Project: Black and White, Colours into Tones 1

Converting a colour image into black and white is not simply a matter of removing the colour information. It is possible to adjust the relative tone of each of the colour channels so that they are rendered lighter or darker. This is akin to using filters on the lens, except of course with the latter case, the effect is baked into the file whereas the former can be done in post-processing.

The effect of this is explored here.


In Photoshop Elements, there is no “default” setting for the conversion so I simply desaturated the image to get the baseline.


Elements does not have a yellow slider control, so I used red and green together to control the yellow. The next version lightens yellow and darkens blue…


…and this one is the opposite.


The next example is a red-green image.


The desaturated version looks like this:


Lightening the red and darkening the green gives this:


and the opposite is this:


All of these are deliberately taken to extreme to illustrate the strength of the effect.

Comparing the variations to the baseline image, one thing they all show is an increase in contrast. This is not surprising as I was selectively lightening and darkening sections of each picture. I think they also show that when converting to black and white, some thought needs to be given to the relationship between the colours and their relative tones and how they are to be maintained in the conversion.

I mentioned earlier that this is analogous to using filters. A filter I commonly used was an orange one to darken the sky. I tried to achieve the same effect with this picture:


The desaturated one looks like this:


Converting to black and white and darkening the sky with the blue slider looks like this (I also adjusted the red and green slightly):


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