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Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Black & White Images

Photoshop Elements Tutorial: Black & White Images - Turn your boring landscapes into interesting black and whites with this tutorial.

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Adobe Elements

Sometimes you can go out shooting for the day and capture some shots which may be good but they're not great. A visit to Whitby last April was one of these days and as the bellow image looks OK it's nothing to sing and dance about. However, turn it black and white and add a couple of other adjustments to it and you can turn a dull shot into something much more moody and interesting.


Duplicate Layer

First, duplicate your layer. This is something you should do with all the images you edit as this means you can happily edit away and if, for whatever reason, you need to return to your original shot, it will always be there. Rename your layer by double-clicking on it.

Enhance contrast (adjustment layer)

With your duplicate layer selected, click on the black & white circle at the bottom of the layers palette and select Brightness/Contrast. We want to increase the contrast of the image so drag the contrast slider and pull it to the right. How far you adjust the slider will depend on the image but we adjusted ours to around 80%.

Black & White

Next, select Hue/Saturation from the same menu. Drag the saturation slider all the way to the left to convert your image to black & white. As a side note, if you want to alter this layer at any time you can as it's an adjustment layer. All you have to do is double-click on it and the Hue/Saturation palette will appear.



Dodge and Burn

The image is now black & white but you can't really see the shapes of the clouds and to give the image more mood, some of the shadow areas can be darkened while other parts, such as the cliffs, would look better a little lighter. The easiest way to alter the shadows/highlights of an image is with the Dodge and Burn tools. You use them as you do the Paintbrush tool, adjusting the size of the brush, it's strength and opacity as you go. The Dodge tool lightens parts of an image while the Burn tool, as the name suggests, burns the image to make it appear darker.

Don't be too heavy handed with these tools as the effect can look a little too strong. Try reducing the opacity of the brush and slowly paint over the same area if you want to intensify the effect.

Dodge and Burn sky - before and after shots

Once you're happy make sure your duplicate layer and two adjustment layers are highlighted (hold Cntrl on the keyboard and click on each layer with the mouse to select them) and press Cntrl Alt and E. This will flatten the layers into one layer and still keep the individual layers your first created. We recommend you do this as if you make a change you don't like, you can always go back to the original layers, tweak them and start the process over.


To soften the edges of the image slightly and to further enhance the moody feel we are trying to create we are going to blur the layer we've just created. Go to Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur and if preview is ticked, you'll see your image go out of focus. If you apply too much blur you won't be able to see the image so keep the number low, around 3-4 pixels should do. If you want to reduce the effect even more lower the opacity of the layer.

Gaussian Blur


Applying a slight vignette to the image will help direct the viewer's eye through the image. Adding one isn't a necessity but here are the instructions if you want to apply one:
  • Select the Elliptical Marquee Tool and draw an oval shape over your image.
  • Go to Select>Inverse to create a frame shape.
  • Next, go to Select>Feather to blur the edges of the transition.
  • Finally, select a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and drag the lightness slider slightly to left to create a dark vignette. As you only want the vignette to be subtle dragging the slider to around -14 should do the trick.



To finish the image off we are going to add a keyline frame. Go to Image>Resize>Canvas size and change cm to pixels. We put 150 into the boxes but what number you enter will depend on how thick you want the frame to be. Start with 150 and if you want it bigger/smaller just undo the changes and input a different value.

Create a frame
Next, create a new layer and drag it under all the other layers. Select the Paintbucket tool, pick the colour you want your frame to be and with the new layer selected click on the image. Your photo will now have a coloured line framing the edge of it.

Black and white landscape

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