have you found yourself taking photographs with the camera loaded with
colour film, and thought "if only Iíd brought some Black & White film
I could get some really snazzy pictures". For some it isn't a
problem, they may have two cameras or even one of the medium format units
with interchangeable backs. But for the bulk of camera owners "no choice"
is usually the norm.
Well it really doesn't matter much any longer,
especially if using Photoshop, since changing from colour to monochrome
is simply a matter of a few Mouse clicks and bingo! The most obvious way
to get black and white from colour in Photoshop is simply to do a mode
conversion from the menu bar - "Image > Mode > Grayscale", this
will discard all colour information. Personally I find this method
produces rather flat images that require quite significant amounts of
post scan adjustment in Photoshop. However, a better option exists in the
form of "Channel Mixer".
A printer friendly version of this tutorial can be
downloaded by mouse clicking the following icon
"Channel Mixer" is a very useful image
adjustment tool that allows the user to mix/blend the colour channel
balance of an image. In fact so powerful is this tool that we can easily
replicate the effect of placing red or yellow filters over the lens when
using black and white film. Enough of the waffle, let's get on with the
Advertisement Pillar, Berlin - a pretty ordinary
record shot, lets see if we can make it better!
The starting point will always be a full colour
image in RGB mode. Most film scanners will find capturing the full range
of colours, etc. pretty easy, but had the original been in black and
white it's usually a different matter. The image above is the raw scan
imported directly into Photoshop via my Nikon LS30 film scanner using
LaserSoft SilverFast software.
The following steps will take us though the process
of creating a simple black and white image, followed by a sepia toned
image and finally we will create split toned image.
The Process: -
Step 1 - Channel mixer
Channel Mixer Dialog
By selecting the "Monochrome" checkbox we
are instructing Photoshop to convert the full colour RGB image into a
monochrome preview, but the image still retains all the colour channel
information. Note that in the above screenshot of the "Channel Mixer"
dialog that the "Output Channel" is Gray; we cannot change
it. However, even though the red channel is initially at 100% and the
green and yellow channels are at 0% we are free to mix them as we see
fit. The objective is to optimise the image whilst ensuring that total
percentage for the three channels adds up to 100% or as near as is
possible. Interestingly combinations adding up to more or less than 100%
will be either darker or lighter than the original colour image. So don't
be afraid to experiment!
This image is
rather flat, and the separation between the advertisement pillar and sky is poor
Step 2 - Optimising the mix of colour channel information for black and
Simply move the red channel to a value less
Adjust the green and/or blue channels to get the desired effect
The following example has the effect of brightening the overall image
and also separates the sky and mailbox
Channel Mixer set for balance of red, green and
White - Advertisement Pillar
As we can see the process involved is really VERY
easy and the effects are only limited by our imagination. Once we get the
desired overall effect it's possible to fine-tune the image further using
image adjustment "Curves". However, it doesn't finish there, the
number of options we can take to finish our image is really quite
Step 3 - Adjustments for
full colour toning a black and white image
Whilst our image is now giving the appearance of a
black and white picture it's still in RGB colour mode. We can now add
colour in a number of different ways. The description that follows is for
a Sepia tone effect, but we can adjust for blue, pink, etc.
From Photoshop menu bar select "Layer > New
Adjustment layer > Color Balance".
When the "Color Balance" dialog appears we
make sure the "Tone Balanceî is set for ìMidtones".
Next we adjust each of the colour channel "sliders"
until the desired colour effect is obtained. Remember that since we are
using adjustment layers the changes can be modified and fine-tuned at
Now we repeat the "Color Balance" adjustments
with the "Tone Balance" set for "Shadows". The
actual balance of colours should normally be roughly the same as used
for the "Midtones" adjustment.
Once we're happy with the balance we can flatten the
image using "Layer > Flatten Image".
Color Balance dialog - midtones settings for Sepia
Sepia Toned shadows and midtones in Photoshop
Step 4 - Split toning
Split Tone printing was once the domain of only a
few very talented darkroom printers. However, using Photoshop we find "Split
Toning" is really very simple and a highly effective way of
presenting our images. A split tone print is a black and white print that
has only been partially toned or a mix of toning effects have been
applied. When done correctly the effects can be really very subtle, and
We begin by creating the Black and White image using
the "Channel Mixer" method described in Step 1, when satisfied
with the tones we flatten the image using the "Layer > Flatten
Make a new "Adjustment Layer" i.e. "Layer
> New Adjustment layer > Color Balance"
When the "Color Balance" dialog appears we
set the "Tone Balance" for "Midtones and Shadows".
Adjust the "Color Balance" of the midtones
and shadows for the desired effect. This will be our base colour.
Balance dialog - midtones/shadows settings
Balance dialog - midtones/highlights settings
Layer Style dialog
Now we select the "black triangle"
below "This Layer:" in the "Blend
If:" section of the "Layer Style" dialog.
Move the black triangle to
Hold down the "Option/Alt"
key on the keyboard and left mouse click the black triangle to split
Now move the right half of the
black triangle to about 180/200
Photoshop layer Options dialog after adjustment of
Unfortunately the effect might not be
as obvious on-screen as in print, hopefully you will see that the shadow
areas retain the sepia effect, whilst the midtones take on a slight blue
tone. The variations are unlimited, and certainly allow for lots of
Advertisement Pillar, Berlin -
Split Toned in Photoshop