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.


Jessica Coats Swimsuit Modeling Photos

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Jessica Coats Swimsuit Modeling

This project was a collaboration between model Jessica Coats-Saenz, photographer Kreston Clark and myself. The photos were taken out in the desert in Southern California in tricky mid-day lighting. My goal for the first photo was to smooth out the look as much as possible to help make the harsh lighting less obvious. Apart from that, I smoothed out the skin tones a bit and touched up the areas around the knees. Other details included fixing one of the swimsuit top straps that was twisted, straightening the shot, removing a piece of re-bar that was showing over the top right corner and adding a subtle vignette.

Looking at the original photo, it looks like the window frame Jessica had to climb up on was quite dirty! I had to clean some dirt of her hands as well. Haha.

Jessica Coats Modeling Before and After

The photo on the right has all the improvements. I went for a smoother dreamglow effect as well. Click to view larger.

In the second photo below, I experimented by smoothing out the photo with a dreamglow effect, however I then used an unsharp mask to sharpen it again. I wanted to completely clip her out of the shot in order to be able to use the image over marketing material I was working on for – I experimented with a couple of logo locations. In the end, I ended up using various versions on the site itself as well as on the site’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Jessica Swimsuit with Background

Jessica Swimsuit with FloatWays Logo

Photoshop Face Effects Beach Beauty

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Photoshop Face Effects Beach Beauty

Take a beautiful face like this and bring it to its fullest potential.

One of the most exciting yet challenging projects in Adobe Photoshop is enhancing photos of a face by using:

Photoshop Face Effects

It sounds like I’m talking about pre-programmed filters. Please let me be clear, that this is most definitely not the case. The best effects are the ones done on a case by case basis where you analyze what the photo actually requires rather than running some sort of prefabricated Photoshop action or filter. It’s takes quite a bit of experience to be able to make those calls, but once you can, the possibilities of enhancing photographs are endless.

This photo is of a friend of mine (I’m not going to reveal who she is). I’m actually not sure who shot it. The thing to notice is that when you start off with a beautiful face, specially that of a girl, it is much easier and exciting.  With this kind of photo, getting great results is relatively easy. However, once thing I have to point out is: This photo was shot during a rainy day, with so-so lighting and a cheap digital camera. Yes! My challenge was to improve the quality of the photo so that it would rival those shot with a professional camera. Apart from that, I had to improve the light, color tones of the image and add sharpening.

These are some of the things I did to enhance the photograph:

  • Changed the water and sky color tone from a pale gray to a more inviting blue while still maintaining the mood of an overcast rainy day.
  • Removed some buildings in the background that were to the left of the model’s head.  This was done in order to better balance the photo and to give the impression that she was in deeper waters.  I also found the buildings to be a distraction; an eye-sore, if you will.
  • Removed a reflection of her eyes in the water in front of her.  There was a reflection of one of her eyes in the center, more or less where her mouth would be.  I thought it looked a bit weird, almost like a 3rd eye, but below.
  • Cleaned some of the specks on the water and her face while brightening up her eyes.  I also added a level of sharpening to her face.
  • Finally, I added a faint grayish-blue vignette around the edges of the photo to help draw the attention to the center.  The tone of the vignette also fits perfectly with the color tone of the photograph.

Like I said earlier, the possibilities and options for Photoshop face effects are endless. You can do as much as you know how. That’s why it’s so important to get as familiar as you can with all aspects of Photoshop. One very common technique, which can be done in multiple ways is changing a color photo to black and white. Here is a great tutorial that explains the most popular techniques: How to Change a Photo to Black and White in Photoshop.

To find out more of what I can do to improve your photos for your website or printed publication, don’t hesitate to click here to contact me.

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


Summer Sessions Kids Windsurfing Camp Artwork

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Logo Windsurfing Summer Camp

Just finished this artwork for a buddy of mine. This dude hosts an awesome windsurfing camp for kids every summer in Puerto Rico. I’ve been doing the artwork for this program for the last 6 years. I just finished creating the artwork for the 2010 camp T-shirt. This was mostly done in Adobe Illustrator piecing original artwork together with stock vectors off the web. The windsurfer image on the back was a photo modified in Photoshop and then vectorized in Illustrator. For more information about the Summer Sessions Kids Windsurfing Camp check out

Windsurfing Kids Summer Camp T-Shirt


Quick Post: Old Kiteboarding Site

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Post image for Quick Post: Old Kiteboarding Site

I’m going straight to the point here so the only warm up sentence is this one.  I’m writing this post for 2 reasons:

1. To remind you that you can still visit my old kiteboarding site
2. To test my site photo lightbox display.

For some reason, the lightbox didn’t want to work on my last post.  I’m using this opportunity to see if it’ll work on this one.  You don’t have to worry about this, but if you want to know more, I’m talking about the little window that shows up in front of the page when you click a photo.

As far as the number 1 reason for this post, you can click the link below to visit my old kiteboarding site:

What makes this site unique (apart from all the cool kiteboarding photos and videos) is that it represents a big landmark in my development as a designer.  I created all the artwork for it back in 2004 and it was mostly all done in Photoshop.  While I wouldn’t design this way anymore due to the functionality limitations, I was able to prove to myself I could do something really cool and rather unique at the time.  Fast forward 6 years and my development as a designer has grown exponentially.  The screen capture below was taken from the video page of that old site.

By the way, I just tested the lightbox and it works.  I wonder what’s going on with my last post? ;)

Screen Capture - Kiteboarding Video Page

{ 1 comment }