Black and white: part one / 17 comments + post
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In this tutorial we will work through a range of examples, using four layered Photoshop files, to explore a variety of techniques for converting images to black and white. This will include a discussion of the Hue/Saturation tool, the Channel Mixer, Lab Color mode and the Lightness Channel, and CS3's new Black and White tool.

Topics covered in this tutorial include:

• The limitations of the Desaturate command and the Hue/Saturation tool
• An introduction to the Channel Mixer tool
• Smoothing skin tones using the Channel Mixer
• Balancing tonal range
• Customising the Channel Mixer settings
• Lab Color mode and the Lightness Channel
• CS3’s Black and White tool


oldest comments first
comment by Roger at 08:00 AM on 22 September, 2007

Hi David and yet again another outstanding tutorial. The pictures you've used are a real joy and definitely made me smile. The choice of each was perfect and definitely great examples to use......


comment by John at 05:57 PM on 22 September, 2007

Hi David, Excellent tutorial as always - you have a real knack for this - but just to note you've accidentally switched the A and B definitions in lab. The B channel is the blue/yellow one, not A. Greatly looking forward to the next installments!

comment by djn1 at 07:04 PM on 22 September, 2007

John: thanks for pointing out the error. I'll re-record it at some point, but in the meanwhile I've added a correction in the text.

comment by Eric at 02:47 PM on 23 September, 2007



In this, your third (2nd subscription) tutorial, I very much enjoy 'getting inside your head'. Reading about the process of discovery, the trial and error, and of course a down to Earth description of the different Photoshop tools, has helped me in ways no other book or tutorial has.

You show the original image, and present several different methods for creating a photograph. I am now able to understand when you say "Libby preferred a different image", as I get to see the different iterations you use.


comment by Gerrit at 08:38 PM on 23 September, 2007

Nice one again. Nothing more to say :)

Oh... I stumbled upon a nice calculations method description/tutorial on deviantArt some time ago. Might be worth reading, the technique is quite interesting:


comment by craig @ id7 at 02:03 PM on 28 September, 2007

I loved reading these tutorials, as you know you only have to look at my before and after shots to realise that your work impacts on mine. The tutorials are thorough and concise, I wouldn't panic about content. If like me you want something, to the point, informative and useful, then these hit the nail squarely on the head. If I had one thing to say, it would be this:- don't give away all your secrets, some of that which is Chromasia needs to be kept close to your chest. Having said that new techniques and processes mean that your work will keep looking fresh and and so will the techniques.
Keep it up.

comment by Marie Dohoney at 01:46 AM on 6 October, 2007

Not only wonderful tutorials but also comments with links to even more!
So much to learn, so much to play with!
Thank you!

comment by Martin Campbell at 08:43 AM on 12 October, 2007

Great tutorial, thanks - Martin :)

comment by Lisa Wilkinson at 10:02 AM on 24 October, 2007

love the tutorials only comment tho is there any way you could make them downloadable as pdf so I can save them in my file with your .psd files?
thanks lisa

comment by m at 08:55 PM on 2 November, 2007

Only just got round to having a proper go with this tutorial. It's of the same high standard as the previous ones. Thanks

comment by Martin at 08:33 PM on 14 March, 2008

Your tutorials are the best I've seen and I've seen quite a few. They are the first that lets me "get inside the head" of the teacher as Eric so nicely pointed out above. Super.

comment by Mark Howells-Mead at 01:42 PM on 16 May, 2008

Great stuff! Here's my first, quick conversion attempt:

comment by djn1 at 02:57 PM on 16 May, 2008

Mark: that looks good.

comment by Kevin M. Roddy at 08:22 PM on 21 November, 2010

Thanks for the explanations of the different ways to achieve Black and White. Perhaps the most important point this tutorial makes is that Black and White isn't a simple switch you can turn on. There are all sorts of possibilities depending on the image, the subject, and your intentions and how well you understand what the possibilities are based on the kind of knowledge you provide of the possibilities. Thanks.

comment by djn1 at 08:12 AM on 22 November, 2010

Kevin: you're welcome, and you're right - there's a lot more to black and white than simply desaturating an image :)

comment by Ian Mylam at 04:21 AM on 4 February, 2011

Dave, you mention that when converting with the Channel Mixer, the channels should add up approximately to 100%. Does something similar apply with the Black & White tool? Looking at the pre-defined filters, it seems to come at around 300% total - however, your custom settings shown add up to more than this. Thanks for a great tutorial.

comment by djn1 at 01:22 PM on 4 February, 2011

Ian: the numbers aren't really relevant with the Black and White tool, you just need to adjust the image until you're happy with the appearance, keeping an eye on the histogram to ensure that you don't introduce any clipping. The reason for this is that not every colour range is present in every image. For example, if you have a predominantly red image, you can adjust most of the sliders to any value you like - and it will have no effect on the appearance of the image. Does that clarify things for you?