This article explains how to select and manipulate tone and contrast compoistions in conversion of a color image into a black and white image, and how to add some effects and finally present it. The process may appear to be complex and cumbersome, but it provides a lot of possibilities to control the contrast and tones using a mix of channels and variations of blending modes. This article is somewhat based (expands) the one about Calculations. Well, let's stop talking and do something.
I will start with the image on the left and as the result it will be converted to the one on the right:
Before we start with actual conversion, I'd advise you to create several layers of various tonal ranges and contrast, which would make the best BW conversion. If you know, there are several somewhat basic resources with black and white representation of the image:
Of course you can throw here some of the modified ones - such as Channel Mixer. But those don't have a predefined/default state. Though if you have time and like some of those tonal representations - you are more than welcome. It's your image and your imagination.
At this point we decided what tones we want to use in the process. Let's place them all together into a single document:
Create a copy of the document with your image – Select in menu Image, Duplicate and type a new name It will be our collection for the all the tonal compositions we are going to create.
Make the first tonal composition - convert the file into Grayscale mode. Select in menu Image, Mode, Grayscale.
Return to our color image and go to Channels panel where we can see all the color channels that form the image. For RGB image mode there are three channels: Red, Green and Blue (as shown on the figure to your right)
Drag and drop each channel to the Grayscale image (the separate document) and give the channels the same names (optional) to easier distinguish them.
Don't leave the color image yet - convert it into Lab mode by selecting in menu Image, Mode, Lab
In the Channel Panel we have the Luminosity channel - image to the right
Do the same with the Luminosity Channel - drag and drop it into our pot.
At this point you can do any other kind of BW conversion that you have in you arsenal (such as CMYK mode and its channels) and add more ingredients into the pot – just follow the steps described above.~ Top ~
After all these steps we have a stack of layers in the Layer Palette, and each layer represents some tonal composition of the image. In my case I have Red, Green, Blue and Lightness.
If you walk through each of those layers, you will see how the look of the image changes. These changes are somewhat subtle for a human eye, though if you look closely at the trail and the grass at the bottom of the image, you may notice those subtle changes.
If you reached this point with you image, I congratulate you. We have a set of various tonal compositions. Next we will use them to create black and white photograph.~ Top ~
The idea for this section is to finally use the tone compositions we prepared by now and mix the tone values in order to create a better black and white photograph. We are going to use one of the most undocumented features Photoshop - Calculations Dialog. As I understand this function allows the user to mix several channels and layers and apply a blending mode. And the result of the function is a new channel or a document. This channel could be easily used to create a selection or as in our case it will be used to create a black and white image.
To choose the right combination of the tone elements and to apply blending modes for the best result we will use the Calculations - Select in menu Image, Calculations. This step is pure creativity and I can just give you some directions to explore, but don't limit yourself and try new things – play with the tool:
The very basic combination that produces OK results in most of the cases is explained in the following steps. If it is your first time with Calculations Dialog, I recommend starting with it and adjusting later:
My image now looks as shown below:
I would say, it's already has a stronger impact than any of the tone compostions we prepared till now. And you can play with all of those parameters and options to achieve the result you actually want. The parameters and options are:
What should you do next? Well, you can create a channel out of the mix and use it as another tonal compostion for another iteration (just follow the same steps, which are described in this section). If you noticed, at the bottom of the dialog there is "Result" dropdown list with default setting New Channel.
Or you can create a new document with the resulted image – select New Document in the Result dropdown list. In my example I will select a new document option and continue with adding color cast to the image.~ Top ~
In previous chapters we created a black and white image of almost desirable
qualities, such as tone and contrast. You may tune it up a bit with Levels
(Ctrl/Command-L) or: Curves (Ctrl/Command-M), though it's not the objective
of this article. My image is shown to the right:
This image is not what I actually want, but many of you may stop here and have a great black and white image. I would prefer some toning – a slight cast of color, to give the viewer some theme. If you agree with me, then let's continue. In this example, I want to see a bit of green cast, because the forest is usually green and the fog creates somewhat mystic mood, which could be enhanced by the adding the green tone. That's what I am going to do in this section.
There are several ways to add color to a BW photograph:
And you could probably add a few more. Not so long ago my choice was Duotones. It works only when the image is in Grayscale mode and you have plenty predefined colors to choose from, such as warm gray or cool gray. Duotones allow to control curves for those color and consequently the contrast. You can find them in main menu Image, Mode, Duotones. But almost every time the lightness of the image suffered and the photograph became darker.
That's why I now use Color Balance. It allows to add color cast separately for shadows, midtones and highlights preserving the lightness of the image.
And here are the steps that we are going to complete::
Switch the mode to RGB by selecting in menu Image, Mode, RGB. And then click Ctrl-B or select in menu Image, Adjustments, Color Balance.
To adjust shadows using the Color Balance dialog you have to switch to the Shadows in Tone Balance section (at the bottom). For this picture I decided to add green and blue color cast - green for the forest and blue for the darker and a cooler mood.
When the shadows look like you want them to, it's turn for Midtones. Perform similar manipulations to the midtones to achieve the desired result. My desire was to accentuate the green nature of the forest, therefore I increased the amount of green color.
And finally, you can adjust the highlights via the Color Balance dialog. Here I added a bit warmer greens (a bit of red), which would provide a better color contrast with shadows.
Almost any image that is presented to the viewer should have one important quality – it should capture the eye and hold for as long as possible. This quality in bulk part depends on the content of the photograph, but there is one simple trick, which makes it easier not to let the eye go – Vignetting.
So, vignetting helps imprison the eye within the image borders. The main point here is to make the borders of the image less attractive (almost boring) in comparison with the rest (center) of the image. It could be achieved by either putting the borders out of focus (as with the depth of field) or making it darker/lighter and somewhat bleaker. I like to use both means, so the combination of those would be less pronounced but still as effective. You may consider such border as a slippery and steep sidewalk, where the eye would loose the traction and slide back to the center of the image. And here are a few simple steps that may help you to achieve the desired results.
First I will create a blurry border around the center of the image:
Create a duplicate of the image layer (and place it atop) – click Ctrl-J or select in menu Layer, Duplicate Layer. It will allow us to do all necessary changes without damaging the image, so if we screw up we can easily return to the previous state.
Set the opacity of the layer around 30%. We don't want such a strong effect that will distract from the image itself.
Use Gaussian Blur filter (menu Filters, Blur, Gaussian) to add some blur (soft focus actually) to the image. This blur will look like an out of focus image and won't let the eye leave the center of the image.
Create a layer mask by clicking on “” at the bottom of the Layer Pannell. The layer mask will allow us to hide unwanted areas of this layer. In this instance, there is only one area - the center of the image, which should be left sharp.
Use the Elliptical Marquee Tool to select the area that should be transparent and allow the sharp image to shine through.
Note : Actually we select what border area should be blurry, because the area we select in this step will be "removed" from the layer by the layer mask.
Click Ctrl-Alt-D (or menu Select, Feather) to blur/feather the edges of the selection (make it softer):
We are going to fill the selection on the layer mask with black color. The black color will allow us to hide the layer pixels that correspond to black pixels on the layer mask. Therefore set the foreground color to black.
Fill the selected area on the layer mask with the foreground (black) color by clicking Alt-Backspace (menu Edit, Fill):
Remove the selection by clicking Ctrl-D (menu Select, Deselect)~ Top ~
At this point we have a blurry border, which you can make more or less intense by changing the opacity of this layer.
Next I will make the actual vignette – make the border darker: The following steps are similar to ones above, so it will be shorter to save you some time.
That's it. At this point you should have a very nice photograph that captivates the eye of the viewer.~ Top ~