Color just not doing it for you? Or maybe you’re going for that classic look? Here’s an easy way to create a dynamic black & white image using Photoshop. Let’s start with a little background information though, shall we? You might be curious to know what channels are and why we’re mixing them.
The information in your color image is broken down into Red, Green and Blue information (RGB). Photoshop seperates each of these three into its own layer with brightness represented on a monochrome scale between white and black. This layer is called a channel. These are viewable through the Channels Window (Window > Channels.) You’ll see an RGB layer at the top, which is the combined version of the Red, Green and Blue layers below it.
Now that we know why we’re using a tool called the Channel Mixer, let’s open Photoshop and open the image we want to convert.
1. In your Layers window (F7 if you dont see it, or Window > Layers) click on the ‘create new fill or adjustment layer’ button at the bottom (circled in red.) Select ‘Channel Mixer’ from the menu.
2. Check the ‘monochrome’ button (circled in red.)
Suddenly the image is black and white! OK, we’re halfway there. However the image may look a little dull or flat at first. This is where color filters come in! This is also where our knowledge of channels comes in handy.
Those three bars with the sliders represent the three channels of your image, and changing them changes the brightness values of the different channels — if you pull up the red slider, it increases the brightness of the red channel and brightens anything in the picture that is red or has red tones in it (this includes skin.)
3. Click on the dropdown menu which says “Default” and select a color filter that works well for your image.
Personally, I think the Yellow filter looks the best with this picture, as it doesn’t make her skin too bright, her lips have enough contrast to be defiined, and the cookie isn’t dark and horrible looking. It’s somewhere between the Red and Green filters, with red at 34%, green at 66% and blue down at 0.
Depending on the type of picture you’re working with though, a different filter may work better. Or you might want to experiment, and that’s what makes this so fun, but you probably want to try to keep your total percentage around 100% so you don’t make the image too bright or too dark.
You might notice while you’re playing around with these filters that it’s just moving those little color sliders around for you to preset locations. The preset for a red filter sets the red channel at 100% and the other two at 0. This means the red channel is being used by itself for the luminosity of your new black and white image. Armed with this knowledge, you can even go as far as to check out what the different channels look like beforehand by clicking on the one you want to see in the Channels Window.