Join Taz Tally for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating contrast from colors, part of Creating Black-and-White Landscape Photos with Photoshop.
In this video, I'd like to really focus on using specific colors to control the tones that we end up with in our final black and white image. And this is a really good image to use this. And you're asking yourself, I thought this was a landscape course. Well, this is a micro-landscape, I have a very broad definition of what I consider to be landscapes. But you can imagine, working on this image, with the reds and the yellows and the greens, what all we're going to do here you can apply to any kind of autumn image that has these similar colors to it.
So, the concepts are going to be the same. So, open up the kodiak_tundra image and bring up your layers, and your properties and your info panel, and let's dive in. First thing we're going to do, as always, is find critical tonal areas in our image that we want to monitor, and this one is a little bit more complicated and you are going to see you should monitor more than just the highlight and the shadow. And particularly when you are converting images that have pretty bright or pretty saturated colors to gray scale, because sometimes, critical portions of the image can be very different in the tonal values.
When you go to gray scale they are in their original color image. So let's get started, and see what happens as we go. And let's go ahead and create a curves adjustment layer, remember with curves and all this adjustment layers. They're fully nondestructive and fully edible which is great, and let's go ahead and hold option key, Alt Windows. And click on the highlight because we are going to find the diffuse light highlight in this image and notice something very interesting happens. Do you see how the red portion of the left side tundra flower becomes really, really bright red right off the bat on the left hand side and then the upper right, we start to see some areas that pop out and go to pure white.
So upper right, we do have our bright highlight area and we're going to go ahead and mark that. But because there's so much red in that left hand leaf, we're going to want to monitor that as well. Probably red and yellow as you can see, because sometimes areas like this that are very brightly colored, can become highlights when you actually go to grey scale. So, we're going to want to monitor that area, but let's start up here, let's go ahead and set our highlight because. Even though the color started to pop out on the red flower first, this area went bright white first.
So, let's go ahead and just mark this area here. We'll just check. We'll zoom in just a little bit more. And then hold down the Shift key where we can move this wherever we like to. Yeah, that's a good place, right there. You hold down the Shift key, and then you can fine tune the position of that white highlight. Then be sure to return that slider all the way to there and command or control zero to take us back. And then let's drag this again, and let's put a color sampler point. On one of the really bright areas that seems to be popping out first.
Right in here, an interesting look it's almost like a little reflection right in here. We want to be careful that, that doesn't get too blown up, and get flat in terms of our tonal value. So that'll be a good place to monitor as well. And we'll just make that point number two. And then let's work on the shadow. Option or Alt and then click and drag and let's see. Round the periphery we seem to get some dark areas coming up first. So maybe right over in here, Shift key and then click on the shadow area.
And let's see if there's one or two areas we might want to monitor here. Hover it right now here. In this portion of the image. So, we'll monitor two shadow areas, and the reason why I'm doing two really is that again, sometimes when you go to black and white different portions of your image will get lighter or darker. And space bar to allow us to drag over. We'll put this right in the middle of this dark area there. Cmd, Ctrl+0 there we go. Now we've got four places in our image highlight the lightest portioned area. And then we've got a really saturated red yellow area, that we want to monitor to make sure it doesn't blow out when we go to grayscale.
And then we've got two shadow areas. So we're ready to now start our actual conversion. And we're going to be using our very powerful black and white tool, so let's go ahead and add that as an adjustment layer. And remember whenever you ha, have a curves adjustment layer like this or any sort of adjustment layer, I recommend that we put his on top of the black and white layer. We use curves first and then we added the black and white. So just be sure if the black and white ends up on top of the curve you just swap them like we've done here.
because you really want this underneath any other adjustment layers. Be sure to return all of the sliders to their original position after you do your setting of highlights, and shadows, and other color sampler points. So let's see what we have here. Well, we'll start with the default. And actually default doesn't give us a really bad looking image. It looks pretty nice. But I want to turn this off for just a second, and let's just chat about the image, and see what we can use in the image to help guide us as we do our conversion. We have reds, we have yellows, and we have greens in here as well.
So reds, yellows and greens are probably going to be where we're going to focus most of our slider attention. And as we turn on the black and white adjustment layer and when we come up here we go to reds notice we get huge adjustments in the red, right? And yellows, big adjustments in the yellows as well. Greens, we're going to have adjustments in the background. Sion is probably not much. Blue not too much, there's a little bit going on in the blue, we'll talk about that in a minute. And then, let's just look a little more carefully at these red, particularly their edges around here.
Notice that this is a red, but it's also not a pure red, it's more of a magenta red plus blue, so I would suspect that when we start moving that magenta slider, we turn the slider on. We're going to see some fine tuning, all right. Some pretty strong adjustments we can get from magenta, particularly along the edges of both of them. Hm, that's good to know. So, let's go ahead and start with our default, then. And notice that some of these other ones, like the blue filter. Ooh, you know, things look really rough when we go to some of those. The darker is not too bad. Green. Nope, not good.
And you can come down through here like we talked about before and you can find a good starting position if you want to but we're just going to start with the default and starting moving our sliders. And we know that the reds and the yellows are going to be key for us. So, what we're going to do is we're going to take our red sliders, and we're going to move this left and right. Now there's two ways we can do this. All right, we can just click on the slider and move it like this back and forth, or you can activate this tool and you can just click on the red area, and notice when you click on the red area in the image, it moves the red slider as well, so either one will work fine, whatever you are comfortable with.
And what I'm doing here, is I'm moving this back and forth and I'm kind of looking at the contrast, between the various portions of the leaf here and also over here. So, I'm looking for what is going to give me good contrast and also I want to get some good separation between these leaves and the green background. We'll go down to the green in just a minute, but let's just start here in the reds. See if you move to far, you start to lose too much detail, particularly over here. Let's give that a start there, around 45 to 50. Right in there we're getting pretty good separation, we're still seeing plenty of detail on both leaves.
And then let's go to the yellow. And when you go too far, looks very, very unnatural. Cause even just this much here really brings out too much of that yellow to gray scale, whitens that too much it gives too much of a model look. And you know what I'm focusing on, I'm focusing right in here. And the reason for that, is because of all the yellows that we see here. There's some yellows in here. Some kind of of over there once and a while and I'm going to really focus in on this. Cause I want to make sure the tones in here complement each other very well that there's not too much contrast, like if we go here see it gets too light and there, it gets too dark.
In all depends on what you want creatively. And I don't want too much contrast here, I don't want it to just do stark, I want it to be subtle. I definately want to seperate these leaves from the background, which we're doing. Again, there's not just one number that you're going to use here. And I may come back up here and fine tune the red a little bit, after I've done the yellow. So 50/50, and that's just strictly doing this visually. Now I'm going to pop over here for just a minute. Let's take a look at our values. 233 is for the number one point, which is really not bad at all.
242 is the 5% white highlight. 233 is closer to 10% and we can fine tune that a little bit later. Our number two point is all at 200. So we're good there. No blowing up. Number three and number four, 13's and 17's. The number three, that looks to be the darkest here. We're right at the minimum, right? We don't want to get any darker than that. We certainly wouldn't want to go below 12. If that's an area of detail that we'd like to maintain, so if there's any detail at all. So, our numbers look okay. So let's continue our adjustment a little bit.
I'm going to leave the green alone for a minute. I want to come down to magenta and I want to work on the edges over here. So I'm going to pull this, and notice as I move the right slider over I'm mainly working on the edges. And this is really nice here, to be able to take this magenta. Because notice how with the magenta, it is not as much of an impact as you know, dragging the red or the yellow. But what we're doing is getting a little bit, more separation, between these edges and the background. And I'm really paying attention to this edge here, because if you remember that's where we had, most of the red plus blue, magenta.
We do have some along here as well, but this leaf here, I'm really kind of focusing on. I'm going to pull this up, right about in there, about 198, to give it some good pop from that background. So, we used our reds and our yellows to, kind of, control the contrast between red and yellow here, as well as in here. All right, so we've got some nice contrast, but it's not super stark, so it's still subtle, pretty soft. And with the magenta we're moving the whole thing away from the background, and then let's move to the greens. And notice for the greens we can come all the way down here and get really good separation between the reds and yellow leaves and that dark green background.
I personally thing that's too much, I don't want that much contrast it looks too unnatural. Yeah I do want these leaves to pop up, but I don't want it to be off on this is not enough separation. See where everything starts to blend together as those tonal values equilibrate. I'm probably going to be somewhere in between. Probably right in about here. Maybe a little bit darker, in the greens. And it's totally your creative judgement call. And I'm constantly looking over here to make sure our values are okay. And notice our number three point actually moved up a little bit. From 13 to 17, because we're adjusting the green areas, and we made them look just a little bit lighter.
There we go. Notice the cyans? Nothing's happening on the cyans. Let's take a look at the blues for just a minute. And there is some blue in here, right up in here, there's something that's changing as I move my blue. What the heck is it? Oh look at that! It's a blackberry. Didn't even see that first time through. All right, so we do have a blackberry we can play with here. Well this is not critical, but we're going to go ahead and just pop a little bit of that surface of that blue out there. And there's our before, and then there's our after.
If we wanted to finish up here, we could come to our curve adjustment layer and if wanted to fine tune this a little bit, we certainly could. If we wanted to take our highlight and just move it up make it a little bit brighter or press the plus key, until we select that highlight or we can just click on it and drag. And then I will just move this up until we get right to 242. I'm monitoring my 242 value here, I'm very satisfied with my shadow value up at 18. And if we wanted to, to do an overall little bit of brightness and contrast adjustment, I could go with the quarter tone here, and just bump it, maybe just a tad and go to the three-quarter tone.
And drop it down just a tad if we wanted to, whatever we like in terms of our creative desire. So, there's before, and there's after.
- Exploring different methods for creating grayscale images
- Measuring grayscale values using the Histogram and Info panels
- Adjusting highlights and shadows to improve brightness and contrast
- Enhancing foreground-background separation
- Creating contrast with masks
- Enhancing contrast with gradient masks and clipping-masked curves
- Sharpening with nondestructive tools