If you want to know how to make a photo black and white in Photoshop you’ve come to the right place.
Black and white photography never cease to disappoint photography lovers. Today there are several methods to make a photo black and white.
In this article, we’re going to see how Photoshop allows you to do it in a few different ways.
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Learning How To Make A Photo Black And White In Photoshop
First of all, before we jump to the different methods for converting a photo to B&W in Photoshop, you have to learn the learn the difference between the two different process in photo editing.
- Destructive photo editing process
- Non Destructive photo editing process
Destructive Photo Editing Process
Using a destructive photo editing process means making change to an image that can’t be reverted after saving the file. The changes made will become the actual new file and whatever your photo looked before is lost for good.
Non-Destructive Photo Editing Process
Photoshop, unlike Lightroom is a destructive photo editor. But it allows you to follow a non-destructive process, meaning that you can preserve the editing steps even after saving your file and go back to the original image at any moment.
While in Lightroom you can go back to the original photo by default, in Photoshop you’ll have to follow some good practices such as creating separate layers and apply your edits to the new layers instead of the original one.
So let’s see what are the destructive and non-destructive ways of make a photo black and white in Photoshop.
Destructive Methods to Convert a Photo to Black and White
Converting the Photo To Grayscale Mode
This is by far the simplest way for one to convert a photo from color to black and white. By converting an image to grayscale, you basically delete all the color information of a photo.
This is a really quick and easy way for one to make the conversion, but you don’t have too much control over the conversion, and the only way you can re-adjust this conversion is to undo it and re-do the whole process before you save and close the file.
To do this, all you have to do is go to the top menu:
- select Mode,
- then go to the Greyscale option.
Once there, simply click discard and your photo will be converted to black and white instantly.
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Converting the Photo To Lab Color Mode
This method will change the entire color mode of your photo. It will convert it from RGB mode to Lab mode.
The LAB color space is used in particular to enhance colors and details in photographs. It handles colors differently compared to RBG.
Since it records brightness and color separately, meaning you can basically discard all color information and be left with a black and white image in a very accurate way.
The simple steps are:
- Go to Image in the top menu,
- then select Lab Color
- From there, go to the Channels window and select the Lightness Channel.
- Then go to Image, Mode, select Grayscale then click “Okay”.
This way you discard the other channels and just keep the lightness channel which is now gray.
Non-Destructive Methods To Make A Photo Black And White In Photoshop
The Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer
Using this method will give you the same result as converting to grayscale but with more control.
There is a substantial difference though, which is that this method is also available as an adjustment layer.
Adjustment layers are one of the most powerful tools in Photoshop and they’re perfect for converting a photo to black and white.
With adjustment layers, you can make all the adjustments necessary without redoing the whole process. It doesn’t do anything permanent to the photo, so this is a great non-destructive way of converting a photo to black and white.
To use this method:
- Simply go to Layer,
- Then select New Adjustment Layer,
- Then click Hue and Saturation.
Once that is done, you will see a Hue and Saturation slider. Once you see the slider, simply slide the Saturation slider all the way to left (-100%), and your photo will be converted.
Obviously this is also available as a destructive method for a quicker result. You’ll find it in the top menu: Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation
How To Make A Photo Black And White In Photoshop With a Gradient Map
Another non-destructive way to convert a photo to black and white in Photoshop is the gradient map.
It works by mapping a black and white gradient based on the brightness values that your photo has. This means that darker areas (shadows) will be black or very dark gray, while the bright areas (highlights) will be white or a light gray.
It’s as simple as creating a new adjustment layer. You’ll find it in the same spot, click on Gradient Map and you’ll see the newly created layer appear and do its job of making your image black and white.
Make sure in the Color Picker you have a black color as your foreground color and white selected as background (Keyboard shortcut “D”) otherwise the Gradient Map won’t work.
Also notice that with adjustment layers you can control the opacity of the adjustment layer itself if for any reason you’d like your image to not be completely B&W.
How To Make A Photo Black And White In Photoshop Using the Channel Mixer
This method gives you some of the most control when converting to black and white.
This is because it gives you “access” to the three color channels: red, green, and blue. By using the channel mixer method, you can manually adjust the ratios between these channels. That way, you can have full control over the output of the conversion.
To do this, select:
- New Adjustment Layer,
- then select Channel Mixer.
From there, simply tick the monochrome box on the mixer. Now, you can make manual adjustments by moving the red, green, or blue, sliders to make certain areas darker or lighter.
Black And White Adjustment Layer Method
Last but not least, my favorite method, the Black and White Adjustment layer. It works similarly to the channel mixer method but is made much easier and gives you more control as you can even use the targeted adjustment tool to make certain tones lighter and darker.
It also has six sliders that you can play around with to give you as precise a conversion as possible.
To use this method, go to Layer, New Adjustment Layer, then click Black and White. From there, the toolbox will appear with six sliders that you can use to make adjustments to the photo.
There are also presets you can choose from. Once you’re satisfied with how the photo looks after making your adjustments, simply hit save or merge the layers and export your file.
Always remember to save a copy of your PSD file with separate layers to keep your non-destructive workflow “alive”.
Read the official Adobe guide here.
Bonus Video How to Make a Photo Black and White in Photoshop With the Black And White Adjustment Layer
By now you’re an expert on how to make a photo black and white in Photoshop. Make sure you try with different methods and discover which one is the most efficient for your workflow.
Personally I always use non-destructive methods, since I like to keep the original image intact and available for other use in the future.
It’s your turn now, what is your favorite way for making a photo black and white in Photoshop? Let us know in the comments below.
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Stefano Caioni is a photographer from Sydney, Australia. Founder and editor of Pixinfocus, his passion for photography helps him explore new places and live new adventures. Thanks to photography he reconnected with the outdoors and was able to travel the world and take photos of some of the most beautiful places on Earth.