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Converting a color image to black-and- white or grayscale is also very common request that I get a lot. How do you do that? What's the best way to do it? There's a variety of ways. I'm going to teach you the quickest, easiest way. In the Adjustments panel, there's a specific adjustment for black-and-white conversion, and it's called Black & White. I'm going to go ahead and click on that Adjustment layer to bring up the controls for it. You'll see that there are individual sliders for a specific color, so Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue and Magenta. What this lets you do is specifically adjust individual colors as how they map to grayscale and have fine -tune control over that.
So, let's turn this Adjustment layer off for a moment. In the Layers panel, there is an Eye for it. You can see I chose this image because there's lots of individual colors in the sweater, and it helps you see how these colors are individually being adjusted to grayscale when you start using the slider. So, you can see there's a green stripe. There's a magenta stripe, a red stripe and so on, and then the blue in the pants. And there's even a little bit of yellow in the shirt as well and yellow in the hair. So, let's turn that layer back on, that Black & White Adjustment layer. And let's take the Green slider first. As I drag that left and right, you can see only the green stripes are adjusting in the image, or anywhere there is green in the image underlying.
That makes it real easy to specifically adjust where the greens are going to grayscale. Same thing for yellow, so if I want to darken the hair or lighten the hair, have a bit of control over the yellows in the image, each color can be adjusted separately. If I want the reds, be a little bit different there, it helps you distinguish the individual tones from each other. Make the blues either darker or lighter to adjust the pants, and so forth. So, it's very, very cool, actually. You have the Targeted Adjustments option for the Black & White Adjustment layer as well, meaning if I click on this little tool here in the panel, the Finger tool, I can actually click in the image itself and start dragging left or right to adjust those particular tones.
Once you have the grayscale image overlaying the color image, you don't necessarily remember which colors are which anymore that are in that original image. So, I don't remember what color this is, and I don't have to. With the Targeted Adjustment tool, I can just click right there and start dragging left and right to adjust those particular colors that are directly under the cursor. So, it makes it real easy to just very quickly dial in that custom black-and-white conversion that you're looking for to get all the separate tones looking as best as possible when you look at your overall adjustment.
Okay, one thing I tend to do after doing the black-and-white conversion using the Black & White Adjustment layer is also increase contrast, and I'll use another Adjustment layer to do that. You can stack these on top of each other, of course. So, I'm going to go back to the Adjustments panel and click on the Back button to take us back to the list, and I'll go ahead and click on the Curves Adjustment layer. From our Preset list, I'm going to choose Linear Contrast. That's not quite enough, so I'm going to go back to the Preset list and choose Increase Contrast, and that's giving me kind of that punchier black-and-white look that I'm looking for. Great! To kick this off a little bit more, I'm going to add a couple of special effects to it.
I want to create what's called a Vignette. I want to burn the corners in to pull the focus into the center of the image, and I want to add a stroke, a white border to the outside of the image as well. To do that, I'm going to add a new layer to the top of this layer stack. I'm going to go ahead and hold down the Option and Alt key to teach you a little bonus trick here. If I hold down the Option or Alt key and click on the New layer icon, that gives me a chance to create a new layer and set some properties for it. I'll cancel this for a moment. If I just click the New layer icon, all I get is a blank new layer called layer 1.
I'm going to undo that, Command+Z or Ctrl+Z. I'm going to Option+Click or Alt+Click on the New button. This brings up the New layer dialog, and I'm going to choose the Overlay Blend mode and fill this layer that I've just created with 50% gray. I want to have some pixels here, so that I can apply a filter to it. There are a lot of filters that you can't actually run on an empty layer, so this is a trick to end up with a layer filled with gray. I'm going to call it Vignette and Stroke. Go ahead and click OK. The image doesn't look any different because the Overlay Blend mode ignores gray pixels.
All right. So, that's kind of a handy little thing there. First, let's add a stroke to this image by going to the Effects icon at the bottom of the Layers panel and choosing Stroke from that effect. I've got a Size of 20 and a White Stroke. That's looking actually pretty good. I'm just going to make that a little bit bigger. We'll make it, say, 30 pixels, and I can just type in 30 if I want. Go ahead and click OK, and there's my border. Now, I want to frame in those corners and do that Vignette effect. So, to do that, I'm going to go to Filter > Lens Correction.
In the Custom tab, there's a Vignette slider, and you can see it goes from darken to lighten. I'm going to darken those corners, drag it all the way over to the left, and you can see I'm getting a nice burning effect on those corners. I can decide how far in I want that to come in from the corners by changing the Midpoint. So, I want to make it 35. I'm going to go ahead and click OK. What that does is that burns in those corners. Because the Blend mode is set to Overlay, the dark corners are darkening the corner of the image. Anywhere there are gray pixels in the middle, there's going to be no change.
So, here is before, and there is after. It's a nice custom black-and-white conversion with nice, dramatic contrast. I've got that nice white border and burning effect of the Vignette corners. One thing I'd like to do is select the range of layers and Adjustment layers that make up the after effect. I like to group them. Command+G or Ctrl+G, on your keyboard and turn them into a folder and then with one click of the Eye on the Group level, I can see before and after and see where I ended up very quickly.
So, there you have it, some nice, fun, easy ways to do color to grayscale, or color to black-and-white, and then also increase contrast and really add that nice vignette and border effect at the same time.
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