This is a simple question but it doesn't seem to be here.

My question: Is there a better way to convert a colour image into a B&W (in photoshop) one than just changing the 'mode' of the image? By 'better' I mean 2 things: non-destructive and also the ability to have more control over the results (the brightness, contrast etc.)

  • 5
    Define "better." Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 16:08
  • Potentially interesting question, but would be improved if you explained why you're not happy with the results of the simple mode change.
    – e100
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 9:22

6 Answers 6


You can do these things without changing the mode just have to work with adjustment i have attached some SS to show you a Quick way to do the B&W thing..there are lots of option doing this in PS.

enter image description here

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You can just select desaturate option and see how it changes enter image description here


If it's a photograph, then there are techniques that make the converted image look like a "better" black and white photograph.

This page "7 Black and White Photoshop Conversion Techniques" seems to cover that particular area of the subject rather well.


Create an all black or white layer that sits on the very top of your image in Photoshop, then set its blend option to "Saturation." This allows you to change between color and B&W without ever having to destroy the color information.

Alternatively, if you don't mind destroying the color information, you can use Image->Adjustments->Desaturate (completely B&W) or Image->Adjustments->Hue/Saturation to adjust the saturation up and down.


Occasionally, one of the red/blue/green channels results in a better conversion. In those rare case, one might delete 2 of the three channels.

  • I may be old-school, but this is the trick I learned back in the day and have always used.
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 25, 2011 at 17:32

There are several better ways.

Any method that is non-destructive (doesn't change the original pixels) is preferable to one that is destructive. Any method that gives you control over the conversions is better than one that doesn't. If you conclude from these two statements that a non-destructive, controllable conversion would be best, you're right!

So we've narrowed the target a bit, but we still have several options. Several of them are beloved of geeks and "old-timers," but much as I love them myself, they don't ultimately have any advantage over the two I'm going to suggest, they are either more complex or require getting quite far under the hood or both, and they tend to be a bit "all or nothing."

The two non-destructive methods that give you the most control are the Black-and-White filter (CS3 and later) and Camera Raw (CS4 and later, for raw, jpeg and tiff images). The endless power to tweak can be so interesting that you lose hours of sleep, miss meals and generally wreck your social life, so be careful. :-)

At the end of the process, if you need an actual grayscale image, use Image > Duplicate Image to create a copy of the working PSD, flatten it (important), then convert.


If you are looking to non-destructively go from color to gray scale with the option to come back to the color photo then using Adobe Fireworks instead of Photoshop would be a better option.

  • 3
    Photoshop can do this as well. If you have more information about the reason(s) why Fireworks is better for this purpose, please do elaborate.
    – horatio
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 19:35

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