The Essentials Tools Panel in Skylum Luminar is a set of filters. They are some of the most frequently used tools in image post-processing workflows. This article is an ultimate guide to the Luminar B&W Conversion tab, which sits within the Essentials Tools Panel. To get the most from Black & White conversion, you also need to use Luminar Light Tools for contrast, and/or Luminar AI Enhance.
Here is a very short video (57 seconds) from Skylum which showcases the capabilities of the Luminar B&W conversion.
Black & White Conversion Tool
The Black & White Conversion Tool enables you to desaturate a colour image to a neutral monochrome, and then edit the brightness using Luminance sliders. This simulates the filters used in the original film cameras. The Saturation tool then enables you to re-saturate certain colours in an image if you want to.
Convert to B&W
On opening the B&W Conversion tab, the first control at the very top of the tab is “Convert to B&W”. Left-clicking this desaturates your image. At this point, the image has a neutral black and white tone & contrast and is the starting point for further edits.
Each of the Colour Sliders in the panel controls the brightness of the relative colours in your image. The sliders are great for increasing or reducing the brightness of specific tones in your black and white conversion. However, there is no exact science to this process; and very much depends on what type of image you are trying to achieve. For example, if you are trying to achieve a high-contrast look:
- Brighten the whites and highlights
- Darken the mid-tones and blacks
For our example image, there were a lot of shadows and dark tones already. The black and white conversion emphasised this further. So I raised the brightness of all the tones except magenta.
You can see that this has brought out the details in the building, and brightened the sky. But the darker shadows and blacks are still present, giving the image a balanced tonal contrast overall.
At this point, and before moving onto the Saturation sliders in the B&W Conversion panel. A typical black and white workflow also include optimisation of the contrast. The easiest way to achieve this is by jumping into the AI Enhance tab. AI Enhance is also in the Essentials panel. If you are unsure how to use it, then check our Ultimate Guide to AI Enhance.
Using the AI Accent slider and setting to +70 has tightened the whites and blacks, and boosted the highlights and shadows.
The Colour Sliders in the Saturation tab are used to re-introduce colours back into your black and white image. In other words it re-saturates the image but only against the specific colour group.
This can be quite useful if you want to create a colour pop – black and white with one or two colours. In the example file below, the red slider was used to reintroduce red tones.
You can see from the image though those red elements are globally brought back into the image. What happens if you want to selectively introduce colour? This is where the final function in the B&W Conversion comes in, Edit Mask.
Edit Mask Capability
To use the Edit Mask from the drop-down menu, you first apply The Black & White effects you want. Then selecting Brush in the Edit Mask drop-down menu, you can paint the areas of the image you want to affect.
You can change the brush size using the bracket keys:
- [ = Smaller Brush
- ] = Larger Brush
You can also change the flow of the effect for finer control over the edit.
When you select the brush tool, sub-selections appear in a new top-bar on your image. Selecting Paint means you are painting the areas you want to be Black & White. Alternatively selecting Erase creates an inverse mask, you then erase the areas that you want to show in Black & White.
In the example image, only one of the busses and the London underground sign have been resaturated.
Luminar B&W Conversion Conclusions
This Luminar Essentials article forms a suite of interactive guides on the Skylum Luminar photo editing software. If you found this useful, please check out our other Luminar articles and how-to guides in the Learn Photography section of our site.
If you don’t yet have a copy of Luminar, but would like to purchase one, you can get a copy from the Luminar website.
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