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Chapter Eleven. Digital Darkroom Expert ... > Converting Color to Black and White

Converting Color to Black and White

There are several methods you can use to turn a color original into a grayscale image in Photoshop. Some give you no control over how the conversion is made, while others let you brew a custom grayscale mix that gives you exactly the black and white look you want:

  • Desaturate. This is probably the least useful of all the conversion methods. We'll mention it here just so you'll be aware of its shortcomings. As its name implies, the command desaturates all the colors in the image. When a color is desaturated by 100 percent, the result is a neutral gray value. The problem with this approach is that it doesn't always preserve the contrast between colors that you see in an RGB image. It also doesn't treat all brightness values the same; some bright values, particularly if they are highly saturated colors, tend to be rendered much too dark (Figure 11.53).

    Figure 11.53. Desaturate is not the best way to convert a color image to grayscale, particularly if it has brightly saturated colors. Notice how the brightness and contrast relationships between the yellow neon tubing and the rusty sign have been totally lost in this conversion.

  • Standard Grayscale Conversion. The Image > Mode > Grayscale method creates the grayscale file by blending the grayscale versions of the color channels together into a single gray channel. In an RGB file, the mix is Red: 30 percent; Green: 59 percent; Blue: 11 percent (Figure 11.54). Although this method makes acceptable grayscale conversions in some cases, for images you really care about it can be a bit disappointing, and other methods will serve you better.

    Figure 11.54. The standard Grayscale conversion method does a pretty good job on most images, but it's not the best one to use if you want total control over the process.

  • Channel Mixer. With Channel Mixer, you can create a custom blend of the existing grayscale tonal information that is found in the red, green, and blue color channels. This method is similar to using colored filters with black and white film to change the tonal rendition of colors in a scene. Orange and red filters are often used with black and white to darken the sky. Orange and red absorb their own color but block any opposite colors such as the blue or cyan in skies, causing those areas to be underexposed and darker in the final print.



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