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Chapter Four. Using Photoshop Camera Raw > Creating Black-and-White Images

#34. Creating Black-and-White Images

Creating stunning black-and-white images is now easier than ever using Camera Raw. If you haven’t worked with black and white, now is the time. You can apply an automatic grayscale conversion by selecting the Convert to Grayscale option at the top of the HSL/Grayscale tab (Figure 34a).

Figure 34a. Select Convert to Grayscale to make a custom grayscale conversion.

Camera Raw makes its best guess at a good grayscale conversion based on the image’s White Balance setting, and the Hue, Saturation, and Luminance tabs are replaced by a single Grayscale Mix tab. The sliders on this tab show the relative proportions of different colors in the image that Camera Raw chose to mix together to create the grayscale image.

Of course, you’re not stuck with the choices made by Camera Raw. For the best results, use the Grayscale Mix sliders. Drag these sliders to make specific color ranges lighter or darker to determine the contribution of each color to the grayscale version of the image.

For example, in a photograph of my daughter Annika, I wanted to modify the tonality of her blue jean overalls. Because the overalls represent the only blue in the image, I was able to modify the tonality using the Blues slider on the Grayscale Mix tab. Dragging the slider to the left darkens the blue in her overalls (Figure 34b).

Figure 34b. The Blues slider on the Grayscale Mix tab has been dragged to the left, resulting in the darker blue jean overalls.

Dragging the slider to the right has the opposite effect (Figure 34c).

Figure 34c. Dragging the Blues slider to the right lightens the overalls.

Software Safety Nets

Suppose you’re fiddling with the sliders on the Grayscale Mix tab to create a custom black-and-white conversion, and you decide that you hate what you’ve come up with. Camera Raw provides two easy ways of starting over. Click Auto at the top of the tab to return to the automatic conversion that Camera Raw produced when you first selected Convert to Grayscale. Alternatively, click Default to reset all the sliders to their zero position.

Creating the Best Black and White

One of the advantages of using the Grayscale Mix sliders to create a black-and-white image is that they don’t affect the overall tone, brightness, or contrast in the image. But sometimes you can improve your conversion by using the controls on the Basic and Tone Curve tabs as well.

Once you’ve adjusted the Grayscale Mix sliders, be sure to revisit the Basic and Tone Curve tabs to make final contrast and tone adjustments.

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