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Black and White Conversion Techniques comparison

Listed below are the black and white conversion techniques discussed on this web site.  Each one is listed with a table that documents the technique's ability to support particular features.  Under the Supports column, the more Yes's there are, the more options the technique gives the photographer.  More Yes's means more options.  It does not mean a better black and white image.  The final black and white image is up to the photographer and not a particular technique.
 

Customary Method - Channel Mixer

FEATURE SUPPORTS REMARKS
Retains and uses all RGB information Yes  
Predictable Yes  
Allows local adjustments either through selections or layer masks No As this technique is customarily taught, the layer to adjust tone is the same as the layer to convert to monochrome.  Therefore, changes are global only.  However, a separate layer can be used for local adjustments.  But at that point, you should consider the Tone Management System.
Allows adjustments by color range No  
Allows adjustment by color channel Yes However, when one color channel is changed, another needs to be changed in the opposite direction in order to maintain the 100% total.
Supports the creation of color/black and white images. Yes A mask can be placed on the Channel Mixer adjustment layer to mask out the areas to remain in color.
Allows black and white toning Yes  
Non-destructive Yes  


 

Customary Method - Desaturation

FEATURE SUPPORTS REMARKS
Retains and uses all RGB information Yes If a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer is used.
Predictable Yes Better results can be achieved by changing the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer's blending mode to Color.
Allows local adjustments either through selections or layer masks No The layer to convert to monochrome cannot be used to adjust tone.  However, a separate layer can be used for local adjustments.  But at that point, you should consider the Tone Management System.
Allows adjustments by color range No  
Allows adjustment by color channel No  
Supports the creation of color/black and white images Yes A mask can be placed on the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to mask out the areas to remain in color.
Allows black and white toning Yes  
Non-destructive Yes If a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer is used.


 

Customary Method - Grayscale

FEATURE SUPPORTS REMARKS
Retains and uses all RGB information No  
Predictable Yes  
Allows local adjustments either through selections or layer masks No A separate layer can be used to for local black and white luminance adjustments.  But at that point, you should consider the Tone Management System - grayscale method.
Allows adjustments by color range No When converted to grayscale, all color information is permanently discarded.
Allows adjustment by color channel No When converted to grayscale, all color information is permanently discarded.
Supports the creation of color/black and white images. No When converted to grayscale, all color information is permanently discarded.
Allows black and white toning Yes Grayscale is the only mode that can be used with Photoshop's Duo, Tri and Quad tones.
Non-destructive No When converted to grayscale, all color information is permanently discarded.


 

Customary Method - Lab

FEATURE SUPPORTS REMARKS
Retains and uses all RGB information No The a and b channels where color is stored is retained, but not used.
Predictable Yes  
Allows local adjustments either through selections or layer masks No Adding an adjustment layer will enable all channels.
Allows adjustments by color range No  
Allows adjustment by color channel No  
Supports the creation of color/black and white images No  
Allows black and white toning No Adding an adjustment layer will enable all channels.
Non-destructive Yes When the a and b channels are reactivated, the original image is 'restored'.


 

Customary Method - RGB Channel

Feature Supports Remarks
Retains and uses all RGB information No All color channels are retained, but only one is used.
Predictable Questionable  
Allows local adjustments either through selections or layer masks No Adding an adjustment layer will enable all channels.
Allows adjustments by color range No  
Allows adjustment by color channel No  
Supports the creation of color/black and white images No  
Allows black and white toning No Adding an adjustment layer will enable all channels.
Non-destructive Yes  


 

Tone Management System

Feature Supports Remarks
Retains and uses all RGB information Yes  
Predictable Yes  
Allows local adjustments either through selections or layer masks Yes  
Allows adjustments by color range Yes  
Allows adjustment by color channel Yes  
Supports the creation of color/black and white images Yes  
Allows black and white toning Yes  
Non-destructive Yes