How to make B&W images from color ones?

I have received many requests for a simple method on how to make the black and white image from color one using Photoshop.

Some of the most famous photographs in the history of photography are black and white. Why is that? Why do photographers who have access to state-of-the-art color imaging technology today sometimes choose to take pictures in black and white, and why do viewers find the black-and-white pictures so impressive?

By the way, the most expensive photograph that has ever been sold was also black and white. Despite living in a colorful world, how come black and white images make sense to us? Shooting in black and white is sometimes a better choice than shooting in color, because sometimes a color photo brings too much information, and color can cause distraction. In black-and-white photography, engagement is reduced exclusively to tones, light, and shadow, brightness and darkness.

Here are four simple methods. Two are “destructive,” and the other two are “nondestructive.”


1. First one is using Image->Adjustment->Black and white.

The advantage of this method is that it is very simple and straightforward. The disadvantage, on the other hand, is it is “destructive” so once you make this change, it will be a permanent change to image pixels.

Open your image in Photoshop


Go to menu Image->Adjustment->Black and White


The image is changed to B&W and you can even fine-tune the final image with sliders


Here you have a lot of possibilities on how to approach the process.

First, you can simply click the Auto button, and Photoshop will set the optimal setting and convert each color to the appropriate black and white color variant.

The second approach is to use Presets. This is similar to using the Black and White adjustment layer that we will describe later on. Click on the Preset list and choose one of built-in presets. You can also load or save your own presets you created and saved before.

Finally, use the particular color sliders and create your own setting to convert the color image to black & white. You can add the color tint as well to your B&W image. Just click the Tint checkbox and choose the tint color you want to apply. Fine-tune the hue and saturation to achieve your desired look.

Click Ok, and you’re done.

2. The second method uses the Image->Adjustment->Desaturate.

It is even simpler, but you won’t have the possibility to fine-tune the final image by particular color sliders. This method is “destructive” again.

  • Open your image in Photoshop
  • Go to menu Image->Adjustment->Desaturate

As this method is very simple and you have no further possibility to fine-tune the final result you can in spite of it make some enhancements. Just create new  Curves adjustment layer and try to increase the contrast by changing the "S curve"

3. The third one is “nondestructive” and is based on the Black & White adjustment layer.

This method of how to make a black & white image from color one is very powerful and my favorite one. You can control many parameters as you exactly need. After creating a new Black and white adjustment layer, you can click the Auto Button. Photoshop, in this case, will find the right balance on how to interpret each color to black, white, and gray tints.

In case you'd like to be a bit more creative, you can make the settings manually. Try to move with the particular sliders representing primary colors in the image. The third option is to use a little hand icon. If you click it and then move with the cursor on the image, you can click and drag any region to tune the color the region represents. As you drag over the picture, you can see how the particular color sliders move with it simultaneously.

  • Open your image in Photoshop
  • Go to a small icon on the bottom right and click to create the adjustment layer

Create Black & White adjustment layer


Fine-tune the final image with color sliders


You can even add a specific color tint by clicking the Tint checkbox. Then click on the color square and choose your tint color using the Color picker window.

You can also use built-in Presets. Just by one click apply the preset and change the color image into black and white. You can even create and save your own presets. First, make your individual color settings. Click the little lines menu icon on the top right corner of the Properties window and choose Save Black and White Preset.

4. The fourth one is again “nondestructive” and is based on the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

This method gives you the possibility to return anytime to the settings and change it as you wish. That is why it is "non-destructive." You simply do not make permanent pixel changes but instead just set the adjustment layer.

  • Open your image in Photoshop
  • Go to a small icon on the bottom right and click to create an adjustment layer
  • Create the Hue / Saturation adjustment layer

Move the Saturation slider completely to left


What if I'd like to add a specific color tint to the black and white image? The  Hue / Saturation adjustment layer is excellent for this. Just click on Colorize in Hue / Saturation adjustment layer settings, Then you can move with the Hue slider and find the right color tint for your image. Finally, fine-tune the Saturation slider and choose how saturated it should be. Be careful and don't overdo it. For example, most beautiful sepia-tinted black and white images are with very subtle low saturation.

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