Category Archives: Basic Black & White Techniques

Simple Ways To Colourize a Black and White Image

I realize it has taken me a while to update this blog, but I finally have the last article in my short series on basic black and white techniques.  This article will explain how to add colour to a black and white image, should you think it might benefit from a “duotone” effect.

I selected the following black and white image I made earlier to demonstrate how this might be done:


There are many techniques to add colour to a black and white image. The most common technique is known as a “duotone”. In some versions of Photoshop, you can access this command by selecting Image>Mode>Duotone.

Unfortunately, Photoshop Elements 11 lacks this feature, so I had to use a different technique instead. This involved using the Hue and Saturation dialoque box from the Enhance menu.

This menu can be accessed by selecting Enhance>Adjust Color>Adjust Hue/Saturation. It should bring up a dialogue box that looks like this:


Make sure that you tick the “Colorize” box in the corner. You can then select the Hue by dragging the pointer along the spectrum of colours. I went for a light blue colour at point 225. You can select the intensity of the colour in the image, or the saturation, by dragging the pointer along the Saturation section just below. Since I wanted the saturation of colour into this image to be subtle, I dragged the pointer to 20. The result was the following:


While I would not hold this up as an amazing duotone image, it should at least serve as an adequate illustration of this technique for the purposes of a tutorial.


Levels and Curves in Black and White Photography

In the last post, I showed the most basic techniques of converting a colour image into black and white in Photoshop Elements. In this post, I will take things further with the use of the Levels and Curves functions.

If I take the doorway picture from the last post, we can see that it looks okay, but it could do with a bit more contrast.


To start, I will use the Levels function to correct this. To access Levels, press Ctrl + L.

This will bring up a histogram, with three sliders that display the levels of shadow, mid-tone and highlights. As we can see from the histogram below, the black and white image has reasonable amounts of shadow and mid-tone colours, but lacking in highlights.


I can correct this by dragging the white slider to 214, ending where the levels of light are reasonable. Like this:


You could probably go in a little further with the white slider, but I thought the results provided an adequate level of contrast.


We can take this a bit further using curves. The picture above could probably do with being a bit darker in the shadows to counteract the highlights and provide a better contrast.

Curves allows us to darken the whites, blacks and mid-tones in the picture. To access Curves in Elements 10, go to Enhance>Adjust Colour> Adjust Colour Curves.


By adjusting the curves so that the shadows are darker, I improve the contrast. However, when playing around with the Curves function, it is always a good idea to make sure that the curve you create does not have any kinks in it. Keep it smooth. In my case, this mean adjusting the highlights and mid-tones slightly, so that the graph doesn’t resemble a diagonal straight line that suddenly curves at the bottom.  The result is this:


To illustrate what would happen with a curve line that is not smooth, like this:


The outcome of such a curve would be this:


This is the result of highlights, mid-tones and shadows being completely out of sync, and so you end up with a picture that is also out of sync.

Basic Black and White Techniques

I haven’t posted in a while, but that does not mean that I haven’t been doing any photography. I stuck to the plans laid out in my last post, and I’m here today to display the results.

This post will be the first in a series of posts I plan to do on my experiments in black and white photography. As you can probably tell by now, my photography skills are not exactly of a professional standard, so I’m basically learning along the way, and writing what I learn as a series of tutorials as I go.

This first post will be on the most basic techniques of converting a picture to black and white in Photoshop Elements (I’m still using version 10 if anyone wants to know).


I used this image as an original. When searching for an image to take in black and white, you have stop seeing it in terms of colour, and think more in terms of tonal contrast and texture. I felt that this picture of a doorway, that was once the entrance to a closed down night-club, was a good example of a subject with enough tonal contrast in the gaudy paintwork and enough texture in the brickwork and door itself.

While it is possible to take black and white pictures in-camera, there tends to be less actual control over the process. Shooting in colour and converting to black and white using software afterwards gives you more options to play around with.

The simplest method to convert to black and white in Photoshop Elements, is to access the Image menu, select Mode, then select Greyscale. The result is okay, but lacking in contrast.


A slightly more advanced technique is to use the Channel Mixer. This can be found in Elements 10 under the Enhance Menu, then select Convert to Black and White.

This will bring up a menu which allows you to adjust the intensity of each RGB colour channel, which can effect the intensity of the Red, Green and Blue colours. Dragging the pointer towards the “+” mark will lighten that specific colour in the picture, while dragging it towards the “-” will darken it. You may want to play around with this setting to get the hang of it.

This menu also gives you the option of different styles of black and white, such as Infrared or Newspaper. Again, this is something you might want to play around with, but it doesn’t give you the control over the final image that the Channel Mixer gives you.


In my final result, I found that lightening the Green channel improves the contrast and brings out the texture in the overall picture.  Probably not the greatest example of black and white photography, but it does at least illustrate the basic techniques.