How to Make a Monochromatic in Photoshop

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Merriam-Webster defines a monochrome image as one that contains a single hue; in photography it may mean variations on that one hue. In Photoshop, you can create monochrome images using several methods. Some are destructive, which means they discard your original image's color information. Nondestructive methods involve more steps, but offer you more control over your final image and don't throw away the color information. One of the most flexible monochrome conversion methods uses Photoshop's adjustment layers and lets you fine-tune your image.


  1. Open the file that you want to convert to a monochrome. Go to "File," and then select "Open," and then navigate to where your file is stored on your computer. Make a duplicate of your image so you can work on a copy and keep the original color image safe. Go to "Image," and select "Duplicate." Photoshop opens a new menu and gives the file a temporary name. Click on the name to edit it, and choose "OK." The file is not saved at this point, so go to "File" and pick "Save As" and save the duplicate file.

  2. Make sure that your layers palette is open so you can see your layers. If it isn’t, go to “Window” and click on “Layers.” Now go to “Layer” and select “New Adjustment Layer,” and then pick “Black and White.” A new menu will open, called “Adjustments,” which shows you sliders for the three primary colors and the three secondary colors: the reds, yellows, greens, cyans, blues and magentas. At the top of the menu is a dropdown menu for Photoshop preset conversion filters. At this point, you can select one of the premade conversion filters and you’re done. But for better control of your image, leave the dropdown menu set to “Default” and go to step 3.

  3. Click on the triangle slider underneath the “Reds” color bar. Move it to the right to lighten the reds in your image, and move it left to darken them. Alternatively, you can type a number directly into the white box at the right of the “Reds” color bar. Adjust your image’s other colors the same way, either by moving the sliders or directly entering the numeric values. When you are done adjusting the color sliders, click on “OK.”

  4. Avoid extreme adjustments in just one or two colors, because occasionally this can cause artifacts, such as pixelation or banding, which may appear as blocky shapes or noticeable stripes in the image. Zoom in by clicking on the magnifying glass icon on the tools palette. Scroll around your image and examine it carefully for any artifacts that may have been caused by the conversion process. If you find any, go to the layers palette and double-click on your adjustment layer. This should open the adjustment menu, and you can move the sliders until the artifacts are eliminated.

  5. Fine tune your image. Go to “Image,” select “Adjustments,” and then “Curves.” The curves menu opens and shows you a graph with a diagonal line. Click on the diagonal line close to the lower left side to place an adjustment point on it. Continue to down your mouse button and move the point downwards slightly so that the line changes shape. Click near the upper right to place a point, and move it slightly upwards. You should have an S-shaped curve. Moving the points adjusts the contrast in your image. You can add additional points, if desired, for even more control.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always work on a duplicate of your image in order to protect against accidental ,loss of the original.
  • Make the smallest adjustment necessary to get the desired results.




  • Photo Credit Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
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