OK.... let's see if I can explain what I have been doing lately. You will find as you get more and more familiar with the software that the way you process will change over and over as you go along. But this is where I am now and I am happy to share. I have posted the directions as kimi's Kreative homework #67. If you get stuck and have questions, please go there and post them. Also please post your final image there for us to see. =)
First you need to totally process your color image. I find removing blemishes extremely important. They just don't do well once you have changed to b&w. So let's assume you are happy with your color image and you are ready for the change. Make sure you have merged all of your changes into one image. I can't say this will look good on all images but I do find I like it on people. So try a person shot if you have one. Here we go....
I am going to use an image I have of Grace to follow along.
Make a duplicate copy of your color image. Ctrl J
Hit the letter D to set your colors to their default settings.
Open your adjustment icon and choose gradient map.
You will now have a grayscale image. But this looks loads better than if you had picked grayscale or desaturated.
Ctrl E to merge down with your duplicated color layer. You should now have 2 layers. Your color on the bottom and your b&w above it. Take a look and make sure you are following along so far?
Now you will open 3 levels adjustment layers. Just clicking OK and making no changes.
So here are the steps to changing the blend modes on your levels layers.
We will go bottom to top. First one you will change to screen, The middle one will be multiply and the top one will be soft light.
Don't panic!! This is not hard. :)
Turn off your top two level layers so the only one that now shows is the levels layer set to screen. It should be the one right above your image. Screen makes everything lighter so now your skin tones are way too washed out. Go to your layer opacity slider and move it down until you think it looks right. Turn the eye on the layer on and off to see the difference.
Now turn on your middle levels which should be multiply. I use this layer to darken the background so my subject stands out. Click on the layer mask of this layer and choose a soft edge brush. Make sure your foreground color in your color picker is set to black. Brush the areas that you want to stay light. In my case it is Grace's face, body and hat. You can lower the opacity of this layer also if you think it is too dark.
Now turn on your top layer that is set to soft light. WOW, it adds loads of contrast. Again lower the opacity of this layer until you like the effect.
That is it!! Using the levels adjustment layers instead of duplicating your image each time keeps your files size stays smaller. You should now have a nice black and white image instead of an image that is just different shades of gray.
I am going to keep going so come along for the ride. Looking at my image, I find her face has lost some of it's definition. I am going to fix this with a burn layer.
Create a new blank layer and make sure it is selected. Go to edit, fill and choose 50% gray in the drop down box. Change this blend mode to overlay. Choose your burn tool. Look on the top tool bar. Set it to Midtones at about 14% Exposure and choose a soft edge brush. The first thing I will do is make a circle about the size of her cheeks and click a few times on each side. I will then lower the size of my brush and run it around the edges of her face. I also made the brush smaller and did the sides of her nose and her mouth.
Now for the chocolate layer. Create a new blank layer on the very top, make sure this layer is selected. Open your color picker and type in this hex code, (there will be a box at the bottom with numbers) Here is my secret chocolate number... 3f2c02 (it is the number zero)
You will see you now have a nice warm brown set as your foreground color. Hitting Alt, backspace will fill your layer with the brown. Change your blend mode to soft light and lower your layer opacity until you like the effect. Remember, you don't want it to be overwhelming. I went down to 22% on my image.
I find adding the chocolate gives the image more definition as well.
You can always do one final levels adjustment to the image. I do sometimes.
Well there you go. I am finished. How did you do?
Go and post your images and questions on the homework forum!!
oh and all of this was done in PSE5.
Please feel free to post ideas the comment sections about other things you would like to know.
P.S. I was going fast, sorry if there are typos. ARK!