How to Convert Images to Black and White using Photoshop

Give Your Images That Timeless Black and White Look

Photoshop Tips - Convert Images to Black and White. The same rules apply whether you have shot digitally or scanned your images to your PC when you convert images to black and white . Each method is different with the simplest having the flattest results. The others that take a little time, produce a punchier image.

Whichever way you choose, learn the methods below. Then you will be able to work quickly and efficiently when deciding whether to change them or not.

Convert Images to Black and White: Desaturate/Greyscale

These are by far the simplest and quickest methods and require one or 2 clicks to convert the image instantly and automatically.

DESATURATE - Just go to Image - Adjustments - Desaturate, and click.

GRAYSCALE - Go to Image - Mode - Grayscale, and click.

Convert Images to Black and White Fig 1

Either way, the image will instantly change to black and white although the results will look a little bland. The grayscale option is less destructive in my results on some images.

Lab Colour

Lab colour is the mode we go into when sharpening an image (if you have got to that stage yet). You can get there by going to;

Image - Mode - Lab Colour, and clicking it as per the diagram. You have to do this first or the "lightness" option will no appear as shown below.

Convert Images to Black and White Lab Colour

You won't notice a change immediately, so you must then open your channels palette. If it isn't on your workspace already, go to Window and click on Channels. An option will appear and you need to click the "Lightness" bar as above.

The image will convert to black and white but you won't be able to save the image as you are still in Lab colour mode. Go back to

Image - Mode - and click "Grayscale".

You can now save the image. The image below is "desaturated". Hover cursor over to see Lab Colour conversion (click image if on mobile to see Lab).

Channel Mixer

Once you have the hang of Photoshop a little better, you will start to experiment with more complicated but effective methods with everything. This way of converting to black and white is by far the most creative and effective.

As per the following diagram, go to;

Image - Adjustments - Channel Mixer

Convert Images to Black and White Channel Mixer

...and a box will appear. Notice it has the 3 main channels, red, green and blue. You need to check the monochrome box in the bottom left of this new window. When you do so the image will change to black and white. Photoshop may automatically set the red channel to 100 and the green and blue to zero depending on which version you are using.

You can fiddle with the settings to your hearts content. As a guideline try and keep the overall % of the adjusted colour at 100%. However, note that mixing too much will create more "noise" in your image.

Convert Images to Black and White Red
Convert Images to Black and White Blue


Convert Images to Black and White Green


Convert Images to Black and White Blue


The above diagrams show each colour channel at 100% respectively. You will notice that increasing the red channel gives the same effect that a red filter has when using black and white film. It will darken the sky and lighten the clouds and give a real punch to your images.

Learn what different settings for different channels do for different types of images that you experiment with. You will soon start to build your own style when you convert images to black and white. Nowadays, I simply use Kubota's Image Tools for a quick and trendy black and white conversion!

I also use the trendy Rad Labs plug ins for Photoshop. Quick, intuitive and easy to use!

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