Converting from Color to B&W - Using Luminosity

It is very simple to convert a color image into a B&W image in Photoshop by desaturating the image (Image>Adjustments>Desaturate) or by converting a color image into grayscale (Image>Mode>Grayscale) - neither of these options generally produces very good results. The classic technique for converting color images into B&W used the Channel Mixer (I have provided a document for using the channel mixer on the website). I prefer to remove the color and preserve the luminosity.

1 Make sure the top layer in your layers palette is selected and create a new image layer above it; Layer> New>Layer In the New Layer dialog, name this new layer "Convert to B&W", and change its mode to "Color". Press OK to accept this dialog.

2 For now, nothing appears to happen, as the new image layer is completely empty. Fill the new layer with Gray; select Edit>Fill In the Fill dialog, select "50% Gray" for the Use option.

The Convert to B&W layer is now filled with gray, and the "Color" blending mode replaces the color of the image with the color of this gray layer, resulting in a B&W image. The luminosity of the original color image is preserved.

3 The basic process is complete here. But I will often experiment with the colors below the Convert layer to improve the look of the final image. Select the layer below the Convert to B&W layer and create a new Hue/Saturation layer, I usually call this the "mess with colors" layer.

Experiment with making some extreme changes to the colors by shifting the Hue. You could also experiment with a Color Balance or Photo Filter adjustment layer.

You can also make the image include some of the original color by reducing the opacity of the "Convert to B&W" layer; this is a quick trick to create a hand-colored look for your images.

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