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Sunday 24 July 2011

Converting Photographs to Black and White

One of the most useful techniques you can learn in Photoshop Elements is how to convert a picture to black and white (without grey) and use it to make stamps, stencils and templates for thermofax screenprints.

The problem is there are a zillion ways of converting a picture to a black and white image to use for these purposes and the method you use depends on the photograph.  Sometimes a photograph really doesn't have enough contrast to do a good job of conversion and often it is necessary to 'cut-out' the object in the photograph and then change it.

One weekend I took this picture of a lovely little dog at a pub that my friends and I went to.  I struggled to get a close up of the dog and the contrast wasn't good at all but I really wanted to see if I could make a stencil of the dog's face.

So the first thing I did was to crop the picture to show mainly his face.  I then applied an auto contrast and an auto sharpen to try and improve the contrast.

I then tried all the usual simple methods of converting a picture to black and white.  Make sure the foreground colour is set to black and the background colour is set to white.  Then go to Filter > Filter Gallery.  Go to the sketch options and try out the Stamp, Photocopy, Torn Edges and Note Paper options.  Make sure that you fiddle around with the settings on the right-hand side (eg light/dark balance, smoothness, detail etc).

However, none of them gave me the detail I wanted so I went in search of a different method.  I went to the artistic section and chose poster edges.  After playing around with Thickness and Intensity I got more lines and started to see the outline of a decent stencil.

I then converted the picture to black and white by going to Enhance > Convert to Black and White. 

There are still areas of grey so to get rid of these I use the Background eraser tool, set the brush to it's largest and the tolerance level to about 10% and click on areas of grey to remove them.  There are still bits left so I get rid of these using the eraser tool.  Finally I remove areas around the head using the eraser tool and change some of the lines the way I want them.
And now the little dog is ready to turn into a stencil which I will do in the next post...

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