Elements Greyscale

An Elements greyscale conversion using two hue and saturation adjustment layers is a truly amazing technique for creating absolutely wonderful black and white images. The method was developed for Photoshop by a fellow named Russell Brown.

If you're not a lover of black and white shots then perhaps this is not for you.  If, however, you figure that a good black and white picture is just about the best thing you've ever seen then you will probably like this conversion method.

The built in Convert To Black and White ... command in the Elements Enhance menu will do a good black and white conversion.  It's similar to the Channel Mixer adjustment which is available in the full version of Photoshop without the full range of control. 

As stated earlier, this elements greyscale technique uses two Hue and Saturation adjustment layers.
  • The first Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer emulates Black and White Film, and
  • The second Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer acts like the Filters one would use with Black and White film.
The real beauty of this technique is the incredible range of adjustments available with the "Filter" Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer.

Film Layer

Here's how to create an Elements Greyscale with the dual Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer method - and this is the image we will be converting ...

elements greyscale original

elements greyscale adjustments

Open the image you want to convert to Black and White.  Make a copy of the original image by dragging the Background to the new layer icon.

Create a Hue and Saturation Adjustment Layer above  the copied image and when the dialogue comes up lower the Saturation slider in the Adjustments Panel to -100.

This will remove all of the color and create a greyscale image. Name this layer Film.

With this image this is the result ....

elements greyscale desaturated

Now that's not a bad black and white but more can be done

Filter Layer

Some Background

The filter layer is the important layer because it simulates the most often used filters in black and white photography.  The reason for the importance of the filters in black and white photography is that while some of shades of red, green and blue will be obviously different in color, they will tend to look very similar in black and white.

What this does is create a flat and lifeless black and white picture with very little punch and contrast.

Using a colored filter on the camera lens created separation (quite dramatic is some situations). In an elements greyscale digital conversion adding a colored filter on a layer above the image will create very similar results to adding a filter to the camera lens.
The Filter Layer

elements greyscale layers palette

The next step is to add a second Hue and Saturation layer above the Background layer and below the Film layer.

Change the Blend Mode of the new layer to Color and name the layer Filter.

This layer simulates the colored filters one would use with black and white film and provides a wide range  of possible outcomes.

Here's the layers palette after the two layers were added ...

elements greyscaleadjustment

With the Filter layer selected (as it is above), some adjustments can now be done.

The most dramatic changes will occur when the Hue Slider is moved left and right from its normal position of 0.

In the example, the hue has been lowered to -61 with the  following results ...

elements grescale first adjustment

And here they are side by side for comparison ...

elements greyscale desaturated
elements greyscale filters
Desaturated Only
(One Hue And Saturation Layer)
Filter Layer Adjusted
(Second Hue and Saturation Layer)

There is not a huge difference between the two pictures - the greens are a bit lighter as is the foreground.

More, however, can be done with the second Hue and Saturation Layer - so let's take it to the next step ...

The Next Step

elements greyscale filter choices

Initially, the second Hue of the second Hue and Saturation layer was adjusted with Master selected in the drop down list at the top of the adjustment palette - this is the default setting.

If you click on Master drop down list then you'll find a whole bunch of different colors that can be modified individually - and that makes a huge difference!

For instance if you select the reds and then move the Hue slider around then the effect will only apply to the red values and so on through the six different choices available.

This give you an amazing amount of control!

Here's the image with adjustments made on each of Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue and Magenta in turn ...

Elements Greyscale individual colors

When the three images are compared I prefer the last one - the one that had each of the individual colors adjusted.  The changes are subtle but there definitely are differences.

Try this one for yourself.

Another thing to consider - moving the range of the Hue and Saturation Sliders ...

Hue and Saturation Sliders

When the Hue and Saturation Adjustment layer is selected and your working on an individual color in the Adjustment Panel this is visible at the bottom of the panel ...

elements greyscale adjustment sliders

This is also a great adjustment when working with the individual colors.  Once again this is something that you need to mess about with on your own to get a sense of how useful and how powerful these sliders can be.

You can go to the Adobe Photoshop Elements Help file - but - here's the information you need to understand what the sliders actually do.

elements greyscale help file 

  • A - Adjusts color fall-off without affecting the range.
  • B - Adjusts the range without affecting color fall off.
  • C - Adjusts the range of color component.
  • D - Moves the whole slider.

To use the sliders simply select one of the colors from the drop down list and then start moving the sliders around.

You can grab the whole slider (at point D) and drag the slider left or right ...

You can change the two fall offs ...

You can adjust the range of the color component, making it either thinner or wider ...

As you can see, the range of adjustments available are enormous and will become more and more apparent as you mess with the adjustments.

Taking It Further

Generally speaking you'll be creating an elements greyscale from an unaltered color shot from your digital camera.

"What would happen", you may be asking, ''if I make some dramatic changes to the color picture before doing the conversion?''

Well - here's a sample

Elements greyscale normal conversion
Normal Shot

This is the normal image from the camera with no adjustments.

elements greyscale normal conversion
Normal Conversion

The elements greyscale conversion from the normal image.

elements greyscale raw
Through Elements Raw

The image was first taken through the Adobe Camera Raw program in Elements 9 and most of the adjustments were bumped up to or close to their maximum setting.  The image is far too saturated to stand alone as a color shot and the noise was not eliminated in Adobe Camera Raw.

elements greyscale raw conversion
Elements Greyscale Conversion

Messing about with the different colored sliders on the Filter layer has created a dramatic greyscale image.  Leaving the noise un-modified has give the image a grungy appearance.

elements greyscale noise reduced
Noise Eliminated

This was done using the elements greyscale conversion after going through Adobe Camera Raw.  The difference is that the noise sliders were pushed to the maximum which has eliminated that grungy, grainy look.

For sure the last two conversions are much more dramatic after they were pushed to their maximum in the Adobe Camera Raw part of Elements 9.

elements greyscale open as dialogue

Both of these files started out as .jpg files so a special menu had to be used to load the .jpg file into Raw - to do this go to File > Open As ...

Navigate to the folder with the image you want to convert and drop down the list (outlined in Red) and choose Camera Raw.

Select the image and click OK and it will load into Adobe Camera Raw - now you can over adjust the image for a dramatic look with your elements greyscale conversion.

There you go - a look at an interesting and useful method of converting color to black and white in Elements.


Elements Greyscale
Page Links

Film Layer

Filter Layer

The Next Step

Hue And Saturation Sliders

Taking It Further

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