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It seems like it should be an easy process to convert a colored or tinted image to black and white, but there are a few things you can do before conversion that might make it a better black-and-white. Begin by adding an adjustment layer. Go to the bottom of your Layers panel to the half-white, half-black circle, the create a new fill or adjustment layer, and select Curves. What I want to do is bring just a little bit more contrast, darken up the dark areas in this image, and we're going to do that just with one simple click of the black eyedropper in a black area.
Now that's just a little too dark, so I'm going to go up here and lower the Opacity to around 50%. That's just a subtle difference. But if you go now and make a new adjustment layer--this time we'll select Black & White and run through the Defaults. On a Mac you may have to select these individual. On a PC you can scroll through with your downward arrow key. Just go through some of these presets and see that some of these are pretty dramatic. Let's look back at the screen.
That's a very nice look. Just look at it without our Curves adjustment. Just subtle. It didn't take much of the detail out of the dark areas and just gives it a little more pop. Now let's try something else. Let's hide these two layers. Click again on our Background. This time we're going to paint in some contrasts. We'll start by making a new blank layer, changing our Layer Blend mode to Soft Light. Then we'll go over and start with our light areas, so we'll switch our colors--white on the foreground.
Select the Brush tool. You can adjust your brush with the open and close bracket keys and start just painting on areas that are already the lighter areas--maybe where the sun is shining. Just bring things out a little bit, get some highlights. You don't have to cover the whole area, because we're going to blur it and blend it. We're going to do small area. You can do the same with your dark tones; switch your foreground color to black, and paint in the darker areas.
These areas up on this peak, on this mountainside, look a little faint, a little faded, so I'm going to bring those out a little bit and give it a little more pop. Just do a real quick area here. Next, we'll go up to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur. Now you want to good blur on this. You want it definitely to have no more form. See, that's completely blurred, and that's what we want. Click OK.
Now you can further adjust it with your Opacity. You don't want just a big field of white, if that's what's there. You just want a nice subtle-- put it down around 25--a nice subtle light. See how this--especially right here on the mountainside, just a little darker, bring out a little more. If you want, you can bring your Opacity up, a little more dramatic, but then you have to worry about this looking fake on your mountainside.
This is okay. We'll keep that about 50. Now we'll go back and add in Black & White adjustment. Run through the first few, keep it on High Contrast Red this time, and let's take away our adjustments. See how that brings just a little bit out in our black-and-white. It just makes it a little better. Now the third thing we're going to do is we're going to add a little color show through, so let's hide these two layers again, click on the Background, and go straight to our black-and-white adjustment, Create a new fill or adjustment layer, Black & White, and let's select the Green Filter.
Now we're going to lower the Opacity just to about 85%, just barely. Now let's see how that looks. It just lets a little tint of color. If you bring it down a little more, then it looks really like maybe a hand-tinted photograph. That's very interesting. We'll split the difference; go about 75%. If you're going to convert a color or tinted image to black and white, make it the best black-and-white possible, maybe by deepening the contrasts, lightening the lights, darkening the darks, or bring just a touch of color in from the original.
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