How to make an image black and white in Photoshop: 4 easy ways [2022]


Disclosure: This site is sponsored by affiliate programs. We may earn money from the companies mentioned in this post. As an Amazon affiliate partner we may earn from qualifying purchases.

Welcome to yet another super simple Adobe Photoshop tutorial.

Today we are going to be talking about how to convert color images to black-and-white images in Photoshop.

There are actually three different methods you can use, and each achieves a slightly different result. In this article, we will be discussing all four methods and when to use each.

And here’s the great news – all four methods are super simple! Each can be implemented with just two or three clicks of a mouse!

Topics included in this article:

  1. Grayscale Method
  2. Desaturate Method
  3. Black and White Method
  4. Adjustment Layer Method
  5. The difference between the 4 methods
An image converted to black and white using Grayscale in Photoshop (original image by Mix and Match Studio/shutterstock.com)
An image converted to black and white using Grayscale in Photoshop (original image by Mix and Match Studio/shutterstock.com)

1. Convert the image to Grayscale

I wanted to start with the Grayscale method because this is the only method of the four that actually changes the color profile of your image from CMYK, RGB or Lab, to Gray.

Color profiles indicate the color space of a document.

CMYK uses cyan, magenta, yellow and black values. RGB uses red, green and blue. Lab uses a global color (designed to approximate human vision). And Grayscale uses black and white.

To make an image black and white in Photoshop and convert the color space to Grayscale, simply go to the top menu and select Image > Mode > Grayscale. When prompted about discarding color information, click the Discard button.

An image converted to black and white using Desaturate in Photoshop (original image by Mix and Match Studio/shutterstock.com)
An image converted to black and white using Desaturate in Photoshop (original image by Mix and Match Studio/shutterstock.com)

2. Use the Desaturate tool

The second method uses Desaturation to convert your image to black and white.

While Desaturation produces a similar result to converting an image to Grayscale, with this method, you’re simply removing the color from the selected portion or the selected layer of your Photoshop document rather than converting the entire file’s color profile.

To use the Desaturation tool in Photoshop, select the portion(s) and layer(s) from the layers panel that you wish to convert to black and white. Then go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate.

Alternatively, you can use the default keyboard shortcut Shift + Cmd + U (on a Mac) or Shift + Windows Key + U (on Windows).

Your selection will now be black and white.

An image converted to black and white using Black and White in Photoshop (original image by Mix and Match Studio/shutterstock.com)
An image converted to black and white using Black and White in Photoshop (original image by Mix and Match Studio/shutterstock.com)

3. Use the Black and White tool

Next, we have the Black and White tool – my favorite method.

Similar to the Desaturate tool, The Black and White tool also works and allows you to work on a portion of your Photoshop document without affecting the entire image or converting the entire file to Grayscale.

Unlike the other destructive methods (which remove color data), this is a non-destructive method. This means that the Black and White method maintains the original color information (such as red channels, blue channels, yellow channels, etc) that allows you to create unique color adjustments.

In fact, this method is often the preferred method for Black and White photography because it gives you more control over the finished product.

To use the Black and White tool, select the portion(s) and layer(s) that you wish to convert to black-and-white. Then go to Image > Adjustments > Black and White.

Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Option + Shift + Cmd + B (on a Mac) or Option + Shift + Windows Key + B (on Windows).

Next, adjust individual channels using the Black and White’s special Channel Mixer box. Drag the individual color sliders to create your desired effect. When you’re finished, click OK.

Notice that this method allows you to adjust both three primary color channels (reds, yellows, greens) as well as three secondary color channels (cyans, blues, magentas).

An image converted to black and white using an Adjustment Layer in Photoshop (original image by Mix and Match Studio/shutterstock.com)
An image converted to black and white using an Adjustment Layer in Photoshop (original image by Mix and Match Studio/shutterstock.com)

4. Use an Adjustment Layer

Finally, we have my second favorite method.

If you’d prefer to leave your original image untouched, you may want to opt for an Adjustment Layer.

Like the Black and White method, Adjustment Layers are also considered to be non-destructive. They sit on top of your layer(s) and will allow you to adjust individual color channels without impacting any of the pixels in the original artwork.

To make a layer black and white using an Adjustment Layer, go to your Layers Panel and click on the Adjustment Layer icon to create a new Adjustment Layer (it looks like a half-filled circle, located at the bottom of the Layers Panel). Next, select either Channel Mixer (more control) or Hue/Saturation (less control). Then, move the adjustment layer above the area you wish to alter.

If you selected Channel Mixer, select one of the Black and White presets and move the color sliders to adjust individual color channels for different effects.

If you selected Hue/Saturation, drag the saturation slider all the way to the far left to desaturate the area.

Treat this Adjustment Layer like any other layer in your Layers Palette. With Adjustment Layers, you can:

  • Play around with the blend modes, filters and distortions.
  • Create a layer mask using a shape, gradient or even the brush tool.
  • Adjust the settings at any time without impacting the layers and objects underneath.
A side-by-side comparison of Grayscale vs Desaturate vs Black and White vs Adjustment Layers in Photoshop (original image by Mix and Match Studio/shutterstock.com)
A side-by-side comparison of Grayscale vs Desaturate vs Black and White vs Adjustment Layers in Photoshop (original image by Mix and Match Studio/shutterstock.com)

Grayscale vs Desaturate vs Black and White vs Adjustment Layers in Photoshop

The main differences between these four tools can be roughly summarized like this:

GrayscaleDesaturateBlack & WhiteAdjustment Layer
Alters document’s color profileYes
Can be used on a portion of the document_YesYesYes
Offers six color channel adjustments__Yes_
Maintains color data for adjustments__YesYes
Non-Destructive__YesYes
Keeps the original image intact___Yes

If you found this article helpful, let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to connect with me on social media for more Photoshop tutorials just like this one.

Leave a Comment