Black and white images are used in print quite often. Sometimes they are used to provide a sophisticated or nostalgic quality to the print. Other times, they are used because printing in color is more expensive. Either way, black and white images can look very professional if processed correctly.
Converting images to black and white is an easy process. There are two main ways to achieve this effect: Converting to “Grayscale,” or applying a “Black and White” adjustment layer. Using the “Grayscale” option is the easiest process but it removes the color information from the image, thus limiting your ability to edit the image. The best option is to apply a “Black and White” adjustment layer. This will allow you to non-destructively edit your image and have much more control over the conversion quality. This process uses the color information of the original image to help you shape the highlights and shadows of the black and white image. This tutorial will show you the difference between both processes:
Start with a colorful image that hasn’t been edited too much:
Converting to Grayscale:
Go to Image > Mode > Grayscale. A message will appear asking you if you want to discard the color profile information. Click “Discard.”
The result is a black and white image that looks decent but you can no longer edit the color information from the original image. This means that you will have to rely on brightness and contrast to edit your image which can be much more harsh. This limits the amount of changes that you can apply to your image.
“Black and White” Adjustment Layer
Select the image layer and go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black & White
A prompt will appear. Leave the mode on “Normal” and the opacity at “100%.” Click “Ok.”
Your image has been converted to black and white. The color information is still present behind the adjustment layer and can be viewed at any time. To do this, toggle the adjustment layer off by clicking the eye symbol next to the adjustment layer in the Layers Panel. Notice the highlighted panel at the right-hand side of the screen. The sliders in this section will allow you to adjust how the color of the original image affects the black and white conversion. These controls can add very clean and non-destructive contrast and depth to the image. Begin adjusting until you are happy with the result.
The sliders have been adjusted to add heavy contrast and a slight glow to the onions. The green slider was pulled back to darken the leaves in the background while the yellow slider was pushed forward to increase the effect of the sun on the onions. Now you can convert your image to grayscale for printing without losing the changes you’ve made. (Converting to grayscale ensures that no color tint will be added during the printing process
The black and white adjustment layer is on the left and the grayscale conversion is on the right. Both images would work fine for a print publication. However, the adjustment layer method gives you much more control over the image and allows you to go back and edit the image without losing any data in the process.