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The Photoshop Phanatic: Photoshop Basics

Part 3: Converting a Color Image to Black & White

In this installment of Photoshop Basics, we will explore various color to black & white conversion techniques. These are not by all means the only ways to convert color to black & white, but just a few of the most common methods. So, open up your copy of Photoshop and follow along.

Technique 1 (Grayscale Mode)

With this technique Photoshop will convert all colors to black, white, and shades of gray.

  1. Open the image you want to convert to black & white
  2. Under the Image menu choose Mode
  3. Choose Grayscale
  4. If asked to discard color info, click OK. (You can click “Do Not Ask Again” in the lower left of the dialog box) Photoshop will convert all colors to black, white, and shades of gray.

Technique 2 (Desaturate)

The Desaturate command converts color to black & white in the same color mode. For example, it assigns equal red, green, and blue values to each pixel in an RGB image to make it appear grayscale. In documents with more than 1 layer, Desaturate will only convert the currently selected layer.

  1. Open the image you want to convert to black & white
  2. Under the Image menu choose Adjustments
  3. Choose Desaturate

Technique 3 (Hue/Saturation)

Last, but not least, is the Hue/Saturation technique. This is my personal favorite since you can create some interesting effects with this one.

  1. Open the image you want to convert to black & white
  2. Under the Image menu choose Adjustments
  3. Choose Hue/Saturation
  4. Under the Edit dropdown in the dialog box, make sure Master is selected. (This means that all colors in the document are selected. You can control selected colors via this method, as well).
  5. Select the middle input slider labeled Saturation and drag it to the left until the text field to the right reads -100.
  6. Click OK

As they say, variety is the spice of life. Experiment with these techniques and see which you prefer.