How to Change a Photo to Black and White in Photoshop

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Black and White Post Image

Q: How do I change a photo to black and white in Photoshop?

A: Read the tutorial below for a complete answer.

This mini-tutorial assumes you will be using Adobe Photoshop®. Don’t worry too much about the version of Photoshop you have as the procedures are similar. A little plucking here and there should get you going. You might notice that apart from the Hue/Saturation method, which wasn’t fully desaturated, most of the photos look very similar.

The changes are very subtle, but when you are working with professional photos you want that kind of control. Subtle changes can make a big difference. Note: Some older versions might not have some of these features.

Original Color Image

This is the original color image we will be working with. Click to view larger.

There are various ways to change a color photo to black and white. Let’s start with the most obvious and simple one:

1. Change photo to grayscale method

For this method, simply open your color photo in Photoshop and go up to the menu and select, Menu>Image>Mode>Grayscale. Photoshop will ask you if you want to discard color information. Click Discard and you’re done. Below is a photo of the menu path and the final effect result.

Photoshop Grayscale Mode

Photoshop Grayscale Black and White Method Result

This is the resulting effect of using the simple grayscale method. Click to view larger.

2. Hue and Saturation method

This next method is a little bit more involved but will allow you to keep some of the color if you’d like. First, open your photo, then follow this menu path: Menu>Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation. When the adjustment window opens simply slide the center “Saturation” slider left. The more you go left the less color. All the way left will render a full black and white image. The beauty of this method is you get to keep the photo as RGB or CMYK, not grayscale.

Hue-Saturation Black and White Method MenuHue-Saturation Control Box

Photoshop Grayscale Hue-Saturation Method Result

This is the resulting effect of using the hue and saturation method. Click to view larger.

3. Black and White method

This method also allows you to keep the photo in the current color mode even while changing to black and white. It allows even more control over your final black and white photo’s look. In the menu, follow this path: Menu>Image>Adjustments>Black and White… A Black and White control adjustments box will appear. The photo will instantly turn black and white when this window opens, but here you can adjust how the final result looks. The easiest and quickest way is to select one of the presets off the presets menu at the top of the box. I used the “Infrared” preset. Find something you like, customize it further if you want and then commit the changes. That’s it. (Note: Some older versions of Photoshop do not have this Black and White adjustments feature.

Photoshop Back and White Method Dialog

Photoshop Black and White Method Result

This is the resulting effect of using the black and white method. Click to view larger.

4. Channel Mixer method

This method is my personal favorite but it involves the most amount of work. However, the control is much more than with the other methods. With your photo open, go to the channels pallete. If it isn’t open, open it by going to Menu>Window>Channels.

This method works in both RGB and CYMK but I prefer to do it in RGB. So change your color mode to RGB if it already isn’t. Menu>Image>Mode>RGB. In the channels palette click on each of the channel colors individually (red, green, and blue) and look at the results in the photo. Decide which of the 3 channels yields the most detailed image. Then reselect “RGB” at the top of the pallete so the image shows in color again.

Now to do the actual conversion. Go to Menu>Adjustments>Channel Mixer… and an adjustments box opens. In the adjustment box select the output channel that corresponds to the channel color you chose as the best looking one. For example, Blue. You’ll see the blue slider move all the way to +100%. Then tick the “monochrome” box at the bottom. You’re image will now look officially Black and White, however, you may want to move the color channel sliders every so slightly until you get a mixture that you really like. I avoid the “constant” slider, but if you do use it, move it very little. It tends to screw up the saturation and make the image too light or too dark. Once you are happy with the results, click OK and you’re done. You may notice the image is still RGB, not grayscale. If you screw up a setting while you are making adjustments, I find the easiest way to deal with the problem is to cancel the changes and close the control window. I then reopen it again to start over. You may find a different way of dealing with this but this works for me.

Photoshop Channel Mixer Dialog Box

Photoshop Channel Mixer Black and White Method Result

This is the resulting effect of using the channel mixer method. Click to view larger.


Brochure Design Ideas – How to Best Accomplish the Design of a Brochure.

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Brochure Design Ideas

Just about every serious business person who’s marketing a product or service must develop a brochure to help sell that product or service. Even if you are not doing the design yourself and hiring somebody to do it, it’s your job to understand all the ins and outs of development. This will ensure that you end up with a professional product that’s properly targeted to your market or niche. The design must be simple enough, yet carry all the information necessary to help connect to prospects. Notice I mention “simple” first. Most people have no problem filling every white space available on a piece of paper when planning brochure printing. It’s being able to restrain from that what is difficult.

Brochure Design Ideas…

Before you tackle the design process you need to study every angle related to the brochure. Don’t just start putting stuff on paper. First of all, you need to consider 2 things: form and function. Form would be the actual design, colors, fonts and how you want the design to look. Function will include the content, text, diagrams and photos and how these elements are supposed to interact with the consumer. The bottom line is that you want your brochure to tell a story in the most concise manner possible. Function also involves the shape, position and folds of the final product. Plus, there’s a grey area where both form and function will meet harmoniously. If you can successfully achieve this, your design and content will merge seamlessly. Your final brochure will look professional and well thought through. Most importantly, it will convert readers into buyers. If you miss the point of the brochure in the first place you’re simply going to end up with a pretty piece of paper than will yield little to no sales. People don’t want to know every single feature of your product or service. They simply want to be engaged, satisfied and confident in what they are getting. If you get too technical and speak in language they cannot relate to or even understand, you are going to lose trust and ultimately a good customer. So remember, always speak in terms your customer can easily understand.Brochure Cover

Here are some technical details that will help with your design:

  1. Don’t necessarily base your brochure design around an 8.5 x 11″ piece of paper. Also, don’t immediately opt for a tri fold brochure design. If you are printing large quantities in a proper printing press, you have more flexibility for sizing and folds. Plus, for a professional looking brochure you will likely want bleeds (where the ink goes all the way to the edge of the paper) so the printer will have to print on a bigger sheet of paper anyway and then cut to size. There are certain final sizes that yield the least wasted paper so you can always ask your preferred printer to offer some size recommendations.
  2. Think about the paper type. Do you want a thinner, more lightweight paper? Do you want a thicker material that will hold it’s shape better? The latter will probably look best and last the longest, but it will be more expensive, take more space and be heavier and more expensive to distribute. Keep all that in mind and try to find a good balance. Also consider the paper coating. You can choose between dull or gloss coating, or even no coating at all. Keep in mind this will all affect how your ink and photos look. For even more flexibility, all types of paper can be re-coated after printing with an entire array of options such as aqueous coating, super high gloss UV coating, spot varnishes and one of my favorite “soft-touch” coating.
  3. Decide beforehand how you will distribute the piece. Will you mail it? If so, you must leave space for an address and postage. You probably also need to consider how to tab it to keep it closed while in transit. If you are only going to hand it out at a store for example, you might not need an address area. Having one anyway, even if it’s small, can allow for more flexibility in the future.
  4. Pick up a few of your competitor’s brochures before you start conceiving yours. The worst thing you can do is shoot completely in the dark. You want to have a good idea of what others are doing in order to be able to compete accordingly. It doesn’t mean your are going to copy. You can create an original piece nonetheless. But at least you are aware of what your competition is doing so that you can develop a better marketing strategy.
  5. Be careful with time sensitive material. If you are going to put dates or other information that will deem the brochure obsolete after a certain amount of time, make sure you have a realistic timeframe for distribution and conversion into sales. Otherwise you’re bound to throw away money. In many cases, creating timeless material can be best unless the brochure is designed specifically for a certain time-sensitive event. Be aware of other things that can yield your brochure obsolete. Things like phone numbers, addresses and employee names. If there are high chances that any of these might change during the time you expect to use your brochure be very wary about the way you use them in your final print.
  6. Don’t skimp on the photography. There’s a very good reason behind the saying “a photo says a thousand words.” Because it does! Avoid saying your product is crap by using crap photography. Taking good photos is best left to a professional product photographer. Trust me, even if you spend a lot of money on good camera gear, unless you have someone that can operate it properly, you’re going down a very expensive rocky-road, downhill, with no brakes.
  7. Measure twice, print once. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure that all your measurements throughout the design are spot on. Make sure all the text is perfect and there are NO TYPOS. There is no room and no excuse for typos in professional design. Even if you think it’s not your fault there’s a mistake, trust me, it is your fault. If you are the designer, even if your client signed-off on a project as approved, if you find they made a mistake, even a small one, contact your client and get it sorted out. They’ll appreciate you for this.
  8. Always have your projects quoted by at least 3 different printing companies. That’s the only way to really arrive at an average price. Plus, even if you have somebody that you work with most of the time, nobody can focus on every single area of printing. So, depending on the project, the person who usually gives you the best price might not necessarily always be able to. Unless you enjoy paying extra, quote with various companies.

There’s no real magic to designing a good brochure. It just takes planning beforehand. Then, a good amount of thinking during the design process. If you are planning the design of a brochure for your product or service, please feel free to contact me by clicking here. You can discuss the project further with me for valuable guidance and information. All this with no obligation. I’d be thrilled to develop your professional brochure, but if in the end you decide not to hire me… No hard feelings!  However, you’d be glad if you do.  I guarantee it!  :)

Have a good one! -Danny C


Road Bike Action Magazine RavX CNC Parts Ad

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Road Bike Action Magazine RAVX Ad

Road Bike Action Magazine May 2011 Ad Layout

Half page ad layout. The location of the advertisement is in great company. It sits inside a Campagnolo editorial article.

What can I say? Very happy with the turn out of this ad. I wrote more in detail about the design process in my blog post Rush Jobs Make the Day Shorter here.  However, one thing I did not mention in the design process post is the location of the ad. When the final printed magazine was sent to me I realized the piece was featured within editorial content for a Campagnolo article.  I’m very happy with the positioning as well!

Happy New Year Free Vector Art

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Happy New Year Vector Art Post Image

Based on the success of the Thanksgiving vector art a few months ago, I’ve created another piece for the New Year!  This one features a bunch of complex gradients and transparencies.  Lately, I’ve been designing on Adobe Illustrator CS5, or CS3 but this design I created while vacationing in the Caribbean and here I only have an old laptop with CS1.  It proves, however, that you can create great art no matter what!  The file should open and work fine in any newer version of Illustrator.  It’s royalty-free so have fun with it.  I’d appreciate a link to my site if you feel generous this Christmas season.  ‘Till next time.  In the meantime, please find the button and subscribe!  Thanks!  -Danny

Happy New Year Vector ArtworkDownload Button AI


Rip Curl Pro Search 2010 in Puerto Rico!

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Update November 7, 2010: This event ended up being one of the greatest events of the year and the best Puerto Rico has seen in decades. It was specially historical at both ends of the spectrum, the good and the bad. The fact that Kelly Slater not only won the event, but clenched his 10th world title in Puerto Rico is something that will not soon be forgotten. On the other hand, the contest also marks the point in time when the surfing world lost one of its greatest, Andy Irons. Many mourn his death and I personally send my prayers to his family during this time of incredible loss. May God be with you. -Danny Cruz

In my efforts to bring you more than just news about graphic design here’s a neat little number that talks about two of my biggest interests.  Most of you know I’m a surfer.  It makes me pretty darn proud to find out that Rip Curl has chosen Puerto Rico as the venue for their 2010 Pro Search.  The Rip Curl Pro Search is a professional surf contest that changes venues every year.  Not only that, but once the host country is chosen, they don’t specify exactly where the event is going to be held at in order to “search” for the best spot with the best conditions.

This year could also be of even more significance.  As of this writing, Kelly Slater is ahead of Jordy Smith in the race for the World Title.  This would be Slater’s 10th world title!  Looks like he’s so far ahead that any podium position will seal the deal.  In fact, even if Kelly Slater gets a 25 in Puerto Rico, Jordy needs at least a 5th place in order to stay in the game.

You’re making a Puerto Rican surfer really proud!

Apart from the fact that the event is in Puerto Rico, what caught my eye was the wonderful artwork created for the event.  The artwork was created by surf artist Tyler Warren.  I was not familiar with Tyler’s work until now, but I can tell you I’m now a fan as I’m truly impressed.  Since I’m Puerto Rican, I can see stuff in that painting that I immediately relate to.  Like the three kings, the Puerto Rican “cuatro” guitar, and the “Garita del Morro.”  Tyler, if you run in to this article, let me tell you, “Good job!  You’re making a Puerto Rican surfer really proud!”

You can see more of Tyler’s work on his website:

Rip Curl Pro Search Poster


Velauno Surfing, Kiteboarding & Windsurfing Promo Card

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Promo Card Back I produced this promo card for Velauno in 2007 to help promote the sale of surf, kite and windsurf products by Dakine, Bic Surf, Thule, Cabrinha, Best Kiteboarding and Surftech.  The cards were printed on thick stock cover, full color on both sides.  These were handed out at races, beach events, malls, and also sent out with mail orders.  The success of this promo led to the creation of other similar cards soon after.

At the time I designed these, the surf industry was big into grunge art.  There is a lot going on in this piece which is characterized by busy visual elements and the lack of clean straight lines.  It’s a lot harder than it looks to get this style of artwork right.  The thing I like most about grunge is the vast amount of possibilities.
Promo Card Front Side

Solid Surfboard Artwork – The Newman

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Artwork for a Surfboard

I just finished creating an artwork piece for a board that will be built by talented shaper Dan O’Hara from Solid Surf Co.  The model is “The Newman” which Dan himself describes as a board “for boosting airs.”

This is just a preview of the preliminary design.  I ended up making some mods for the final version.  Until then, check this one out.  When the board is ready, I’ll post up a photo of the finished board with the final artwork.  The artwork is all vectors in Adobe Illustrator.


How I Created the Art Wave for the Surf Theme

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

I just updated my site’s style switcher and added the first of 3 styles.  This one is for the surf theme.  I’ve got 2 more coming…  Dirt and snow.  You might be wondering how I created the wave that sits below the header.  It was a small sketch I drew this morning.  I then scanned it and “painted” it in Adobe Photoshop using bits and pieces of real photos of real waves.  There’s some foam from Teahupoo, bits and pieces of Pipeline and some glare from Jeffreysbay.  All in all, a fun project to take on.  See below the “before and after” photo.  The first photo is the sketch exactly as my scanner saw it.  The colorful barreling wave below is the finished picture after quite a bit of work.  -D

Big Wave Sketch


Surf Art – JS Surfboards Sonic Fish

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Art on a JS Surfboard I started painting surfboards back in 1998 while I was still in college.  I was ordering my personal boards from a local shaper from Puerto Rico who’s now a very good friend of mine.  I painted the first board he shaped for me and that led me to paint his team rider’s boards.  Soon, the regular customer base jumped in as well.

This creation is a JS Industries Sonic Fish that I painted for myself in September 2009.  The artwork is done with Uni Posca paint markers right over the final glassing.  Once finished, I spray a protective coating over the artwork in order to protect it.  This one turned out amazing, but after surfing the board I found it to be too big for me.  It went back to Surf Ride surf shop and eventually got sold.

My biggest inspiration when it comes to surfboard art is master surf artist Drew Brophy.  Check out his amazing work at

Cool Glossy Vector Bar Buttons for your Blog

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Glossy Bar Buttons Post Intro Image

After the success of my recent Bubble-Button vectors I decided to create a set of rectangular bar buttons. These are high-quality and original vectors. I included a multitude of colors to choose from. You can likely get as creative as you want and hack them apart in Adobe Illustrator to get whatever color combination you want. I’m posting them up for free. The only thing I ask is that you respect the license and if you use them please link to this site. The buttons were created in Adobe Illustrator CS3 and you can download them as .ai CS3. Please don’t resell them. That would be a really stupid thing to do. Please retweet and share with your designer friends.

Free Vector Bar Buttons

Download Button AI