Photoshop Top 40, Feature #36: Black & White

Today marks the fifth installment of “Photoshop Top 40,” the ongoing series that promises to tour you through Photoshop’s 40 best features, starting at #40 and eventually working its way up to #1. (Which, assuming I’ve done my math right, will appear sometime in April of 2010.) Feature #36 is “Black & White,” which lets you distill a full-color photograph into the best of all possible black-and-white images, one range of colors at a time.

Rather than just trashing color—the way the Grayscale command does (hey, it was once our only option!)—or performing a linear channel merge—as with the Channel Mixer—Black & White blends the midpoints of six color ranges. This provides you with superb control and all but eliminates your chance of clipping highlights or shadows.

As a result, I can take this full-color, multi-generational, goth-Americana portrait from Scott Griessel (of microstock image vendor Fotolia):

And turn it into this color-treated, black-and-white, positively classic work of American Gothic:

And Black & White is so effortless that you might decide to pierce yourself in multiple places just to remember what it feels like to experience a little bit of pain for a change. Or not. Depends on your personal aesthetics, I guess.

(For a list of all Photoshop Top 40 videos thus far, click this link.)

Next entry:Martini Hour 027, In Which Colleen Struggles Gracefully with Her Raging Sibling Rivalry

Previous entry:Working with Cross-References in InDesign


  • Oh gods of private videos, unprivate this one ;)

    Appears to be that this vid is still in “private mode” for some reason.

    But hey, good move! By making it private you just made it more exclusive, more interesting and desireable for the pleading viewers ;P

    OH BTW, last Martini Hour, when you and Colleen were talking about resolution and the Ewww-ness of upsampling by normal methods, you mentioned a program that used different algorythms to trace edges and therefore get better detail work when upsampling. I found a similar program that’s running under GPL on source forge :

    Maybe you might want to check it out if it’s any good? The results seemed okay to me so far AND it’s free. ( In direct comparison to the normal interpolation methods Photoshop comes along with at least ^^ )




    “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

    - Douglas Adams

  • LOL okay you unprivated it while I wrote my comment ^^

    Thats sneaky ^^


    “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

    - Douglas Adams

  • Black and White

    Like the black and white, much better control.

  • Still need to trash color?

    Another great feature, Deke! I use this one a lot.
    However, if I’m doing it to create a black & white image to place into an InDesign document that will be printed black & white, don’t I still need to change the color mode to Grayscale at the end? I had an issue with this recently where I forgot to do that step; the photo lost all detail when printed. Am I missing something?
    Thanks for being such an awesome resource!

    Andrea in Alaska

  • iTunes

    Will you posting these through iTunes?

    This question was brought to you by Luger Boa:

  • Black and White Adjustment Layer as a Color Corrector

    I keep trying to see what I can do by using the B&W Adjustment layer multiple times, then coloring and recombining.

    I keep wondering what I can do with it along the lines of a color corrector, or a way of doing 2- or 3-strip technicolor.

    Maybe it’s just reinventing selective color. Seems a little more dramatic, though.

  • Generalizing the Finger Tool to Color

    If you make two layers from a photo and set the upper one to blend mode = Color, you can make a B&W adjustment layer on the lower image and use the finger tool on the lower B&W layer while looking at the entire color composite.

  • Yeah posting through itunes

    Yeah posting through itunes would be a great idea. It would also give you much more exporsure

  • Thank you

    Nice post. I am a huge fan of black and white, though the color makes a nice touch.

  • yeah i agree

    yeah i agree

  • Niiiice

    This is a killer tutorial. Can’t wait to try it.

  • please post thru itunes


  • How can you try it?

    Isn’t this about viewing it and learning from it?

    By the way. It’s most enjoyable. Top job!

  • Yeah thanks for the

    Yeah thanks for the tutorial. It’s great

  • Black and White versus Color

    I love B&W but some photos are just better in color.

  • Why cant I see the video Deke??


  • I may be wrong, but… guess is that you are watching the embedded high definition version on an internet connection that may not be able to cope with it. Go straight to YouTube where you can choose to watch it in high def or normal quality. Maybe this will help? Dunno…give it a go. Good luck, it’s well worth viewing. grin

  • Up-resing

    There’s a nice post here that links to sample results for several upresing (assuming this can be considered a word) plugins. Video oriented, but PS plugins results are similar.

  • Tutorials

    Hi Deke. I am a beginner Photo. Could you give a list of the beginner tutorials for photshop.


  • Nice tutorial post, I’m

    Nice tutorial post, I’m still a newbie of photoshop. Learn a new knowledge. smile

  • re\”

    I tried and followed your guidelines, but result was not even closer to pictures posted above. May be I did something wrong. I will try again with different pictures.

  • Yellow/Red v Yellow/Orange/Red

    Why doesn’t PsCS4 have the same BW sliders as Lightroom, i.e. why is there no ‘Orange’ slider in PsCS4?

    When using the Yellow and Orange sliders in Lr, I find more control is possible (in that range) than in Ps. Am I fooling myself? Is there some logic behind this decision?

    cheers Dekeypoos


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