I need to prepare some photos for an e-ink display. The display is 1-bit. Each pixel is either 100% black or 100% white - there is no gray.

I know that I can change the mode of my photos in Photoshop to bitmap, and it will present a number of options as to how the dithering and noise are handled. But this process is destructive.

Is there a non-destructive way to simulate this in Photoshop?

I tried using the Halftone filter in Grayscale mode, but this makes circles instead of pixels, and doesn't have any dithering options.

I can't be the first person to need this - am I doing it wrong?

Adding some examples below.

I'm using an e-ink display from Waveshare. It's 800x400 at approx 49 pixels/cm, 1-bit bitmap. So I've set up my Photoshop document like this:

8 bit grayscale: grab1

I want to be able to try out different 1-bit bitmap "looks", without destroying the original layer:

eg, Halftone screen settings like this: enter image description here

gives this kind of result: enter image description here

But a diffusion dither, gives a different look:

enter image description here

I would like to simulate all of these different looks in a grayscale document, without having to destructively edit my image each time.

I can use the Halftone Pattern filter on my original image, but it doesn't offer the same settings as the 1 bit bitmap conversion, and looks different:

enter image description here

  • Maybe Threshold in the adjustments layer will work, if i understand correctly what you need.
    – TheSqu
    Apr 23, 2021 at 6:47
  • You probably should post some examples of what you want to achieve and what you're getting at the moment: currently it's a guessing game Apr 23, 2021 at 8:38
  • good idea - examples added
    – tomh
    Apr 23, 2021 at 8:45
  • 1
    Work on a copy of the image file. There's no way to change image mode non-destructively.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 23, 2021 at 9:16
  • 1
    I'm looking for a way to simulate that look in a greyscale, maybe through threshold and some dither plugins of some kind? I don't want to change the image mode.
    – tomh
    Apr 23, 2021 at 9:17

6 Answers 6


There is no Filter in Photoshop that simulates the different Bitmap mode methods.

You can't really simulate any color mode with a filter (but Grayscale mode can of course be simulated by desaturating the image and CMYK mode can be simulated with Proof Colors).

You might think that you could convert your image to a Smart Object and then convert to Bitmap mode to retain the possibility to edit the original image and see the changes reflected in the bitmap version, but that's not possible. Bitmap mode requires the image to be flattened.

This is unfortunate, and I sometimes feel Photoshop easily could have some possibilities to work non-destructively in Bitmap mode, but I guess it's not a priority.

Idea for a workaround

If you want this non-destructive simulation in order to be able to dynamically finetune the conversion to Bitmap mode, I see no way. But if you are interested in quickly getting a preview of a specific conversion, I have this proposal:

  • In the Actions panel, Click Create new set to make a set of "Bitmap conversion preview" actions, click Create new action (optionally choose a Function Key, you can change this later) and click Record to start recording.
  • Select > All.
  • Edit > Copy Merged.
  • File > New. Click OK.
  • Edit > Paste.
  • Layer > Flatten Image.
  • Image > Mode > Bitmap.
  • Choose the desired Method. Click OK.
  • Select > All.
  • Edit > Copy.
  • File > Close. Click No.
  • Select > Deselect.
  • Edit > Paste.
  • In the Actions panel, Click Stop playing/recording to end the recording.

Now you have an action which will create a new layer with a bitmap version of your image with the chosen method. Run it from the Actions panel or use the specified Function Key. To remove the preview layer just Edit > Undo.

You can create actions for each Bitmap conversion method you want to be able to preview.


Ximagic Photoshop plugins for Mac and Windows contain something you may want http://www.ximagic.com/g_index.html Check the GrayDither Toolbox. It's a commercial product, but here's a screenshot of the dialog of trial version:

enter image description here

Here's a zoom in view of the conversion result (still RGB, must be converted to bitmap mode manually):

enter image description here

Martin Koch Verlag has a comparable plugin with lower cost. Their version has fewer conversion principles, but there's some image enhancing adjustments. Unfortunately they do not have a 64 bit version.

There exists a freeware route: Jump out of Photoshop. Get Krita (freeware). It has G'mic filter package which knows several B&W conversions and can show a plausible preview without actually modifying the image. Change the filtering settings freely and press Cancel or OK when you have seen enough. Note that if you press OK the image is still in RGB mode. Change the mode to bitmap separately.

An example: Here's a flower photo which is cropped to 800 x 400 pixels:

enter image description here

G'mic dithering filter shows this preview:

enter image description here

NOTE: There are sliders to adjust the brightness scale to fit the dithering process and optional colorizing sliders in case one wants something else than dithering to plain black and white.

BTW. The main application of Krita is painting, but it understands numerous other things that advanced users surely find useful.

Important: G'mic collection is today also available as a plugin for Photoshop as user Billy Kerr commented after this answer. He gave these links: G'MIC https://github.com/0xC0000054/gmic-8bf/releases and an example: https://i.stack.imgur.com/W9fnY.jpg

  • 2
    You're definitely onto something here. You can actually get the G'MIC 8bf Plugin for Photoshop. You can also apply it non destructively to a Smart Object right in Photoshop as a Smart Filter. See example.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 23, 2021 at 16:06
  • @tomh - see above comment.
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 23, 2021 at 16:12
  • @Billy Kerr This is so useful notification that it earns to be an answer, the right one!. I have never noticed someone has imported G'mic to Photoshop. I guess many Photoshop users will be gladly surprised.
    – user82991
    Apr 23, 2021 at 16:27
  • No worries. You thought of it really. I didn't realise they'd released the 8bf for Photohsop until I checked the G'MIC site today. I think it's fairly new. Wasn't possible previously. +1 from me anyway!!
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 23, 2021 at 16:30
  • Note there's also a second hidden dither filter in G'MIC, If you scroll down to "Testing", and open "Reptorian's" filters, you will find Ordered Dithering in the list, which gives several different dithering methods
    – Billy Kerr
    Apr 23, 2021 at 17:51

Those dithering patterns are very specific to image modes - bitmap or Indexed colour, and as far as I know there's no way to apply them using filters non-destructively.

However, as long as you are not looking for an exact representation of true dithering, you can get something that kind of looks similar using pattern and levels layer adjustments.

Here's an example

I applied a Pattern adjustment layer, the pattern I chose is called "Cold Press", and then I set its blending mode to Vivid Light, then add a Levels adjustment, and tweaked the levels to increase the contrast of the pattern. You could perhaps experiment with the blending modes, Hard Light might work too, or use different patterns.

enter image description here

enter image description here


Well, it is possible offcourse to make your own halftone pattern. The first thing you need to do is a pattern where you want to "animate" the sequence of the shape so that you allways increment it by pixel value for each intensity. I have made following example (note its not perfect because i did it in a few minutes. Nor was it intended to be perfect, you have to make your own)

enter image description here

Image 1: the halftone program pattern

Then you put a black and white layer a levels layer and a pattern fill layer with screen mode of hard mix. Thats it. Ok so you can add a maximum filter or mosaic in the layer stack too to make the pattern less noisy if you wish. Example:

enter image description here

Image 2: Sample image from deviantart image CC BY FlemmingHansen.com

enter image description here

Image 3: Demo result

A lot of work sure to adjust to be same as the inbuilt halftoning, can be done. But i mean how much do you really need this. On the other hand you can make Escher patterns too if you wish.


Got an idea that might do what you need : Change the blending mode of your layer to Dissolve. Then copy your layer in your clipboard (ctrl+a and ctrl+c) and paste it in a Layer mask (option/alt click on the empty mask to go in, and paste) then invert it.

Then to have full black or white, you create a full black clipping mask on top of this.

You can now adjust the rendering by manipulating the levels on the Layer Mask


  • 1
    Sadly Dissolve blend mode gives a different result than any of the Bitmap mode methods.
    – Wolff
    Apr 23, 2021 at 10:17

I, personally, would blow right past any halftone...
I wouldn't want a pattern which is specifically what a halftone is going to create.

I would explore using Filter > Filter Gallery > Reticulation
and Filter > Pixelate > Mezzotint


enter image description here

Desaturate (and auto-Levels) then run Reticulation filter...

enter image description here

For this image... enter image description here

Desaturate (and auto-Levels) then run Mezzotint filter...

enter image description here

Combine the Reticulation and mezzotint layers, adjusting blending for the mezzotint...

enter image description here

Reduced 50% upon output (save for web)...

enter image description here enter image description here

Converting the image to a Smart Object will allow you to do all of this on a single Object. Basically, it applies the alterations non-destructively to a single layer via Adjustment Layers and Smart Filters.

enter image description here

You could then, if desired, merely swap out the Smart Object contents and have the same effect for a new image and alter the filters a bit if necessary.

enter image description here

  • I agree, but offcourse thats what op asked. By the way my method also works for stochastical sampling.
    – joojaa
    Apr 24, 2021 at 5:06

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