How to Convert a Color Image to Black & White

  • Thread starter EmeraldHike
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With Adobe Photoshop, it's easy to convert a color photograph (or graphic) to black and white. You can either do this in pure grayscale or with a color tint. Today, I'll show you how to accomplish both methods.

Why would you want to convert a color image to black and white? Drama, of course. Sometimes, if done correctly, a colorless image can convey feeling much more effectively than a colored one can. The thing is, the tones need to be adjusted properly in order to do that. It oftentimes helps to deepen the darks and lighten the lights to get the intended mood across to the viewer.

Original Image​

For today's tutorial, I'll be using a photo of a rocky coast. This photo has already been edited to look at best it can in color, but that won't make a difference in regards to what I intend to show you in this tutorial. The principles are the same whether converting an edited image or an unedited one.


Converting to Black & White​

After I open the image in Photoshop, I'll head over to the Adjustments panel and click the Black & White option.


Doing this will add an adjustment layer in the Layers panel that will make it appear as if the image has been converted to black and white. The original layer hasn't actually been converted at all. The new adjustment layer that's above the original layer is making it appear as if the image has been converted. If you hide the new layer, you'll see color again. This is by design. It's what's called a non-destructive edit and is intended to stop people from making permanent changes to their documents.

Let's take a look at the new image.


As you can see, the image now has an entirely new mood. But we can do more.

Adjustment Options​

To further edit the image, there are a few more options available to us. As you saw in the above screenshot of the Adjustments panel, there are colored sliders. These sliders will need to be experimented with one by one, as every photo will consist of different colors. Pushing each color slider to the left and right will lighten and darken each color in the image.

Since the image is now black and white, trying to edit the color tones by guessing where each color in the image is can quickly become tedious. A better method is to use the Targeted Adjustment Tool that's located in the upper left corner of the Properties panel.


After clicking on this tool, you can click and drag anywhere in the image and whatever that color is will lighten or darken.

Another fun alternative is to take advantage of the presets that are available in the Properties panel.


If I were to click on the Infrared option, this is how my image would appear.


Talk about adding drama. What was once a semi-flat image has been converted into a much more dimensional and dramatic one.

Adding a Tint​

If you were inclined to add a more customized look, perhaps a tint would be in your best interest. To add a colored tint to a black and white photo, simply click the Tint check box in the very same Properties panel and then click the color swatch. From there, choose your color and click OK.


I did that to add a bronze colored tint and this is what my final image looks like.


What a huge difference from the original. And to think, I can undo any of these changes with the click of a button. All I need to do to access the original layer is to hide the adjustment layer I originally added. It's that simple.

If you have any questions about the process of converting a color photo to a black and white using Adobe Photoshop, please ask below. I'd be happy to help out in any way I can. Thanks!
How to Convert a Color Image to Black & White was posted on 08-25-2021 by EmeraldHike in the Photoshop forum.

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