Black, White, and Monochrome
In our example images here, all of these example images are for you to play around with as well, so feel free to beat them up, break them, do whatever you want with them. One thing that you see here, though, is this thing called Test Chart. I use this test chart quite a bit. It doesn't look very technical, but it is. When I'm testing my own custom creative effects, I will often use this test chart to see what's happening to different types of photographs from the effects that I'm creating. So if I like the effect that I've created on one image, I can then drag that effect over to this image, or repeat that process on this test swatch to see what it's gonna look like on a sunrise shot. It doesn't have a whole lot going on with the bursting sunrise. A regular lit day shot, a kind of a creative outdoor tree shot, an interior shot, and then a portrait. And it's my ugly mug there, so you got it forever. Now up here, you see I've got the colors. I've got magenta and green. And they're next t...
o each other because they're complements. Now on those, there's a graduated spread, and there's also individual little boxes that make up the zones of that color. You're gonna see that with magenta, you're gonna see that with green. You've got your blue and your yellow, your cyan and your red, and then across the top and the bottom, or across the top on the right-hand side, you have your gradient going from black to white. So, as I'm building my custom creative effects, if I like the way it looks on one image, but I'm like, you know, I'm not sure how that would look on a portrait. Well, instead of opening up 15 different images, this is my test file that I use to test those things. And this is also available for you, so you don't have to build one of your own, it's already built for you. If you'd like to replace these pictures with yours, feel free to do so, especially this one right here. But all the rest, you know. So. When I go into making my custom creative effects, a lot of times I'm really just focusing on things like adjustment layers. So I know we've talked about black and white conversions quite a bit here. It's kind of been speckled throughout this. But the black and white conversion that I wanna create is gonna give me a lot of control over the image. And there's a couple different things I can do to add into that black and white custom creative effect to get a custom creative black and white image. That can also very easily transition into a monochromatic image just at the click of button, and we're gonna take a look at that. I also said something about working with actions here. So at any time as you're building these custom creative effects, it's a good idea to open up your Actions palette, start a new set of actions and just say Custom, or My Creative Effects. They're mine 'cause they're on my computer, but they'll be yours because they're on your creative effects. And from here you can create a new action and start building actions with these custom creative effects. Now since we've already covered actions, this is gonna be one of those things where I'm gonna tell you a best practice now as you're building these things and following along with me. Challenge yourself to record these things as actions, and play them back as you go through. Now I'm not gonna record them right now as we work on this. I want this to be something that you do in your best practice to see if you can recreate these same custom effects with your actions. And by the time we're done with this, you're gonna have a list of actions that you've created. So I challenge you to go back to that actions that we talked about and look at, and really, if at this point you need to stop and maybe look at that, go ahead and look at that and then continue on. Or if you just wanna see how I make these custom effects, that's cool too. So any time I'm gonna do a black and white conversion and test my theory of black and white conversions, I always start with a color wheel. The color wheel's the start for every thing I do when it comes to tonal adjustments. And if we were to come down here and click on just the regular black and white adjustment layer, the regular black and white adjustment layer, as we've talked about before, is a great adjustment layer because it takes my image and makes it black and white. It doesn't necessarily map out my colors so the darkest color becomes the darkest tone, but it does allow me to go through and add a higher luminance value for that color of blue, or yellow, but it's only the luminance. I can't adjust the hue, I can't adjust the saturation, and I can't adjust the lightness at this point. So I like the black and white adjustment layer, but when I'm talking about my own custom unique creative effect for a black and white toning, that is not necessarily gonna do it. That's something that's accessible to everybody. So one of the things I might do is look at something like the gradient map, and have that gradient map set to black and white. And from here, I'll just double-click this and call this BW Conversion. This is the basic black and white conversion that I do, that I always start with. I love this black and white conversion. This black and white conversion is controlled by this gradient map. The gradient map can be used for many things outside of just a black and white conversion, which we're gonna talk about that when we talk about color grading in this segment, but if I click on this and I click on the color black here, this is saying that the darkest colors in my image are gonna get the tonal values that are black. I don't necessarily have to keep this as black. If I don't want them to get pitch black, I can just come up here and bring this up just a little bit and make that 10, instead of pure black. And then I can come over here to the whites, and if I don't want those whites to blow out when I do that, I can bring this down and make that 245, which would be 10 on the whites. I know that because if you look at red, that's red 245, green 245, and blue 245, which'll create the color white. If I don't wanna go straight to 'cause I look at that yellow and I see that it's not quite, it's a little too, I don't know, far away from white, I can change this to 250, 250, and 250. And that's up to you completely. And that's just changing the colors and alternating the colors with that black and white conversion. I press Okay, it's good to go. Now, underneath that, I would put something like a hue saturation adjustment layer, or even something like maybe this selective color adjustment. The selective color adjustment's really cool and something we haven't really talked about yet. Let me go ahead and put a hue saturation adjustment layer underneath there, and I'll talk to you about the difference between those two. The hue saturation adjustment layer underneath this black and white conversion will allow me to use the targeted adjustment tool that's right here to click on any color and change the hue, the saturation, or the lightness of those colors. So if I'm building a custom creative effect from this, I might call this Black and White Conversion, and then I might rename this one Color Modifier. And I might click on both of these layers, press and hold Shift, right-click and call them Violet, 'cause they're effects. So that would set me up for creating this color conversion, or this black and white conversion on this color wheel. Because adjustment layers know no bounds, they don't have any pixels that are identifying them as being the space that they exist in, other than their mask if I press and hold Shift and drag these onto this image, It's gonna go ahead and use that and convert that. So that's a way that I can test those adjustment layers on another photograph. I could drag in a bunch of different ones and do that. So if I look at this color modifier and I click on something like the blues that are back here, like that, I now have the ability to manipulate the color underneath that black and white adjustment. And this is where we get black and white tuning that is just absolutely phenomenal. So if I were to bring up the hue of that, makes it a little bit darker. Saturation, make that almost pretty much go to black back there, like very Ansel-esque style. And then bring this over and kind of feather in those colors a little bit to grab more of the cyan. So now if we look at the before, the black and white conversion, and it's really just taking the blues in my image, just ramping them up a little bit. Why I like this is nothing is restricting me with this black and white conversion and this black and white creative effect. Nothing's restricting me and telling me that you have to use this certain parameter and this certain layer and this certain program in order to make this effect. I'm using all the stuff that exists in Photoshop to give me the toning that I need for that black and white effect. And black and white images are really, this is where we start to get into not just using the black and white conversion but the color modifier. Start adding things in here like dodging and burning. Maybe setting yourself up with the curves layer dodge and burn to go above that. So not only are you affecting the colors of this, now you're also modifying the tones in this outside of just a regular curve, but maybe the curves layer dodge and burn. So if I were to build a new curves adjustment layer on top of this, bring that down to burn that down, let's burn that down really deep. And then we'll click on that mask, Command or Control + I. We'll call this Burn. Make a new one, curves, bring it up, make it bright. Call this Dodge. Control + I. So now with my brush, if I click on the mask and I paint with white on top of that mask that we converted I can then start adding a lot of that tone back into that image. Really refine some of that, make it a lot more dramatic. Especially highlight underneath these shadows. Really push and pull the eye between these shadows. Paint that under there. Deep there. One thing that I had a professor tell me, it's a print-making professor. She taught me that if I ever wanted to emphasize an area in the photograph or in the drawing that I was drawing, to make lines that meet, make them darker where they meet. So if you want to really push and pull the eye through this where this line meets this area right here, if I start painting right there, see how it starts to separate that from the rest of it by just adding a really intense amount of shadow underneath there. Deep shadow on this side. And with this, we want it a little bit brighter and we want it a little bit darker than we normally would with the other curves layer dodge and burn, because we're working with black and white conversions here. If I wanna burn in this back area here, make it a little bit darker, I can do that as well. Really get that deep, deep look going on in the image. And that would be using things like the black and white conversion. Now I did say that we could use a different type of color modifier underneath here, and that would be something like the selective color adjustment. The selective color adjustment is something that we haven't talked about yet, but this is where you become a painter with color, really. So you would think with HSL, with hue saturation and luminance, that that's kind of becoming a painter because you're changing the hue, saturation, and the luminance of that color. This is actually set up like a color palette would be for a painter. So if you can imagine yourself clicking on the color reds, this is adjusting the percentage. Now, we've talked a little bit about complementary colors and color theory and how the curves adjustment layer on one side is red in the red area, and cyan on the bottom side. Think about that the same way here. If we increase the cyan, we're adding cyan to the color red. If we decrease cyan, we're essentially adding red to the color red, 'cause that's on the opposite side of the color wheel. It's not telling you this here. It will never tell you this anywhere. Magenta, if we increase the percentage we're getting more magenta, if we decrease the percentage, we're getting more green. Yellow, if we increase the percentage of yellow, we're getting more yellow. If we decrease it, we're essentially adding blue. So if I look at something like the color blue in this image that's back here, we have a lot of that. We could go to the color blue, and if I increase this it's gonna add yellow to that blue area, but see how it's just so subtle? It's just increasing the percentage of yellow that exists within the pixels of the color blue. If I drop this down, it's gonna make them more blue. If I bring this up it's gonna make those pixels a little more cyan, bring this down, it's gonna make those pixels a little more red. Bring the magenta up, it's gonna add some intense magenta color to those colors of blue. Bring it down, and it's gonna make them more green. So that could be a really intense way to get the color blue. It's a really nice color blue, actually, for that sky. It's actually a little bit more refined. So I have a couple of these selective color modifiers that I use to ramp up the foliage in an autumn scene, where maybe I had some yellows there, but I want those yellows to look more orange. So I'm gonna add a little bit more red to those yellows. I'm gonna remove the blues from those yellows, and I might even add a little bit of magenta to those yellows to make those autumn, and this happens all the time. I don't care where you go in the United States when the fall is happening in Vermont, New England, those New England States, that beautiful autumns. I don't care who you are or what camera you have, you take a picture of that, it's not going to look like you want it to look. And there's many reasons for that. And without going too far into it, our cameras can only see one instance of color at any given time. They can only see one instance of light at any given time. We get to manipulate that light, and a lot of times we think about manipulating that light very well because, what do we do? We break down highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. We're so comfortable with breaking down light. But how comfortable are we at breaking down color? How often do we do it? How often do people step into the HSL adjustment layer? How often do they step into Selective Color Adjustment? These selective color adjustments allow you to jump into a different world, the artistic creative painters world that allow you to take that one instance of light that our camera sees and manipulate the color within that one instance of color and that one instance of light at the same time. If I turn on my black and white conversion, we can even add black to that blue area. And this can be a way that we can add to that black and white conversion as well. So we can use that selective color by itself just to ramp up and amplify those colors. We can use it underneath our black and white conversion and even turn on that color modifier conversion too, to see if it's gonna make a difference under there, and it does. Go to that selective color and go to the color, maybe yellow. Make that yellow a little bit brighter, a little bit deeper by adding some cyan. And brighter there. So you see, just by using what's right there available to us just in our adjustment layers, we did a curves layer dodge and burn. We'll just put this in a group, Control + G. That's our curves dodge and burn. That's our black and white conversion. That's our color modifier. That's our selective color. Check this out, look what happens when you turn that off. You get a pretty interesting, kind of cool-looking effect, huh? Again, something I shouldn't be afraid of just navigating through my layers, turning some previews off and see what I get. This is what I do when I'm working on my workflow. This is a lot of times what I do with my experimentation process. Now on the flip side of black and white, we don't just have to be black and white. Black and white is also another word for monochromatic. It's monochromatic in a way that is just adding the color black to the color white to this. But because this black and white conversion is set up right here, going from black to white, if I click on this, change this color to like a cream-ish, orange-ish color somewhere around right here, now we get kind of a sepia-toned kind of effect. Now because it's lighter, it's gonna make everything brighter, and that's not exactly what I'm going for for this. So what do I have to control that? I have everything else here. I've got my passive, I've got my fill, I've got my blend modes. And if we ever want to allow the underlying layers' luminance to show through any of our layers, all we wanna do is apply the color to this. So now we get a monochromatic, almost sepia-toned style effect. Maybe with that curves adjustment layer, it might be a little too much up there. But that would be a monochromatic look at a black and white image. If we change this color to even a cyan color, now we're getting what's kind of like a cyanotype, or some kind of platinum-type look on our image. If we reduce the saturation on this, or opacity on this, we start to allow some of the underlying color to show through. Now we're creating some really interesting effects with this image, all with using our black and white conversion as a base, and then going in another direction after that by maybe looking at just the color of it. If I press Alt or Option, look at that. That now looks like a snapshot. You know, this has some artistic flair to it, has some artistic styling to it, and something I actually kind of enjoy. I just encourage you really to just play with your black and white conversions. Play with the black and white conversions that you make, maybe some of your favorite programs or plugins that you're currently using, and see if you can replicate that in Photoshop. 'Cause I guarantee you can, and then you won't wanna take a detour from here, especially when you can see you can take that black and white conversion and drop the opacity a little bit, let some of that color show through, and get a different style and a different effect.