray tones. Too few gray tones between pure black and pure white produce a unremarkably objectionable contrasty photo. Too many, often without any truthful blacks, produce a usually objectionable flat prototype. Nosotros expect for a happy medium that will testify off the photo in the fashion nosotros want it to expect.

Many photographers, fifty-fifty advanced ones, have a difficult time deciding what images will look good in blackness and white. Of course, if you lot are photographing landscapes in a N Dakota winter, black and white would be obvious because that’southward basically what the landscape looks like anyhow. On the other hand, a sunset becomes pretty blah in black and white–the color defines the image. Some photo editors publish documentary photography in black and white, peculiarly urban scenes, as it seems to better reflect the gritty mood of life of the streets. Mayhap, all the same, that’s because nosotros’re merely used to seeing documentary photography in blackness and white. It really does often come down to personal sense of taste. My general dominion is that if color does non add anything to the paradigm I’ll consider black and white. Conversely, if a splash of colour somewhere in the background distracts, black and white oftentimes volition make information technology less obtrusive. Endeavor it. See what you lot like.

This suggests that you should begin all your images in colour. Many DSLRs take black-and-white modes, simply I don’t see whatsoever reason why y’all would want to throw away the colour information at the camera. It’southward hard to say when yous’re shooting whether the image will end up looking better in blackness and white. Why make that determination right away? Shoot everything in color, in Camera Raw, when viable. This gives you the most digital information you can get, and unless you lot are cramped for storage in your camera or computer, why not continue it?

Color and black and white compared.Two basic techniques.

Back at the digital darkroom, you at present can choose the option of turning your work into black and white. How? I’ve heard of probably a half dozen ways. Almost people see the obvious ane: Choose Mode from the Epitome pulldown, and
Grayscale. That surely gives you a blackness and white paradigm. But I recollect it usually gives you a pretty flat one, and what’s more, you don’t accept any easy way to control total values of certain colors, as yous could practice with camera filters. Recent versions of Photoshop now give you a hint: when yous choose grayscale it replies with a message proverb, in effect, “Are you sure you don’t desire to get about this in another mode?” The other fashion it recommends is
Adjustments, and
Blackness & White
. This offers you a set of sliders to control color tonal values, and an Car option. That is a proficient fashion to go, and it’s become more flexible..

Note I prefer to do this on a
divide adjustment layer, instead of mucking near on the actual prototype: cull Layer, New Adjustment Layer, and Blackness & White.

Another way to proceeds more control over this process is to use good ol’
Camera Raw. It also is not “destructive,” because you lot can always bring your image back upwards to revert to color. Here is a simple Camera Raw process I like to use:

1. Open your photo in Bridge using Camera Raw. (You lot can download this image for exercise, or use 1 of your ain.)

ii. Choose the HSL/Grayscale icon from the carte du jour at correct (fourth icon from left).
Update for Bridge CC 2022:
The black-and-white toggle is under
at the top, and B&W at the right of Auto.

Black and white in Bridge3. Toggle on B&W.

four. Bridge will requite you a bones blackness and white translation. You lot tin choose to arrange tones for each color yourself by selecting the
B&Due west Mixer

and adjusting color sliders to your preference. Or you tin cull
and run into how smart the software is. (Meet Bridge sliders at right.) If you want more choices, nether Contour: Monochrome choose Browse. OMG, who needs all these choices? In any case, endeavor one y’all call back best matches your platonic.

5. Open up the image in Photoshop for more work, cull Washed if you lot want to piece of work on it later.

Black and white adjusted.Controlling tone and furnishings.

Camera Raw in Bridge gives you a variety of other options, some of them pretty sneaky. (I’ll get to that later.) Command
, that is, delineation between tones, with the 2d option,

. Choose the
Point tab, and either a medium or potent dissimilarity preset, or click and drag points in the histogram for more than precise contrast adjustments. Alternatively, cull
Parametric tab, and the sliders to adapt.

If you’re working in
instead of Camera Raw, command dissimilarity from the Paradigm pulldown, Adjustments, and
Brightness/Contrast. (Besides tin be done from a separate adjustment layer.)

Oft some areas of your blackness-and-white image will exist too calorie-free or too dark. In the old days photographers “exposed for the shadows”; that is, they overexposed a lilliputian when taking the picture show to add detail in shadow areas, fifty-fifty if that meant the highlights were slightly blown (also light or pure white). Under a darkroom enlarger it was usually easier to pull detail out of highlights than out of shadows. Simply digital photography has made it better to “expose for the highlights,” that is, underexpose a little bit so that we can capture more item in the highlight areas. In any case, if this sounds confusing, don’t fret. Fix it later in Photoshop.

Span using Camera Raw used to accept a slider called “Fill,” which would add light to areas that were besides night, simply as a fill up flash might do. Only CS6 and subsequently no longer have that slider, to my consternation. In any instance, now to lighten or darken parts of an paradigm in Photoshop, one way is to use the Contrivance and Fire tools, equally we learned almost in Tutorial Two. These are instinctive for older photographers, as that’s the manner it was done in the darkroom. Simply an alternative is to add together a
New Adjustment Layer from the Layers pulldown. Every bit noted earlier, adding an Aligning Layer is a mode to avoid irresolute the pixels of your photo; you don’t like it, just throw away the layer. Steps:

i. In Photoshop select the area you lot want to lighten or darken.

2. Cull New Adjustment Layer, and Curves.

3. Click on the straight-line histogram and drag down to darken, or vice versa. Employ the arrow keys for precise changes.

Here’s the sneaky part.

Ane of my one-time complaints nearly digital black and white was that it didn’t await realistic: information technology didn’t accept the
grain blueprint
of picture show-based black and white. Well, heh-heh, Bridge Camera Raw tin even faux i of those for you lot. Choose
and slide the grain Amount to the right. Increase Size and Roughness, and pretty soon information technology looks like i of those erstwhile black-and-white Tri-X motion-picture show photos I took of night football games, push processed to ISO 1600 in a super-strength dilution of HC110. (Never mind. You won’t be doing this. Just humor us geezers.) Note that Vignetting will give you a white fluff on the edges of your photo. Old lenses sometimes would do this when stopped down. Information technology was considered a flaw, and we tried to correct it in the darkroom. And now yous can proudly present your flawed paradigm? Sheesh.

Well, that was easy. Wait. In that location’due south more. (Isn’t there always in Photoshop?) You may remember Photoshop Tutorial Three, in which we could chose to brand duotones out of our images, that is, usually 1 color plus black. You tin practice something like in a more than controlled way using Bridge in Photographic camera Raw. It used to be called Split Toning, but in CC 2022 it has been inverse to Colour Grading. But it does the same thing, merely more than options for the particular-obsessed:

1. Choose The fifth Photographic camera Raw icon,
Colour Grading.

2. You’ll see color wheels for highlight, midtone and shadow. Choose as desired, and use the Hue slider to select a color you wish to produce. Alternatively, you tin choose points on the bike or pull on the dot side by side to it to conform.

iii. Move the slider to reach the desired color.

iv. Choose the Residuum slider to arrange relative contrasting of highlights, midtones and shadows.

Other colour/black-and-white combinations.

Color and black and white.Blackness-and-white was the only kind of photo anyone could make for most of the first century of photography. But that doesnt mean people didn’t see color photos. Manus-coloring photos goes merely virtually all the manner back to the beginning in 1839. Frequently if y’all option up an sometime tintype at the flea market it volition have a little color in it, perhaps a blush on the subject’s cheeks. Today we can recreate this in Photoshop, an interesting technique that I approximate gives us the best of both formats. Use one of your own photos, or download this 1 for exercise.

Painting color.

Ane piece of cake way to keep i color in a photo while turning the others to black and white is to make a conversion in Photoshop with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer:

1. Open a color photo in Photoshop.

2. Choose New Adjustment Layer, and

3. From the dialogue box, annotation start that with the
pick you accept a couple of ye olde style B & W toning possibilities, Sepia and Cyanotype. Adapt saturation as necessary. These try to lucifer historic chemical processes from more than a century ago that gave united states a blue-toned or warm-brown toned print.

iv. Otherwise, Choose Default nether Preset. From Master options leave the color of the slider you desire unchanged. Choose other colors. Movement the
slider for each to the left, to -100, to drain away the color.

If this doesn’t quite get you where you lot want to be, you lot tin besides choose to actually
paint on a layer,
but similar those old tintype artists. Oftentimes this looks best if you first add a little toning to your black and white. Create a blackness-and-white photograph with Adjustment layer and Black-and-white.  Mayhap try adding a little sepia using the technique above. You can dial down saturation for a more than subtle effect. Then:

1. Choose New Layer from the Layer pulldown. You’ll exist painting on that layer.

2. Choose the Brush tool, a foreground color, and dial down the opacity/flow and so that the black and white photograph shows through.

3. Paint as necessary. Apply the eraser tool to ready mistakes.

Erase to color.

Erasing to color.

If you would like some color to evidence through on your black-and-white paradigm, one method I similar is to add together a B & W adjustment layer, then erase part of it:

1.Open colour photo. From the Layer pulldown, choose Duplicate Layer.

2. Working on the Background Copy layer, choose Image pulldown, Adjustments, and Black & White.

3. Choose the Eraser Tool. Erase those areas in which y’all want to retain the colour.


Infrared film captures only that part of the electromagnetic spectrum. In the past information technology was often used in landscape photography, to capture dramatic skies. That’s because it darkens a blue sky to nearly black, making the clouds stand out, and also lightens green leafage. In pic it as well mostly added grain to a black-and-white image.

We tin recreate this effect so hands. In Photoshop Choose Adjustment Layer, Black & White, and in the Properties console (where you found sepia), choose

Consignment: Cull a photo for a blackness-and-white conversion. Add color to your black and white past painting or erasing as described higher up. Submit to Blackboard for grading.