Converting digital color photographs into black and white.

Jan 29, 2005
St. George, Utah
My favorite is to buy the realtively cheap Fred Miranda B&W pro plug in that works very well with PS7. You might also look at Daniel Diaz's tutorial in our Tutiki forum here on the Cafe. He uses PS to accomplish that.


There are a number of color -> BW techniques and resources here:

re: Which is best?
It often depends on the characteristics of the original image and/or your own preferences. Each method has strengths / weaknesses, so try a few on the same image to compare results. There is near universal agreement, however, that one can almost always do better than "desaturate" or "convert to grayscale."

I most often use the Russell Brown / 2-Hue/Saturation adjustment layer method because it is easy to use and affords considerable flexibility.

Check out, too. There you will find many free PS actions that simplify many of the more popular color -> BW conversion processes.
Feb 4, 2005
Virginia Beach, Virginia
There is a great program that costs money for it that is called B/W Styler that I know you would find it to be a gem. You can get a free trial and it comes from PhotoWiz or Harrys Filters. Give the trial a try and see if you think the program is worth the money.
Jul 29, 2005
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Save Days of Work

Even advanced PS users should read this technique and try it.
It will save you days of work.

If you are happy with your B&W conversions skip to Fun Part below

This is in PS CS2.

Black and White Conversion

Open a photo
Create a new Action Group
Save the following steps as an Action

Edit > Mode > Lab color
Select all
In the Channels palette select a chanell hold shift and select b chanell
drag a and b to the trash
Select the lightness channel Alpha 1
Edit > Mode > Grayscale
In the layers palette create a new levels adjustment layer
Set the center number (gamma) to .95
Image > Mode > RGB
Do not flatten channels
In the layers palette create a new curves adjustment layer
Set a point along the line and type input = 75 output = 65
Set another point along the line and type input = 168 output 177
Set opacity of Curves layer to 75%
Set opacity of Levels layer to 66%
Flatten all layers
Stop recording action

Click on the Action Group and Save in a location like Documents
To save an Action, select the Group and click the fly out arrow to the right, choose Save Actions

Now for the Fun part

We are going to create an Icon on the desktop to convert an entire folder of Photos to B&W automatically. This is called a Droplet

File > Automate > Create Droplet
Choose > name the droplet > Where = Desktop > Save
Play > select your Set and Action
Check > Suppress File Open Options Dialogs
Check > Suppress Color Profile Warnings
For now choose Destination > None

On the Desktop select a folder of photos to covert to B&W
Drop it on the Droplet icon.

You may need to click the icon first or hold the folder over the icon a few seconds and then drop it.

If Photoshop is closed the Droplet will open it.

If you've gotten everything to work so far, let's take it one more step.

Add a step to your B&W Action to save to a new folder, just add Save AS to the end of the Action.

Create a new Droplet and this time select the new folder as the destination.
Check > Override Action Save AS Commands
Save As must be a part of the Action for this to work.

This is advanced PS. Let me know if it works or if you have trouble.



One of the benefits of Photoshop is its flexibility, esp. when it comes to choices among color --> to --> BW conversions, which range from quick and dirty (Desaturate) to Calculations.

The advantage of Greg's method (once recorded in an action) is efficiency, especially when incorporated into a batch workflow or converted to a droplet. (It was nice of you to type out all the instructions, Greg.)

I used to use plugins like Fred Miranda's BW Workflow Pro ( and BW Styler ( Plugins like these can considerably streamline workflow and have options like the ability to apply various types/amounts of grain and/or duo, tri, quad-tone colors effects.

Channel Mixer (monochrome) is a great tool, too (intuitive, easy to use). I am really looking fwd to trying the new CS3 BW adjustment layer.

As noted in a post above "I most often use the Russell Brown / 2-Hue/Saturation adjustment layer method." I should have qualified that comment with, "...when I'm in a hurry."

If I have time I use a method that I believe affords exceptional flexibility. It is based on an tutorial by John Paul Caponigro:
* Tutorial in .pdf format:
* PS action:

In it the grayscale versions of the R, G and B channels are layered above a copy of the L channel allowing one to utilize the strengths of any/all the channels (using layer masks) as well as combine them using layer blend modes. It's a cross between the insane flexibility of the Calculations command and selective application using layer masks without the headache of navigating the Calculations dialog.

If you'd like a copy of an action I wrote based on my interpretation of JPC's method, send an e-mail at [email protected] and I'll be glad to send you a copy.

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