Photoshop CS3 was released with a few new and powerful tools. On of which is the Black & White Adjustments Tool. But what is the difference between the previous conversion to black & white by way of the channel mixer and the new tool? Lets weigh out the steps and option for each and have you decide.

First, let’s start with a nice, colorful image to convert.

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This is the most common method of conversion, and yields the result below. While the image looks O.K- it can look much better than it does.

Image->Adjustments->Channel Mixer

The channel mixer should be familiar to you if you spend any time doing color critical work. This is a good way to selectively adjust your colors- giving you a bit more control than some of the other tools. The key to this method is the ‘monochrome’ checkbox on the bottom of the palette.Once you click on the “Monochrome” checkbox, you will see the image convert to black and white in the background. Now you can use the Red, Green and Blue sliders to selectively control the contrast of your image. The example below, I adjusted the image for “pleasing-ness” in the Channel Mixer palette.

Channel Mixer

There is just one problem with the method- the image does not convert to the grayscale color space when you are done with your adjustments, and hit OK. So just remember, when using this method- CONVERT TO GRAYSCALE WHEN YOU ARE DONE! Otherwise, you printer might get a little annoyed that all of your ‘1-color’ images are actually RGB.

Channel Mixer

The New Tool: Image->Adjustments->Black and White

This is the newest tool in this bag of tricks, introduced in Photoshop CS3. The control palette looks similar to the channel mixer palette, but has many more sliders- which means more control over your adjustments.

Black & White Tool

The best part of this tool, is that visually, it is very simple to understand. In the case, the large pile of red lumber on the right hand side of the image can be darkened or lightened by adjusting the Red slider.

Black & White Tool

I can’t imagine ever converting to grayscale again without it. And if you are tinting photos, you not only get to apply the color cast you want, but you can still control the colors to create the contrast necessary, as well. This is far more useful than the Hue/Saturation techniques to create a CMYK duotone effect. How many of you used to create a true duotone, then convert back to RGB or CMYK? And, of course, there is the Color Overlay of Photoshop’s Layer Effects, but this beats ‘em all.Any suggestions, ideas? Feel free to comment on this article!

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