Photoshop: Classic Black and White Photo Techniques.





Introduction: Photoshop: Classic Black and White Photo Techniques.

An alternative way to make a black and white photo in Photoshop, NOT just by clicking Mode -> Grayscale. Check inside for more detail.

Step 1: The Original Photo

The original color photo was taken at Wat Sam Kor Temple, Chacheongsao, Thailand during my friend's ordination.

Step 2: Simple B/W Method

Normally if you only choose Mode -> Grayscale, you can only get a Black and White image like this, the resulting color is too flat.

Step 3: Alternative Way to Make a B/W Photo.

By using the alternative way, you can make a photo like this.

Step 4: First: Change the Hue/Saturation Setting.

First: Choose Image -> Adjustment -> Hue/Saturation Setting, set it to -100%.

Step 5: Set Black and White Points

Second: Choose Image -> Adjustment -> Levels, choose the "Set black point" and choose a dark area on your photo, see how the overall color changes. In this photo I choose the right-side of the forehead.

Step 6: Set White Point

Same as previous step, Set the White Point. This time I choose the left arm of the other monk (right hand side of the photo).

Step 7: Add Noise.

Add some noise from the Filter menu, I use about 25 in this image, and choose also "monochromatic" at the Add Noise dialog box.

Step 8: Make a Border Selection.

Under the menu Select -> All, then Select -> Modify -> Border, this time I choose 50, but it depends on the size of your photo.

Then choose Select -> Feather, and this time I use 30, but it also depends on your image size.

Step 9: Darken the Border

Choose Image -> Adjustment -> Curve, darken the border area.

Step 10: Done.

The finished image is like a developed B/W using old film.



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    29 Discussions

     I've done something similar myself, but with a different aproach, and it renders similar results. Also since my MBP is out of business for upgrades, i've done this in a hp mini netbook with Here is an example


    thanks for all the instructions & work.. :)


    You can make a BW to Colour gradient, it looks pretty cool and works well with a far away background but a really close middle ground. Get Picture->Create copy ->Delete all colour on one copy->Return picture to RGB Colour (it is still blackandwhite though)->Make sure BW picture is below the coloured picture ->Create layer mask for coloured picture->Make sure layer mask is active (double border on the icon) ->Go to gradient->Radial gradient (Its circular)->Foreground to transparent gradient (its in the presets). Then do the gradient!. If it doesnt work try a Black to white gradient on the layer mask.


    One of the challenges with this method is posterization. If you look at the histogram on the levels palette in your screen shots you will see that you are getting some. The graph should be a solid black. when it is broken up (looks kind of like a bar graph) your image is getting posterized. If you don't do it too bad, you won't see it on the computer but when you go to print you will not have a smooth gradation (there will be harsh lines between the different tones of shadow transition edges.) If you do your black and white with a channel mixer adjustment layer and a careful adjustment in curves or levels (also an adjustment layer) you can avoid damaging your image in this way. All that being said, my favorite method is to use a custom quadtone.

    Great instructable, learnt a few new things here! Many Thanks.

    i could just desaturate, darken and export with a low quality

    Thank you for this instructable!!! Like an amateur, I've always just been using the 'desaturate' option - I thought the photos looked good as is, but now I can see how much definition this really adds, and how flat my others look. Time to make another action. Thanks again! :)

    Thanks for a great instructable! I always favor black and white photography or sepia tone-classic.

    nice look, but you forgot to mention that you applied "Auto Levels" before dropping saturation. i can clearly see that in the screen shot.I mean auto levels itself fixes the image.then you basically just did a brightness/contrast adjusting which would have been easier to make because you just move a slider rather than playing blind with gray shades .

    1 reply

    I think it's also a good idea to use Auto Levels, just because it's easier. But I do prefer to adjust the tone by myself, sometimes there're details that I just want to show/hide, but Auto Levels wouldn't listen to me. The idea of using Brightness/Contrast is also good, but I like changing the shades because I found the color more balancing.

    very nice, I will share with some of my buddies in my graphic arts class.

    Have you looked at Photoshop's Quadtones? I got the tip from Ken Rockwell's site. They give a very nice conversion of the colors (of course, the noise and darkening are still up to you).


    11 years ago

    as vdubya said - using the color mixer is a much better way to get decent b/w from colour shots in photoshop.