The original image is:

Original color image

And the black white version becomes:

Converted to grayscale

As you can see, the cyan colored cells disappear in the black & white version. How can I modify the original image so that the contrast is maintained in the black and white version?

  • Are you asking about how to change the contrast or what color to change the tiles to?
    – Joonas
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 7:10
  • @Joonas Whatever that results in a B&W image where the colors in the original image are distinguishable.
    – Gigili
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 7:14
  • I can see that I wasn't being very clear with my question. Do you want to know how to change colors in say Illustrator or do you want us to tell you what to change the colors into, so that there's more contrast? If you are asking about the latter, then just make the light blocks lighter and darker blocks even darker.
    – Joonas
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 7:24
  • I want to know both since I am a newbie. I'd like to use the image in my thesis where the printed version is black and white so I want it to be clear for the future reader. @Joonas
    – Gigili
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 7:55

3 Answers 3


If you need colors that will contrast well when converted to grayscale you need to use colors with contrasting luminosity levels.

The RGB or CMYK color models aren't very good for doing this so you can use another color model to differentiate your colors. You don't necessarily need to convert your document to another color space—In Photoshop's color picker, for example, it shows you and allows you to edit color values in a number of color models:

Photoshop Color Picker

You can compare the "L" (lightness) value in the Lab color space, the "L" (lightness) value in HSL (which Photoshop doesn't use) or the "B" (brightness) in HSB color for a comparison (or sometimes "V" in HSV, which is the same as HSB with a different naming convention).

The values don't directly correspond to the same thing in the other color spaces so only compare the values in the same color space, but they will give you an indication of the difference in luminosity levels.

If we take the colors used in your example and check the Lab values we can see that the lightness (the "L" value) is very close, which means they will be very similar when converted to grayscale. If we adjust only the lightness value then convert to grayscale you can see a much bigger difference in the result:

Lab color to grayscale comparison


After decomposing a coloured image to it's RGB colors we often find a resulting gray-scale that suits our needs better that a gray scale based on brightness values alone:

Red: enter image description here

Green: enter image description here

Blue: enter image description here With Gimp this can be done using Colors > Components > Decompose....


For a black and white version with a higher contrast in Photoshop:

  • Select image layer of the colored version.
  • Use CTRL+L to open the level correction.
  • Put the middle and right arrow closer together to get a higher contrast of the colors in this range. (I set them to 0, 0.15, 200.)
  • Add the black and white effect by putting a black and white adjustment layer on top.
  • It looks like this now: enter image description here

The image quality is really bad now, but at least you can distinguish the cells. Note that the quality of the image you provided is not very good and it can only go downhill with these types of editing.

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