A reader wants to know how he can make zappy black and white photographs from his colour digital images. And the answer is: How many ways are there to skin a cat? You might have a favourite way of doing a colour to monochrome conversion, so please don’t be offended if we overlook it.
In this, the first of two articles on the subject, we will describe two Photoshop techniques that we use. (For Photoshop Elements and PaintShop Pro it is best to use the single-click image converters and then make the necessary tonal adjustments.)
For any version of Photoshop the following routine will produce a good monochrome image as the starting point for tonal manipulation.
Open the colour image and then change the Mode to Lab color. (Image/Mode Lab color). Then, in the Channels palette select the Lightness channel. Go back to Mode and select Grayscale.
In the Layers palette duplicate the bottom layer – Ctrl-J (Win) Cmd-J(Mac). Then change the Blend mode to Multiply in the drop down list at the top of the Layers palette. The resulting image is very dark. Use the Opacity slider to reduce the opacity of the top layer until the tonal quality of the image looks about right. Flatten the layers and start the final adjustment process with Curves and Levels.
Our second method is available to those who have Photoshop CS3 or later.
Open the colour image and add an Adjustment Layer (Layers/New Adjustment Layer/Black and White). Name the new layer and click OK. This opens a new Palette with Adjustments and Masks tabs. On the Adjustments page there are quick and dirty presets in a drop down list – a selection of filters and contrast settings.
However, the magic is in the filter sliders that darken or lighten a particular colour. For instance, to create a dramatically dark sky move the blue slider to the left, the dark end of the wedge. The effect of any filter is previewed instantly on the photo itself.
Now, the fine adjustment is done by clicking on the tiny icon of a hand with a double-ended arrow behind it. Move the cursor over the image and it turns into an eye-dropper. Press the mouse button and hold it down and it turns into the hand with arrows. Keeping the button depressed, move the cursor horizontally and the lightness of the selected tonal point will change – move it left for darker and right for lighter. It’s much like adjusting curves by directly selecting the particular tonal point.
The Tint button adds a colour overlay. The default is a heavy handed sepia toning which is varied in the colour selector panel.
Next week we try a couple of Photoshop plug-ins that make conversion easier and more interesting – at a price.