Photoshop offers a very compelling black and white adjustment layer. But to get the results that you want, you should take advantage of the on image tool. You learned about this tool earlier when we looked at curves. Well, let’s see how it can actually work as well for black and white adjustments. Let’s explore techniques to create black and white images with the on image tool. Now I’ve got two images here. One is the N state and one is a starting image that you’ll work with. Now the N state just shows you how things came together. And it starts with a black and white conversion followed by a pattern fill for some texture, and then a gradient fill which is just being used here to create a bit of a vignette.

Creating custom black-and-white effects with the On Image tool from Photoshop: Advanced Adjustment Layer and Blend Modes by Richard Harrington

Let me show you how this works. Let’s start with a black and white adjustment layer. Now by default, there are some useful presets for the black and white adjustment layer and you can choose these to control how the black and white conversion occurs. And of course, you can move individual sliders as well. But this tool here is called the on image tool. And what it allows you to do is target an area. So a lot of times, an area might be controlled by more than one slider.

Now some areas like the sun here coming through this top area is just being affected really by yellow. But other areas might actually start to pick up different colors. And so, this allows me to really precisely drag and create the right sort of mix for each of those colors to give it a custom conversion and dial that in. And this way, you don’t have to guess which slider is in use so you can find the right overall mix to get a great black and white conversion.

Now our next layer here is a pattern fill layer and in normal mode, it’s just a simple texture. When you click on these, there are a lot of textures to choose from and you can actually click here and choose different types of libraries to load to give you the look that you want. Now I just put this into a simple mode, something like soft light that gets a little more subtle and starts to mix and then adjust the opacity. Finally, is the gradient here.

And I’m just doing a radial gradient. Now in this case, it blends from white to black and because this is in a blending mode, certain colors disappear. So let’s just set this all the way out and you’ll notice that it’s a little bit intense. Now with this open, you can also use a tool by just clicking and dragging here and it behaves similarly to the on image tool. This allows you to adjust where the gradient is set. Now that I like that, I’m just gonna click OK and switch that to a mode like multiply that drops out the brighter areas.

Now you’ll still notice that this is live so if we double click, we can interact with this and adjust where the vignette is falling. Once we get a good overall position for the subject, then I’ll just refine the opacity because usually a smaller amount is more believable and that creates a nice, subtle vignette that guides the viewer eye to the brighter spot in the center or wherever you happen to place it.