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Black and White in GIMP – My Way

scpointlonsdale-hpm7805-1bw

A request was made about converting some images into black and white.  I have spoken about converting images before, but I have never done a tutorial on it.  I have decided to use GIMP again, though if people want, I am happy to do one in Photoshop another time.

As always we have to choose an image to convert.  I decided that I would make use of the images that I took last Friday.  These have a lot of clouds, and I think the images that work best in black and white are ones that have more drama.  The more mood the image has the better it can look in monotone.

So, my image is open, remember, right click, press file, then open.

Next the image needs to be converted to black and white, or grayscale.  Right click on the image, then go to Image,  click on Mode, then click grayscale.  It will go like the image above.  Many people stop right here and don’t go any further.  This is only the first step.

The image is a little dark, so I used Levels to lighten it up some.  The area circled in red is where I moved them too.

When printing images in the darkroom, I was told to have two pieces of paper with me, one white and one black.  The pieces were used to make sure that my image would have white in it and black in it.  You can do a similar thing in GIMP, I just opened two new images and filled one with black and one with white.  It is important that your image has the full range, otherwise they look washed out and not very good.  I have seen so many images like this on the internet.  If you are one of them now, you won’t be after this.

Next I always adjust the contrast and brightness.  Right click on the image, go to Colours, then click on Brightness-Contrast.  I have already moved the sliders.  When you move the contrast one, especially to the right, you will also need to add some brightness, though, this isn’t a rule and should be done on an image by image situation.  Keep in mind your blacks, and your whites.

Hopefully you can tell that it looks a lot better.

Here is the final image as a black and white image.

Not every image is going to be as easy as this one.  Sometimes they are not so co-operative.

Here is the image from Friday’s post.  I have lightened this up a lot.  I wanted it to be fairly light.

The image has been changed to grayscale, and you can see by putting the white image and the black image on top, that we have plenty of white, but really no black.  So we need to get black.  You probably could also get it using the levels and just darkening the image again, but what if you image is just like this and you can’t do that.

I have used the contrast to bring up the blacks and to give it more contrast.  Contrast is the difference between black and white.

We have lost some of the sky detail, but the image doesn’t look so gray.  The final image from the above way.  Of course if I didn’t lighten it up at the beginning it would have been much different.

This version is better, the sky isn’t so blown out.  It is still crooked.  There is a lot more detail in the sky now.  The rocks are quite dark and the best version is probably somewhere in between.

Making images into black and white is easy, you just saw that, but remember that all images should have blacks and whites and a range in between.

An almost award.

Lovely (Blog) Or Not

An interesting take on the whole blog awards, I hope you go and take a look.

http://moderndayruth.net/2012/10/21/lovely-blog-or-not/

I would like to say thanks for the recognition.

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65 Comments Post a comment
  1. Once again thanks for the lesson…

    October 22, 2012
    • You are very welcome Rob, thanks for coming along.

      October 23, 2012
  2. Thanks for this, very useful…now must just practice more!

    October 22, 2012
    • Yes practice is always important, I hope you find the tute useful. Thank you.

      October 23, 2012
  3. Thanks for the tutorial! I must really get down to trying it out. Not used photoshop/lightroom yet. GIMP sounds relatively ok to use. I’m really not good at using the software

    October 22, 2012
    • I love the software, but if you have trouble, you know where to ask Stephanie, I hope you find it okay. My holga lens arrived today. Thanks

      October 23, 2012
      • Cool. Thanks Leanne

        October 25, 2012
  4. The black and white pieces of paper thing is useful. Many thanks. Your recent images of the ocean-side have been really nice. Thanks for doing this in GIMP – much appreciated. D

    October 22, 2012
    • It is a good trick. I have really enjoyed the recent images as well, I might have to see if I can get more. I think it is good to do them in GIMP, it is more accessible to most. Thanks Dave.

      October 23, 2012
  5. Todd Materazzi Photography #

    Great workflow and results are perfect for B&W.

    October 22, 2012
    • That is great to hear Todd, I hope so. Thank you.

      October 23, 2012
  6. Leanne – There .is .really .no. excuse. for. us. ALL. … not to be improving our shots with your tutorials ;-) TY

    October 22, 2012
    • Oh thank you, I hope you are improving, I love helping other. Thank you so much TY :)

      October 23, 2012
  7. alvason #

    I find that using the Channel Mixer, and the Green channel, values of 20%, 80% and 20% respectively for Red, Green and Blue and of course checking Monochrome give slightly better tones than the Grayscale Mode. You still need to play with Levels, Curves, Brightness &Contrast or whatever to get a balanced image of course.

    Just my taste – a slightly more gentle range of greys.

    October 22, 2012
    • I find that channels are too complicated for most people, me included, I am just starting to try and work out what they are. I do something similar in photoshop though. I try and write the tutorials for people who are just learning and if other pick up stuff that is good. It is interesting though and thanks for that. Thanks alvason.

      October 23, 2012
  8. alvason #

    … oh, and your black and white “cards” is a great tip :-)

    October 22, 2012
  9. You should do some video tutorials. I would love to learn how to use GIMP. I know Photoshop but I have both.

    October 22, 2012
    • I have been seriously thinking about doing some, I just have to figure out how first. GIMP is pretty similar, I use it for some stuff, but I mainly use Photoshop.

      October 23, 2012
      • Well, I just learned this yesterday myself. But quicktime has an option to record the screen. That would be nice to actually watch you use the programs.. :) I think it records audio too so you can even talk over it.

        Have a great day I really enjoy your posts.

        October 23, 2012
      • I will have to check it out Scott, thanks for the tip. :)

        October 24, 2012
  10. Great tutorial, Leanne! Love the black and white conversion. I don’t do B&W too often, but I’m always on the look out for great conversion tips. Thank you!

    October 23, 2012
    • I think you could say the same about me Gracie, I don’t do it much, but it is good to know how. I hope you got some good tips. Thanks

      October 23, 2012
  11. I don’t have GIMP, but will look for it… You always are so helpful. I appreciate it a lot. :D

    October 23, 2012
    • If you go to the software page at the top of the post Keli, there should be a link to it, it is free, so you don’t have to worry about buying it. Good luck with it. I am so happy they are helpful, and thank you as well.:)

      October 23, 2012
  12. Thank you for the great “make sure there is real black and real white” tip! That’s a life changer. Well, okay, a photograph changer, but you know what I mean.

    October 23, 2012
    • Yes, I know what you mean, it is a great tip, it is amazing how many grey black and white images there are out there. I hope the tip helps a lot. Good luck, and thanks

      October 23, 2012
  13. I can only repeat, what (all) others said: Thanks for a great lesson! :-)

    October 23, 2012
    • You are very welcome Truels, I am glad you enjoyed it. Thank you. :)

      October 23, 2012
  14. The B&W conversion brings an added dimension to your lighthouse image. Very nice.

    October 23, 2012
    • I thought they would be good images to use for this tutorial, thanks David.

      October 23, 2012
  15. arnoldthearmadillo #

    Nice blog, the black and white image tip is very useful, thanks :)

    October 23, 2012
    • Thank you arnoldthearmadillo that is great to hear. :)

      October 23, 2012
  16. Thanks for the tutorial, Leanne.

    October 23, 2012
  17. Hi Leanne

    Another great tutorial, but can I make just one small point? Converting an image to greyscale (even if it’s done as a new layer) discards all colour information from your image so, unless you are absolutely sure that you no longer want the colour version it may be best to try Layers>Duplicate layer followed by Colours>Desaturate, with default setting (lightness) first.

    The black & white “cards” idea is a touch of genius :-)

    October 23, 2012
    • You have pointed out something that I always forget to mention, about making sure you don’t use the original, rename the new one. That is what I do, I have a system, maybe that should be the topic for the next tutorial. I just make sure I rename it, do a save as.
      Glad you like the black and white cards tip, Thank you :)

      October 23, 2012
  18. Gtreat tutorial. I love the final images – clean and elegant. I will remember the tip re the black & white :)

    October 23, 2012
  19. Thank you so very much for sharing. Awesome tutorial….

    October 23, 2012
  20. great tutorial. I’ll be bookmarking it since I love b and w and also use GIMP

    October 23, 2012
    • Sounds like the tutorial is perfect for you, I hope you get some helpful hints, thanks Sheila.

      October 23, 2012
  21. great tutorial! i don’t use gimp, but the techniques can definitely be applied to other software as well. thanks for posting!

    October 23, 2012
    • Yes, it definitely can, I think the thing I was trying to point out was the black and white cards, so I hope you can use the ideas. Good luck, thank you.

      October 23, 2012
  22. ok, I couldn’t wait to try this out. gave you full credit for the tutorial and the awesome tips. hope that’s ok. thanks, Leanne!

    October 23, 2012
  23. Daniel #

    Reblogged this on Daniel's Ramble Spot and commented:
    Never Used GIMP but this is certainly Inspiring

    October 23, 2012
  24. almas #

    Stumbled upon your blog. I love your images; they’re beautiful. I’m not a photographer myself, but your website has inspired me about how to turn a seemingly ordinary image into a work of art. Keep it up!

    October 23, 2012
    • Thank you almas, that is so nice of you to say. I really appreciate and I will keep it up. :)

      October 23, 2012
  25. pretty nifty

    October 23, 2012
  26. I liked the colour version of the 1st shot and thought B&W wouldn’t do it justice but your treatment is wonderful!

    October 23, 2012
    • Thank you so much, I am so glad you think that. I don’t always get it right, but I thought there was enough in the clouds to make the image good in b&w.

      October 23, 2012
  27. Wow, how much more to learn!
    I thought that the first orignial photo was so great with all the colors, but it’s quite as greate in greytones.
    I got the tips to your blog as a comment on my last photo. I’ll go right back home and try changing more of my photos into monocrome, practising is learning, isn’t it :)

    October 24, 2012
    • There is always more to learn, I love that. I thought it might look good in B&W as well. That sounds like a good plan, and yes practicing is learning. Good luck. :)

      October 24, 2012
  28. I really like the top image, Leanne. You’ve made it very dramatic compared to the colour original.

    One thing though, being a landscape, would it be any advantage to take two or more images in situ, both in colour and B&W, with the camera settings rather than converting in photoshop – I suppose you could use lens filters too – or is this all by the by with digital methods, there’s no advantage?

    Sorry if you’ve covered this before. I’ve just begun looking through your inspiring work.

    October 24, 2012
    • I don’t tend to do that, because I like to have the choice. I have found that if you process it well, it works out fine. Sometimes you don’t have enough time to do that, I don’t do a lot of black and white, so it is not something I do. I can’t help thinking that the camera would do the same as editing software, who knows. There you have it, I like the choice, so I shoot everything in colour and later if I want, I convert, but I don’t do it a lot.
      I haven’t covered this before, interesting question, I suppose one of the many, and one that many would answer differently.

      October 24, 2012
  29. Thanks for blogging on this subject. I have a keen interest in black and white photography and I found your approach helpful and interesting.

    October 27, 2012
    • That is wonderful to here lawrenceez, always great to know that people like the way approach these tutorials, thank you.

      October 29, 2012
  30. leo brady #

    Reblogged this on realreality productions – boston, ma and commented:
    An excellent tutorial on Gimp and B/W – thanks

    October 29, 2012

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Black and White in GIMP Leanne’s Way Plus More « Aberrant Art
  2. Photography 101: Editing Basics | The Daily Post
  3. It isn’t Always Black and White | Leanne Cole PHOTOGRAPHY

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