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Perfect black and white conversion, Gimp tutorial

Desaturation is the worst solution for black and white photos with Gimp.

Italian Web master: Bad English, but good tutorials.

Black and white photography, also known as monochrome, is the older way to shoot photos.
If you want to use Gimp for simulate a black and white film there are several things you need to know: In a monochrome photo, the observator will be more interested and attracted by the shapes of the image, so try to shoot a subject that is clearly recognizable from the background.

Black and white photos can be more difficult to understand for the viewers, so you can have good results with textures or abstract images, that will become less understandable and more attractive.
Another characteristics of black and white pictures is that the absence of color leaves more space to imagination. In some cases (generally portraits) the photos will be more expressive.

I wrote another tutorial for an artistic effect similar to black and white, is called Split Toning, take a look, you could be interested.

If you want to get a good black and white picture with Gimp, there is a better way than desaturate the colors, let's see how:
The best tool in Gimp for black and white pictures is called Channel Mixer, it allows us to create black and white images with the modification of three color channels.
You can find Channel Mixer in Colors - Channel - Channel Mixer.

Black and white pictures with color mixer Gimp Color Mixer

In the right screenshot, you can notice that the sum of red green and blue is 100 (100+0+0) and generally is a good idea to change parameters keeping the result of 100 when you sum all factors.

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The red channel modify the contrast of the picture.
The green channel enhance or reduce the details of photograph.
The blue channel affects the noise.

A good solution for most of your black and white pictures, expecially landscapes, can be the following one:

Best parameters for black and white with Gimp

Notice that the result of 60+11-70=100
With this method you can emphatize the details, as you an see in the next comparison.

Black and white comparison animation

Another tool that you should know for black and white conversion with Gimp is Color - Color Balance Tool.
If you want to convert in black and white a portrait photo, you can change the dominant color before desaturate with color mixer, and the result will be completely different. For this example i used the wrinkles of an old man that I found in internet (no old man photos in my selection). If you change Color balance to red, the black and white will enhance details and defects, such as wrinkles. If the balance is green, the details will be more smooth.

Different color balance will get different black and white conversion

The meaning is that if you need to convert in black and white with Gimp the photograph an old fisherman, you should use a different color balance than if you photograph a 20 years old girl model.

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