Black and White Adjustment Layers and Blending [Photoshop Tutorial]

Black and White Adjustment Layers and Blending [Photoshop Tutorial]

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Some of our readers have recently been writing some great tutorials over in our forums. One of the latest ones is by Kvikken who has written a tutorial titled Black and White adjustment layers and blending modes in Photoshop.

I won’t rehash it all here – but here’s a quick example of what sort of results Kvikken gets with the technique.

Black-And-White-Layers-Blending

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Great article, he had some great tips in there. Can anyone make a B&W conversion for Adobe Photoshop Elements?

  • B/W really ups the level of drama in this photo. Good tutorial! Thanks.

  • anotherview

    Ryan Azad: PE6 has a black-and-white conversion function in the drop-down menu under Enhance. It has several presets and sliders to control the RGB channels and contrast. The Up and Down arrows scroll through the presets, each giving a different look, which the user can adjust with the sliders. The RGB sliders perform something like channels in Photoshop. By the way, before going to the b&w conversion, for best results, take care first to adjust the tonality of the color image, to get it close. The b&w version then looks better. You have a sound point of departure. Next, yes, go to the layer you created for the b&w conversion, and copy it to another layer. In the blend drop-down menu, try different modes. Multiply darkens the image, and you can back off this effect by adjusting the opacity. Other blend modes achieve subtle or dramatic effects. Once you’ve adjusted the image with the blend modes and the opacity slider, try going to Enhance -> Adjust Lighting -> Shadows/Highlights. This feature brings up three sliders that control shadows, highlights, and contrast. The shadows slider defaults to a setting of 25, which often dramatically opens the shadow areas. You may wish to reduce this setting. Your eye will tell you when the shadows look good. Remember that the image usually does need some black tone in it. Moving the highlights slider sometimes only slightly will bring out tonality in highlight areas — a mark of a satisfying b&w image. I prefer to go easy on the contrast slider at this point. Instead, another tweak or two in Levels will often bring the image to a point of satisfaction. The image may also require some judicious dodging and burning to fine tune tonality in selected areas, which work to bring a tonal balance to the image. Your eye will inform you. Note that often burning a single bright area will emphasize remaining bright areas, which in turn will require some burning to achieve tonal balance. Shoot in the RAW file format. The image starts with more color information on which the image software performs its magic. PE6 does not have a b&w conversion function in its RAW converter, but at this processing stage, I try to achieve the best result possible before opening the image into the PE6 editor. One caution: Avoid over sharpening the b&w image. Too much sharpening can make the image look fake. Your eye will inform you when the image has enough delineation. Read the instructive books by Ansel Adams on how to do photography. This master photographer shot in b&w. Learn from him the ways and means of great b&w photography.

  • anotherview

    Ryan Azad: P.S. I forgot to mention the necessity, in PE6, of merging down a layer having an adjusted opacity. Otherwise, creating another layer above it will start with the same adjusted opacity — very confusing if unintended.

  • wow great tutorial. the final result looks cool.

Some Older Comments

  • rick June 30, 2009 01:36 pm

    wow great tutorial. the final result looks cool.

  • anotherview August 21, 2008 02:33 pm

    Ryan Azad: P.S. I forgot to mention the necessity, in PE6, of merging down a layer having an adjusted opacity. Otherwise, creating another layer above it will start with the same adjusted opacity -- very confusing if unintended.

  • anotherview August 21, 2008 02:28 pm

    Ryan Azad: PE6 has a black-and-white conversion function in the drop-down menu under Enhance. It has several presets and sliders to control the RGB channels and contrast. The Up and Down arrows scroll through the presets, each giving a different look, which the user can adjust with the sliders. The RGB sliders perform something like channels in Photoshop. By the way, before going to the b&w conversion, for best results, take care first to adjust the tonality of the color image, to get it close. The b&w version then looks better. You have a sound point of departure. Next, yes, go to the layer you created for the b&w conversion, and copy it to another layer. In the blend drop-down menu, try different modes. Multiply darkens the image, and you can back off this effect by adjusting the opacity. Other blend modes achieve subtle or dramatic effects. Once you've adjusted the image with the blend modes and the opacity slider, try going to Enhance -> Adjust Lighting -> Shadows/Highlights. This feature brings up three sliders that control shadows, highlights, and contrast. The shadows slider defaults to a setting of 25, which often dramatically opens the shadow areas. You may wish to reduce this setting. Your eye will tell you when the shadows look good. Remember that the image usually does need some black tone in it. Moving the highlights slider sometimes only slightly will bring out tonality in highlight areas -- a mark of a satisfying b&w image. I prefer to go easy on the contrast slider at this point. Instead, another tweak or two in Levels will often bring the image to a point of satisfaction. The image may also require some judicious dodging and burning to fine tune tonality in selected areas, which work to bring a tonal balance to the image. Your eye will inform you. Note that often burning a single bright area will emphasize remaining bright areas, which in turn will require some burning to achieve tonal balance. Shoot in the RAW file format. The image starts with more color information on which the image software performs its magic. PE6 does not have a b&w conversion function in its RAW converter, but at this processing stage, I try to achieve the best result possible before opening the image into the PE6 editor. One caution: Avoid over sharpening the b&w image. Too much sharpening can make the image look fake. Your eye will inform you when the image has enough delineation. Read the instructive books by Ansel Adams on how to do photography. This master photographer shot in b&w. Learn from him the ways and means of great b&w photography.

  • Photo Buffet November 10, 2007 12:30 pm

    B/W really ups the level of drama in this photo. Good tutorial! Thanks.

  • Ryan Azad November 6, 2007 02:01 pm

    Great article, he had some great tips in there. Can anyone make a B&W conversion for Adobe Photoshop Elements?

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