Tuesday, 14 October 2014


Today we are going to look into the topic of Black & White conversions on our images. I know that I love to mix up the look of my pages by sometimes using full color photos and for other pages, black and white images make my heart skip a beat. It really depends on the theme and mood of my page, and sometimes on the kit I am using. And looking around at all the galleries, it seems there are lots of scrapbookers who do the same.

For me, I usually prefer to use the Gradient Map adjustment layer. I like the control it gives me, as I can fine tune my blacks and my whites ... or even choose to do sepia and other color variations super easily! Often I will just leave the colors of the gradient map pure black and pure white and then tweak my image with a Curves adjustment. Let's take a look:

I have a moody little image that has some color issues. You can see along the face and hair (above the forehead), there are some color cast issues going on, which would need to be corrected if I chose to use this photo as a full color image. But instead, I am going to embrace the moodiness this image evokes for me and convert it to black and white using the Gradient Map adjustment layer.

Here is a screenshot to show you how I do it:

If you like the look produced, simply leave it as is and add it your page. It can be as simple as that. You can also tweak the gradient. It doesn't have to be pure black to pure white. I use this method to create sepia tone images and to also get that overall soft matte look on my images. I sometimes do a black matte or even a hazy grey matte look.

Often I will use the gradient as is ... and then add another adjustment layer to tweak my image. I use the Curves most frequently because I love the On-Image tool for targeting specific tones that I want to change within my image.

This super quick video tutorial can help you understand Curves and the On-Image tool if you are not familiar with it.

Another quick option is the Levels adjustment layer. You will not have as much control as you would with Curves, but it is quick and easy for those just starting out.

Anne chimed in with some tips for super fast B&W conversions using her favorite actions, for those of you that like things done with the push of a button. Here's what Anne had to say:

I am natural lazy. Once I realized the hardest part to using ACTIONs is loading them in your program. Then it is just a matter of pushing the play button!  I fell in love with Totally Rad actions.  They have a big sale once a year, and it happened I had extra funds and got a bundle. TRA1 – THE ORIGINAL MIX

I use the B&W actions so much! For this page made with Pink Reptile's I Believe in Miracle and One of a Kind and the TRA1-Bitchin B&W, but I played with the other two, and you can see the difference. I kinda liked the AWESOME, but it lightened the background sky and sidewalk to much for me.   Mostly personal taste.

I don't work for Totally Rad, but you can get a freebie pack and try a few of the actions, just by signing up HERE

Totally Rad has a tutorial for installing actions in Photoshop, if you've never done it.

If you need to install actions in PSE, it depends on the version. The Texas Chicks Blog has a great resource page for this.

Anja shares her technique for converting her images to B&Ws by way of Adjustment layers and colored filters. Here is what she has to share:

First of all, I never work in a destructive way, meaning, I use adjustment layers for nearly all my editing, also for converting an image to b+w. It's become a habit of mine ;-)

So what I do is, I choose the adjustment layer 'black & white' (in the layers menu, the circle icon half empty / half black). That will give me several options for converting an image to black & white. It really depends on your picture, I'd say for most portraits or pictures with people, the green filter will work best, because of the skin tone. But I found a picture of a building [from www.freeimages.com] that shows how different filters might be fine, just with a different result.
So the top left image is the original of course. In picture 1 I have used the default black & white filter. Nothing much to say about this one.
In picture 2 I have used the 'high contrast blue filter'. This filter will not work with faces, but it works just fine here I think. It lightens the sky, and gives a nice clean and crisp contrast. In picture 3 I have used the 'maximum white' filter. That gives the picture a nice high key effect...
I usually will try them all, to see what surprising results I come up with. And it all depends on what you look but do play around, you might be surprised!

So there you have it: 3 different takes on how to convert your images to black and white. Don't you just love Photoshop? There are so many different ways to attempt the same thing and sharing methods with others is a great way to learn and try new things. I hope you learned a new tip or even were inspired to revisit a technique you have not used in awhile.

Do you have a favorite tip for turning your photos into B&W images? If so, we'd love to hear about it!


  1. I often use M4H's Match Stick actions for b&w. I really like the Superb one. But tweaking with levels (or curves) is just the icing on the cake.

    After reading this blog post, I really want to try Jenn's method.

    1. M4H has some GREAT action I know! Thanks for sharing that source Katja and glad the post inspired you to try something new!