Convert a Color Photo to Black and White

Before the digital revolution of photography photos shot with black and white film had a certain richness and artistic feel to them. Now you can get the same results from your color digital images using Photoshop Elements.

If you just remove color from a photo the results are kind of dull and flat. You can try this by creating a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and sliding the Saturation control all the way to the left. Or you could just go to the Enhance menu and select Adjust Color>Remove Color.

Follow the easy steps of this tutorial for a much more sophisticated conversion.

Desaturate in Photoshop Elements

This image was desaturated using a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.


Open the photo you want to convert using Photoshop Elements. Duplicate the Background in the Layers Palette by pressing Control J (Mac:Command J) on your keyboard so that your original image will stay intact.

Photoshop Elements Convert to black and white before


Go to the Enhance menu and choose Convert to Black and White from the drop-down menu. The huge dialog box will open and fill a good part of your screen. Photoshop Elements Enhance menu Convert to Black and White in Photoshop Elements


Look at the Select a style section. There are six preset styles to choose from. Don't put too much significance on the preset names. Give them all a try and select the one that gives you the results you like the best.

Select a style adjustment from Elements Convert to black and white

Now go to the Adjustment Intensity section and see what effects you get from moving the various sliders. Be sure to hover your cursor over the slider control before and after you move it and note the setting number. That way if your move is too strong you can try a setting between the original number and the one that was too much.

Adjustment Intensity setting for Photoshop Elements

You can move the Convert to Black and White dialog box out of the way if you need a better view of how the moves are affecting your image. You can also see your changes in the before and after of your dialog box but sometimes you have a more accurate view in your document window.


Click the OK button to convert your photo to the settings you chose.

As an optional step you could try sharpening your image for more impact. To do this go to the Enhance menu and select Unsharp Mask… The Unsharp Mask dialog window will open. The settings you choose will depend on your image. Just don't go too far or you will have halos around some edges in your photo. Have the Preview box checked inside the dialog window so you can monitor the effect of your settings.

Unsharp Mask Settings

Here's the before and after:

Photoshop Elements Convert to black and white before Photoshop Elements Convert to black and white after

That wraps up this Photoshop Elements tutorial on how to create a rich black and white. See more Photoshop Elements tutorials by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.

If you have comments, questions or requests please don't hesitate to use the Contact form to let me know.

Until next time,

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