Join Taz Tally for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating contrast with masks, part of Creating Black-and-White Landscape Photos with Photoshop.
In this video, we want to focus on using masks, to control various portions of image when we're converting from RGB to gray scale. Now so far in this course, we've pretty much used one black and white conversion layer. That works fine for a lot of images but for other images, really it's difficult exactly the look and feel that you want. With just one black and white layer, so we're going to use some masks, to help us control various portions of our image. If you'll look at this you'll notice that, I've gone ahead and created some masks for you. In this particular exercise we're going to be using the sky and mountain, and the foreground mask.
We'll be using these a little bit later on. So I've created these for you, and you should be able to make your own masks and if you don't know how to do that then I refer you to the Photoshop essential courses. They teach you how to create and save selections with alpha channel masks. Let's just do a little bit of image email here. Notice we've got some sky, and we know when we've got sky like this that they can go really dark when we go to black and white, so we're probably going to want to put a color sampler point up in there. We know we're going to have a color sampler point somewhere up in here, on the ridgeline for the lightest diffuse white highlight.
Looks like we may have a shadow down here, in the dark area. So probably three color sampler point and you know, as I look at this image I can see when I look at the RGB values, I've got some blues here and down in here, very high in blues, 86, 86, 94. It's got an overall blue cast in this image, and I've got three different areas that I'm going to want to control the contrast, and I want those to be separate when I work in my image. So with that in mind, let's go ahead and set our first color sampler points and let's go to our curves adjustment layer, go ahead and create that.
Notice that we do indeed have a good distribution of data across our image. It looks like we might have a little bit of a blow out spike, I'm not sure if that's on all three channels. Probably on the red channel, notice how the red is the highest up there on the peak. All right a little bit of sunset colors there. Let's go ahead and push Option, or Alt on windows. And sure enough we can see, the area that's going to be blown out first. Plenty of data up here though, to maintain highlight detail to work with. All right, so looks like right about there is be a great place.
Shift key, to create our first color sampler point. Cmd or Ctrl+0 to go back to full screen view. Option or Alt and then drag. We see where are shattered detail area is down there. But let's keep dragging this until, we see where the darkest portion of the sky is as well, all right? Upper left hand corner, you see there? All right, so just a good idea to just get in the habit during these black and white conversions, to go ahead and place that color sampler point in the sky. And then, see where was the darkest shadow? Okay, right down in there, good enough.
You can zoom in and tine tune the placement of that by holding down the shift key, to move that around if you want. All right so we've got our three color sampler color set. Cmd+0 to go back to full screen preview, and notice I always like to have my darkest shadows as my highest number sampler point. And my diffuse white highlight is on my number one, so when all my images regardless of when I created them, I know that the highest and lowest is going to be diffuse for a highlight and deep shadow. So now let's create our first, black and white layer.
And we know we're going to have some adjustment on the blues, no doubt about that, right? There's going to be some movement on the reds, all right a little bit because we know we've got some red up in here. But it's not a big color cast. The big movement's going to be in the blue. We know that. So let's go ahead and pull this down, and let's watch our color sample point number two. And let's say I wanted to get maximum density on this, all the way down to 12. Notice when we do that, when we pull that all the way down to 12. Notice that this goes to 0, all right. And this foreground is just too muddy and too dark. So we can see right off the bat, right away, that we're going to want to separate you know probably the sky and mountain, which are well lit and much lighter from the foreground in here, plus remember there was a big blue cast in the foreground and more of a red cast in the background plus the blue sky.
So we really need to separate them. So, let's just get rid of this black and white layer, and let's start by loading a selection. And we're going to load the sky and mountain for one selection, and to do this, select, load selection, and then you can load the one that you want, all right? That's kind of a long way, let me show you the short way that we'll use throughout the course because it's a lot faster. Cmd option on Mac, Ctrl on Windows, and then, the number of the alpha channel mask, in this case the sky Ctrl+Cmd+Alt+8.
We'll go ahead and load that. So it's much faster and easier, we going to use that to save time. Then we're going to come up over here, and we'll go ahead and create our black and white layer. And by doing that, after we make the selection. It creates a layer mask that isolates that black and white creation, to just that portion of the image and my suggestion is to go ahead and label this. We'll label this the background. All right, or you can label it sky and mountain if you want to, but in this case we're just going to have two. So we'll just go background and foreground. And while we're here, let's go ahead and make the other one.
Cmd+Ctrl+Alt+9, to select the foreground and go ahead and create the black and white. And name this one, of course, foreground FG just for short, and I'll use that throughout. You can write out or come up with your own scheme, however you like. All right, so let's do the background first. We know we're going to get some big movement on the blue. So let's pull that blue down. And, you know, sometimes it's the science, you know,and sometimes it's the blues. Most often in skies it's the blues. Sometimes waters are science, if you have a question just click on the hand and just drag down to the area of each one, you'll see what's dominant, in this case it sure is the blues.
In fact you can use that to make your adjustment if you want, and we'll take this down to as low as we want to go. Now, you know, I don't want to take it all the way down to 12. Let's take it down to about 20. Don't want it all the way down at 95%. And we can fine tune this later if we want. No doubt about that. We'll take that down to 20. And nothing's happened in the foreground, right. No doubt about that. We can do a really nice conversion, to black and white. Primarily by moving the blues here. Notice that we're still at 255 in our point number one.
And we can fine tune that here, if we want to, or we can do it later on. I'm going to leave it, and come back and fine tune that with a curve in just a few minutes. So I want to dip my overall contrast, by adjusting my shadow point down to about 20. Now let's work the foreground. And we're going to do the same thing. We know we've got blues, to make our move. And note if we move this down just a little bit, we go well below 12. Okay. Do we want to set our shadow point using this? Probably not. What I'm going to do is, I'm looking at this foreground, and I'd like this to have a little bit more contrast with the background, or the mountain.
Remember our three sections one, two and three, the three primary elements in this image. And to get a good grayscale you want them all to be separated from each other. Well we just created nice separation from the sky and mountains, and now we can create good separation using the blue here. So I'm going to make my blue adjustment, based upon, the overall tone, and look of this foreground. And notice how this darkens this up a little bit, creates some more visual separation with the middle ground, or the background here, so I'm going to do that.
Notice that this now is a little bit too dark, that's okay. Because what we're going to do, once we get these set, is we'll just take this curves adjustment layer, which needs to be up top anyway, remember we always want that. And then we can use our curves adjustment layer, to make whatever fine tune adjustments we want. So we can take this curves adjustment layer, and notice it is at well, 248, looks like I didn't move my cursor all the way to the beginning, so we're already down to 248. We're going to look at these three values right here, but particularly these two.
Let's just go to our curve now, and let's just lower this until we. Come to right where we want it, say 242. If that's what we wanted. And I'm lowering it, right? I'm hitting the arrow key down. And then we'll press the plus key to separate the shadow point, or you can click on it with your mouse. And then we're going to raise that until we get that up to that 12 value that we want. Now at this point, we fine tune our highlights and shadows, and look at the number two point here is right at 28. And maybe we want that to be a little bit darker.
And if we want that to be darker, that's okay. We can just take that section of the curve, and notice when we click on here we can see where the section of the curve is. If I Cmd and click, or Ctrl and click, I can see where on that curve that is; notice it's way down there in three-quarter tone. What I'm going to do, is I'm going to put a control point here, put a control point here, and maybe one here. Right. And I'm just going to darken this portion of the image, and I'm going to watch. The number two values right in here.
Just pull this down a little bit, create a little bit more contrast, and I can adjust this point up and down to suit my needs. There we go. So I can make some fine tunes on my curve here, and I can create now more or less of a darkening that's recorded to apportion an image based on, how I want the image to look. And just always make sure that number three point down there. Hit that plus sign until we get the number three. And we'll keep that up at least a minimum of 12 point, cause that's going to be our 95% black.
So there we go. There's using masks, along with using the curves, which we're already familiar with, to help create just the look and feel we want of our black and white image.
- 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