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As the name implies, the Desaturate command in Photoshop will desaturate your colors. And we're not talking about just reducing the intensity of the colors, but rather with completely removing color so you're left with a basic black and white interpretation of the image. In this lesson, I'll show you how to use an extremely simple approach to creating a black and white image. Let's start with the Desaturate command just to gain an understanding of the concept we're employing. Here, you can see I have a color image, and it's one that contains a fair amount of texture so it might be interesting as a black and white interpretation. To very simply create that black and white interpretation, I could simply choose Image > Adjustments, and then Desaturate.
This will completely remove all of the color information from the image, leaving only the luminance information. In other words, we now have a black and white version of the image. The problem is, we don't have a lot of flexibility. If I later decide I want to see the image in color or that I want to see partial color or color in certain areas, I don't have that flexibility. As a result, even when I want to use a particularly simple method for creating a black and white interpretation, I will take one additional step. Let me show you what that looks like. I'm going to choose File > Revert in order to revert this image to the original version.
I'll then add a new Hue Saturation Adjustment layer. I'll simply click on the Add New Adjustment Layer button, the half-black, half-white circle icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. And then I'll choose Hue Saturation. This will add a new Hue Saturation Adjustment layer and show me the Hue Saturation controls on the Adjustments panel. Now, instead of using the Desaturate command, I'll simply apply the same thing, but with a little bit more flexibility. All I need to do is reduce the Saturation slider completely for hue saturation, and I end up with the same result. The benefit here is that I'm working on an Adjustment layer. I've applied the same final effect to the image, but now I have the flexibility of turning off this Adjustment layer so that I can see the before version, for example.
And I could also fine tune the adjustment, if, for example, I don't want to remove all the color from the image. The bottom line is that I'm able to exercise a lot more flexibility even with such a basic adjustment. The options for simply desaturating color in an image are obviously somewhat limited, but exploring these options will give you a better understanding of what it means to convert an image to black and white. And will also give you a greater appreciation of some of the more powerful techniques for converting a color photo to black and white.
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