Simple Yet Effective Black and White Conversion in Photoshop

before and after

Sometimes an image we take becomes even more stunning when we convert it to black and white.  In this tutorial, I will show you a simple yet effective way to turn an image black and white in Photoshop.

Here we go!

With your photo open, create new Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of your background layer.

create gradient map layer

Make sure the gradient map is from black to white in the Gradient Map Adjustment panel as shown below.  If it’s not, you can click the gradient to change the colors.

gradient map adjustment panel

If you click the gradient to change colors, it will bring up the Gradient Map Editor.  Choose the Black, White preset.

gradient map editor

Your layers palette should look like this…

layers palette

… and the image now looks like this…

after gradient map

For some images, this may be all that is required.  For portraits, this can leave the skin a bit dark or gray, so many times I go a step further and duplicate the Gradient Map layer.  Just duplicating the layer will give the image more contrast, but if you play around with the different blending modes, you will be able to see even more effects.  Soft Light and Overlay modes usually yield some impressive results, even if you have to turn down the opacity on those layers a bit.

Here is the image with the gradient map layer duplicated and set to the Soft Light blending mode at 65%.  I also masked out the eyes at 80% because they had gotten too dark.

after soft light layer

One last thing I am going to do – I want to brighten it just a bit more, so I created a Levels adjustment layer and moved the midpoint to the left a bit.


Here is the After:


As a recap, here are the steps to a simple yet effective black and white conversion in Photoshop:

  1. Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of your image.  Set the colors to Black and White.
  2. Duplicate the Gradient Map layer.  Set the blending mode to Soft Light or Overlay (or try others).  Adjust opacity as necessary.
  3. If you need to bring in more or less light, create a Levels layer and adjust the midpoint.

Easy peasy!  And here is a non-portrait shot using this method:

leaf before and after

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!  As always, I’d love to hear from you.  Post your images to Polished Picture’s Facebook Page, drop me a comment, or share this post if you liked it!  Thanks for coming by!

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4 Responses to Simple Yet Effective Black and White Conversion in Photoshop

  1. magda says:

    thanks for this tutoral! love your website! not always comenting but stopping by often! now I am going to see your newborn before and after and guest post! take care!

  2. Jane Ashley says:

    I might just be addicted to this website now. First off, it is so posh. I love everything about it. Secondly, I adore all of your tutorials, and as an up and coming photographer they are so helpful! I have been looking at different things on this site for about an hour now, and I’m still not done.
    Thank you so much! Absolutely love every part of this site!

    • Angie says:

      Hi Jane! Thank you so very much for your sweet comments, they made my day! I really appreciate you visiting the site, and I’m so glad it’s been helpful! Thank you!

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