Another Way to Convert Photos to Black and White in Gimp

January 19, 2010

I talked a while ago about converting images to black and white in The Gimp, but that was before I had installed the FX Foundry scripts (see instructions here if you don’t have them yet), and since getting the scripts, I have found an even better way to convert my images to black and white using the Lasm’s Channel Extract in FX Foundry.

First, here is my color image of my adorable niece. This isn’t unedited, but I edited it back in October, and that was before I was taking great notes about my editing, so I really couldn’t tell you what I did:

f/2.8, 1/500sec, ISO 400 (no idea why? It seems it could go lower), 50mm

f/2.8, 1/500sec, ISO 400 (no idea why? It seems it could go lower), 50mm

Now, let’s use the Lasm’s Channel Extract to turn this into a beautiful black and white portrait.

The first thing I did was actually run the Lasm’s Channel Extract which is found under FX-Foundry –> Toolbox –> Lasm’s Channel Extract. The following dialog box will appear:

Lasm Dialog Box

Remember in my original converting-to-black-and-white article, we converted using the Red, Green, and Blue channels in the channel mixer? And you got a little preview of which each channel looked like? Well, what we’re about to do is create a whole new layer for those three channels plus 14 more! Now, you could just select whichever channels you want, but I always use the “All Channels” – I’ve found that there’s not usually one consistent winner in the bunch, so it doesn’t hurt to have them all to look at.

Some of the layers – like Black – gave me a really funky negative look:

Black Layer

However, if you get something like that, you can always do Colors –> Invert to get a more normal-looking photo:

Inverting the black layer

Out of all the layers that the script created, I’m drawn most to the L layer:

The L Layer

I love how it brings out her eyes, and that her face is so soft and white. But, I think it’s a bit washed out and needs some rescuing with Levels. Oh, Levels, I love you so (I first talked about levels here). I know I want my dark points darker, so I slide my left-most slider in to the right, and I play around with the mid-tone slider, too, but ultimately decide I like it best where it is. I didn’t want to move the right-most slider at all, because her hair is already starting to get blown out, and I don’t want to make it worse. Here are my final settings:

Levels Dialog

And here’s my image now:

after Levels

I love the image just like that. As a black and white image, it really works for me. But. I decided to do one last step to kinda warm it up some. I used the FX-Foundry –> Photo –> Effects –> Eg Duotone Simulation script, and set it to Sepia (Grey), giving me this as my final image:

Final Image

I really like all the options that the Lasm’s Channel Extract gave me. Keep in mind, too, that there are more ways to adjust the layers it gives you than just with Levels. Sometimes I find that I like two layers, and so to find an equal balance between the two, I’ll play with the opacity of them, or even the blending modes. Really, the sky’s the limit here – just keep playing around until you find something you like!

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  • Hey Jennifer,
    Do you know if Gimp offers any version of 'File Info' where you could add text info?
    Thanks
    Andrew
    TheDiscerningPhotographer

  • Not in the way that you're probably thinking. By your wording, I'm assuming you're referencing the ability that you have in Photoshop to actually edit the metadata of the image. You can't do that in Gimp (though there has been talk from developers for years on adding it - either in the official version or as a plug-in, but I haven't seen it happen yet).

    However. When you save your files, there is a comment box (sometimes hidden under an Advanced section) that you can add text. This does not appear to be any sort of a official supported metadata (for instance, when I save a comment in there and view the properties in Windows, I don't see my comment), but if you open the image up again in Gimp, you can see the comment when you go to Image Properties.

  • daisy_dpksh

    I just love your site, found it yesterday and already made a list of the posts I want to go back and read more in depth :-)

    I do have a question, how do you get the frame around your photos so that you can list the photo stats at the bottom?

  • That's actually a wordpress thing, and nothing fancy, actually. When you insert a photo in wordpress there's a field that you can put in a caption. I just hand-type my EXIF data in there. I know there are wordpress themes that include automatically putting in the EXIF when you post a photo, so I would imagine there are also plug-ins that do that, but I haven't bothered to research it - I have a rather long list of things I want to do to improve this site, and a lot of them seem more important than that, so for now, hand-typing in my EXIF will have to do :)

  • daisy_dpksh

    I like that you have it, it's very neat and tidy while at the same time informational :-)

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