Category Archives: 15b-Colours into tones in black-and-white

Colours into tones in black-and-white

Colours into tones in black-and-white

This is final exercise in the colour chapter looks at conversions from colour into tones in black-and-white.

The exercise outlines the steps for carrying this with both film and digital cameras.  The traditional film method for carrying out this exercise involves working with black-and white film and using strongly coloured filters, such as red, green, blue and yellow. The filters then allow certain colours to pass through the lens but block others. An example offered to illustrate this is a red rose shot against a blue sky. The result of using a red filter would be it allows the light from the rose to pass through but will block most of the blue light from the sky.

As I shoot digitally I am following the digital instructions that are follows

  • Set up a still-life arrangement that includes the colours red, blue, green, and yellow.
  • Include a piece of grey card.
  • Take one photograph.
  • Use processing software to convert the image into black-and-white.
  • Experiment with the different pre-set black-and-white conversions and colour sliders to adjust the colour levels in the image.
  • Produce 5 photographs from the colour original, a replication of a black-and-white without any filters, a yellow filter, a red filter, a blue filter and a green filter.

I selected a small selection of colourful crayons, doodles and balls for this still-life and arranged them on top of a piece of grey paper beside a window. I then took the single image require, shooting in Raw format. I then began exploring my processing software, Photoshop Elements 11 (PSE11), to decide the best way to proceed with this task. As PSE11 doesn’t have a HSL/Grayscale option I opted for the Enhance> Convert to Black and White command, which offers a selection of six black and white conversions. Each of the black and white conversions uses a different amount of red, green and blue colour channels to produce a specific look. There are also red, green, blue and contrast sliders that can be adjusted to increase or decrease intensity. I chose not to use the contrast slider for this exercise and worked with the black-and-white presets and the three colour channel sliders as follows.



Portrait preset

‘Portrait’ preset

I selected the ‘portrait’ black-and-white preset . There is very little difference to note here between the colours. Both smiley face balls look to be of a similar hue as do the flower doodles.

Red- 'vivid landscape' preset

Red- ‘vivid landscape’ preset

To mimic a red filter I selected the ‘vivid landscape’ black-and white preset as this had the highest level of red. I then increased the red slider to +72. This has had created very high contrast, rendering the red ball almost white while darkening the blues to an almost black. I found it interesting to note that this has also brightened the yellows in the image to white. I did a quick check on and noted that the RGB code for yellow is 255, 255, 0. Thus by adjusting the red levels in the image I also adjusted the yellows.

Blue-'scenic landscape'

Blue- ‘vivid landscape’ preset

The ‘urban/snapshots’ black-and-white preset had the highest level of blue however it didn’t show a great deal of tonal difference between the red and the blue. I increased the blue slider to +100 and decreased the red to +4 make the blue lighter and yellow and red darker.

Green-'portraits' preset

Green- ‘portraits’ preset

To mimic a green filter I opted for the ‘portraits’ black-and-white preset and experimented with adjusting the three sliders. The green was increased to +98 and the red decreased to +8 and the blue decreased to +14 resulting in lightened greens and yellows and bold reds and blues.

PSE11 does not have a yellow slider in the Concert to Black-and White command therefore I was initially unsure as to how to replicate a yellow filter. After a little thought and experimenting I decided to work with red and green colour sliders in line with yellow’s RGB code (255, 255, 0).


Yellow- ‘vivid lanscape’ preset

I began in the ‘vivid landscape’ black-and-white preset and experimented with red and green adjustments. The photograph above has red increased to +2 and green to +45 which shoes the yellows to be white, the reds and green to be a similar tone and the blues to the darkest.

While the levels of contrast in the black-and-white conversions in this exercise are quite harsh it does illustrate quite clearly how colour can be converted to black-and-white with very different effects, emphasising some colours while suppressing others. This is something I would have found extremely beneficial to understand before carrying out the exercises and assignment for Part two-Element of Design. However, I think the knowledge that I have gained about colour in this chapter, particularly how digital colour is formed, has helped me to understand the principles behind this exercise.