Stephanie Speisman wants to know about removing color from digital photos. Here’s her question.
Good morning. I would like to know and I believe that there are many others who would like to know how to turn a photo into a black and white image that I can then use to copy the hues and values with my colored pencils.
I have used various methods such as graphite transfer paper, rubbing the picture on the back with graphite, a light box, etc.
For me, the fun part is using the colored pencils and I would rather not have to draw the image. I guess you could also say it’s like making the photo into a coloring book page.
I know it can be done with Photoshop, Photo Elements, and a number of apps that are so so, but each time I do it it seems to be hit or miss. I’d love to see a tutorial on the steps to take so that I can produce it each time with ease and without frustration.
What a thorough and in-depth question! Thank you, Stephanie.
Unfortunately, there are so many different photo editing programs available, that I can’t cover them all in one post.
In addition, I’ve used only four programs for work like this, so can give you personal, hands-on tutorials only on those.
Today, I’ll show you how to convert color digital photos to grayscale using GIMP and Preview.
Removing Color from Digital Photos
I created my examples on a free open source photo editor called GIMP, which is available for download. Preview is the default photo editor for Macintosh.
Here’s my sample image in full, glorious color.
There are a couple of ways to remove the color in GIMP.
First is choosing DESATURATE in the COLORS drop down menu, then selecting DESATURATE. That’s what I did in this illustration.
Here is the fully desaturated (converted to grayscale) image.
For a different look, select COLORS>DESATURATE>COLOR TO GRAY, as shown here.
This is what the grayscale image looks like with this selection.
Either image can be used as Stephanie is thinking of using them, and they can be printed as is, or adjusted for brightness and contrast.
Which one is best? I don’t know. I’d probably choose the one on the right below because it’s lighter and shows more of the fine details.
I use a MacBook Pro with High Sierra as the operating system. A nifty little photo editor comes with that machine, so I tried creating a black-and-white version of the same image. Just to see if I could.
It turns out I could and it was quite easy.
First, I selected ADJUST COLOR in the TOOLS drop down menu, as shown here.
Next, I found the Saturation option at the top of the middle section. I’ve marked it with the red line.
The default setting is with the slider in the middle of the horizontal bar. Slide it all the way to the left, and all color is removed from the image.
This is the result.
Chances are good that your electronic device has a built-in photo editor that will let you remove color from digital photos. In my case, that default program was easier to figure out than GIMP. At least for this process.
Getting It Right Every Time
Stephanie also said she wanted a program that she could learn and get the right results every time. I’m not sure there is such a program, since photos vary so much.
But either one of these programs can easily convert color photos to black-and-white. Adjustments to brightness and contrast are also possible with both, and with most other photo editors.
What’s the best advice?
Take the time to experiment with whatever photo editor you have available. Remember my Preview sample? That little app is free with my computer and it’s just as capable as GIMP.