Converting to Black and White - advice please

Started Nov 13, 2012 | Discussions
Shop cameras & lenses ▾
Doug MacArthur Regular Member • Posts: 126
Converting to Black and White - advice please

I have Photoshop CS 6 working with raw images. What is the best way to convert to black and white? Is simply using greyscale OK?

 Doug MacArthur's gear list:Doug MacArthur's gear list
Sony Alpha 7R II
JS55 Junior Member • Posts: 38
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please

Simply converting to grey scale will not give you a realistic BW conversion IMO and will leave you with flat images most of the time. I would create a grey scale channel mixer adjustment layer in PS or use the HSL grey scale in ACR. Either option will allow you to have complete control over the colour to BW conversion.

Cheers

Jay

plantdoc Senior Member • Posts: 2,288
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please

Try the B&W plugin from Topaz Labs. Inexpensive, free trial, and has just about every adjustment I could imagine most people would need.

Greg

DuaneV
DuaneV Senior Member • Posts: 1,350
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please

Yup.  I LOVE my Topaz B&W plugin.  LOTS of options, and I got it on sale for like $35 bucks.  Cant beat that.

Sal Baker Veteran Member • Posts: 9,356
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please
2

I highly, HIGHLY, recommend Nik Silver Efex Pro2.  The control point technology is a breakthrough.  You can download a free trial version.  Check out the on-demand video webinars conducted by various pros showing how the plug-in work for them.

The other Nik plug-ins can also prep your color files for even better B/W tonality and rendering.  I use the entire suite constantly.

Sal

 Sal Baker's gear list:Sal Baker's gear list
Ricoh GR Canon EOS 5D Mark II Fujifilm X-E2 Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM +7 more
Dave Jaseck
Dave Jaseck Veteran Member • Posts: 5,496
Greg Gorman B&W conversion

If you want quick method, this is as good as a neutral Nik Sliver which I have.  I have made an photoshop action out of his method and if you would like a copy send me an email.  I think it will work in CS6.  email me at: djaseck@mi.rr.com

-- hide signature --

www.pbase.com/davidjaseck
http://www.pbase.com/davidjaseck/image/112520927/small.jpg
Be careful how you interpret the world: It is like that.

Bali_Mirage Regular Member • Posts: 295
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please

You can download free presets for use in ACR from OnOne.......

http://www.ononesoftware.com/products/perfect-presets-camera-raw/

ML_Digital_nYc Junior Member • Posts: 46
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please

Some tips...

Always process in color, then bring your image into photoshop and use adjustment layers above your image to turn your image into a greyscale. There will be a day when you may have done some retouching to one of your images, and say I wish I had this image in color.

-A great technique for portraits, especially images that were shot well with lighting, is the place a hue/sat adjustment layer a the top most layer, set to -100...completely desaturation the image in appearance only. Then add a curve adjustment layer underneath that hue/sat adjustment, and apply a very steep "S" curve to the R & B channels. Of course each image will need fine tuning. But  this method spikes the green and reds in your image to create a very contrasty look... you could make a person look as if they're coated in paint or some sort of shiny silver makeup if you go far enough. But that's up to your taste!

-Fast Eddie

-- hide signature --

Your favorite retoucher's favorite retoucher.

NBDR Regular Member • Posts: 272
Fast Eddie Black and White method is great

ML_Digital_nYc wrote:

A great technique for portraits, especially images that were shot well with lighting, is the place a hue/sat adjustment layer a the top most layer, set to -100...completely desaturation the image in appearance only. Then add a curve adjustment layer underneath that hue/sat adjustment, and apply a very steep "S" curve to the R & B channels.

-Fast Eddie

-- hide signature --

Your favorite retoucher's favorite retoucher.

For a little more flexibility I used a BW adjustment layer instead of Hue/Sat adjustment layer with Sat = -100, but an excellent concept and implementation regardless. Great results and suggestion. Thanks.

-- hide signature --

'Live for today, but plan for tomorrow.'

NBDR Regular Member • Posts: 272
check out George Jardine video

Doug MacArthur wrote:

I have Photoshop CS 6 working with raw images. What is the best way to convert to black and white? Is simply using greyscale OK?

I just rediscovered an excellent ~ 35 min (free) video tutorial by George Jardine on converting to BW using ACR or Lightroom. The first part of the video compares various color to BW methods using Photoshop. Very informative content for beginner through intermediate users;

See http://mulita.com/blog/?p=1244

-- hide signature --

'Live for today, but plan for tomorrow.'

(unknown member) Veteran Member • Posts: 3,073
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please

Mark Johnson's workbence 356 should be of interest to you:

http://www.msjphotography.com/index.php/category/photoshop-workbench/

Murry

Allen Gerdes Veteran Member • Posts: 5,569
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please

I have used all of the normal techniques in the past, but lately almost always use the Topaz B/W plugin.  It offers great control and gives excellent results.

Regards....Allen

AMAllan
AMAllan Veteran Member • Posts: 4,949
Doug, this might help...
JulesJ
JulesJ Forum Pro • Posts: 39,257
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please

ML_Digital_nYc wrote:

Some tips...

Always process in color, then bring your image into photoshop and use adjustment layers above your image to turn your image into a greyscale. There will be a day when you may have done some retouching to one of your images, and say I wish I had this image in color.

-A great technique for portraits, especially images that were shot well with lighting, is the place a hue/sat adjustment layer a the top most layer, set to -100...completely desaturation the image in appearance only. Then add a curve adjustment layer underneath that hue/sat adjustment, and apply a very steep "S" curve to the R & B channels. Of course each image will need fine tuning. But this method spikes the green and reds in your image to create a very contrasty look... you could make a person look as if they're coated in paint or some sort of shiny silver makeup if you go far enough. But that's up to your taste!

-Fast Eddie

-- hide signature --

Your favorite retoucher's favorite retoucher.

I'm amazed all you guys suggest anything but using the tool designed for this in CS5 and 6. It's in the adjustment layers and unsurprisingly called Black and White. But before you do that open a curves adjustment layer and a levels adjustment layer just as you would with any photo. Using these three layers you can get a B&W conversion as good as you will ever get with third party plugins. Master the use of these adjustment layers and you need nothing else. If people are in your image then try the Red and Yellow sliders and the B&W layer.

Our business specialises in B&W portraits and prints, apart from general retouching and spotting those three layers are 90% of the time all I need for the B&W conversion.

Jules

ML_Digital_nYc Junior Member • Posts: 46
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please

You just repeated everything I said, but threw in a Levels adjustment layer for kicks!

_Fast Eddie

-- hide signature --

Your favorite retoucher's favorite retoucher.

JulesJ
JulesJ Forum Pro • Posts: 39,257
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please

ML_Digital_nYc wrote:

You just repeated everything I said, but threw in a Levels adjustment layer for kicks!

_Fast Eddie

-- hide signature --

Your favorite retoucher's favorite retoucher.

Except you used Hue and Sat whereas I used the B&W channel and you didn't use Levels. So yes, one third (the Curves) of what I do is the same as what you do. The B&W channel is very powerful and more so than the Hue and Sat I believe in this case, and is.....why it's there!

ML_Digital_nYc Junior Member • Posts: 46
Re: Converting to Black and White - advice please

I'm just messing with ya!

-- hide signature --

Your favorite retoucher's favorite retoucher.

NBDR Regular Member • Posts: 272
No "one best method" for converting from color to BW

JulesJ wrote:

ML_Digital_nYc wrote:

Some tips...

Always process in color, then bring your image into photoshop and use adjustment layers above your image to turn your image into a greyscale. There will be a day when you may have done some retouching to one of your images, and say I wish I had this image in color.

-A great technique for portraits, especially images that were shot well with lighting, is the place a hue/sat adjustment layer a the top most layer, set to -100...completely desaturation the image in appearance only. Then add a curve adjustment layer underneath that hue/sat adjustment, and apply a very steep "S" curve to the R & B channels. Of course each image will need fine tuning. But this method spikes the green and reds in your image to create a very contrasty look... you could make a person look as if they're coated in paint or some sort of shiny silver makeup if you go far enough. But that's up to your taste!

-Fast Eddie

-- hide signature --

Your favorite retoucher's favorite retoucher.

I'm amazed all you guys suggest anything but using the tool designed for this in CS5 and 6. It's in the adjustment layers and unsurprisingly called Black and White. But before you do that open a curves adjustment layer and a levels adjustment layer just as you would with any photo. Using these three layers you can get a B&W conversion as good as you will ever get with third party plugins. Master the use of these adjustment layers and you need nothing else. If people are in your image then try the Red and Yellow sliders and the B&W layer.

Our business specialises in B&W portraits and prints, apart from general retouching and spotting those three layers are 90% of the time all I need for the B&W conversion.

Jules

I think it's fair to say that there are a number of ways to convert color --> BW using Photoshop, e.g., grayscale, desaturate command, desat via Hue/Sat adjustment, isolating individual RGB channels as layers, channel mixer (monochrome), L channel, BW adjustment layer, gradients, dual hue/sat adjustment layers (Dr. Brown method), Kent's hue/sat + selective color method, calculations command and ACR, not to mention (but I will) numerous combinations of adjustment layers recorded as actions or not.

The method one should/could use is somewhat dependent on source image characteristics and artistic or commerrcial intent, as well as "How much time is one willing to spend tinkering to get the final result." In other words it's a matter of taste, intent and/or time.

NIK Silver Efex Pro may be overkill for some commercial portrait styles (I don't know; portraits are not my thing), but I sure like SEP for scenics. While I like Topaz plugins in general, I never use their BW offering any more.

Recently I have begun using ACR's grayscale functionalty (I like ACR's 8 color sliders vs. 6 in BW adjustment layers, plus ACRs other controls) and opening in PS as a Smart Object to retain adjustment layer-like tweaking flexibility.

One thing we can all probably agree on: One can almost always do better than a grayscale or desaturate conversion.

-- hide signature --

'Live for today, but plan for tomorrow.'

JulesJ
JulesJ Forum Pro • Posts: 39,257
Re: No "one best method" for converting from color to BW

NBDR wrote:

JulesJ wrote:

ML_Digital_nYc wrote:

Some tips...

Always process in color, then bring your image into photoshop and use adjustment layers above your image to turn your image into a greyscale. There will be a day when you may have done some retouching to one of your images, and say I wish I had this image in color.

-A great technique for portraits, especially images that were shot well with lighting, is the place a hue/sat adjustment layer a the top most layer, set to -100...completely desaturation the image in appearance only. Then add a curve adjustment layer underneath that hue/sat adjustment, and apply a very steep "S" curve to the R & B channels. Of course each image will need fine tuning. But this method spikes the green and reds in your image to create a very contrasty look... you could make a person look as if they're coated in paint or some sort of shiny silver makeup if you go far enough. But that's up to your taste!

-Fast Eddie

-- hide signature --

Your favorite retoucher's favorite retoucher.

I'm amazed all you guys suggest anything but using the tool designed for this in CS5 and 6. It's in the adjustment layers and unsurprisingly called Black and White. But before you do that open a curves adjustment layer and a levels adjustment layer just as you would with any photo. Using these three layers you can get a B&W conversion as good as you will ever get with third party plugins. Master the use of these adjustment layers and you need nothing else. If people are in your image then try the Red and Yellow sliders and the B&W layer.

Our business specialises in B&W portraits and prints, apart from general retouching and spotting those three layers are 90% of the time all I need for the B&W conversion.

Jules

I think it's fair to say that there are a number of ways to convert color --> BW using Photoshop, e.g., grayscale, desaturate command, desat via Hue/Sat adjustment, isolating individual RGB channels as layers, channel mixer (monochrome), L channel, BW adjustment layer, gradients, dual hue/sat adjustment layers (Dr. Brown method), Kent's hue/sat + selective color method, calculations command and ACR, not to mention (but I will) numerous combinations of adjustment layers recorded as actions or not.

The method one should/could use is somewhat dependent on source image characteristics and artistic or commerrcial intent, as well as "How much time is one willing to spend tinkering to get the final result." In other words it's a matter of taste, intent and/or time.

NIK Silver Efex Pro may be overkill for some commercial portrait styles (I don't know; portraits are not my thing), but I sure like SEP for scenics. While I like Topaz plugins in general, I never use their BW offering any more.

Recently I have begun using ACR's grayscale functionalty (I like ACR's 8 color sliders vs. 6 in BW adjustment layers, plus ACRs other controls) and opening in PS as a Smart Object to retain adjustment layer-like tweaking flexibility.

One thing we can all probably agree on: One can almost always do better than a grayscale or desaturate conversion.

-- hide signature --

'Live for today, but plan for tomorrow.'

I did a photoshop course about seven years ago at the Photography Workshops in Rockport Maine given by John Paul Caponigro, a PS guru. He then taught us that Desaturation and Grayscale were probably the worst ways to convert to B&W. He was right.

Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads