ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Arts and Design»
  • Photography

Convert images to Monochrome with the GIMP

Updated on June 27, 2013
Original Image: Newhaven Quay Edinburgh 2007
Original Image: Newhaven Quay Edinburgh 2007

What is the GIMP and why use it?

The GIMP is a free open source photo editor with capabilities matching those of Adobe Photoshop and some facilities not available in Photoshop.

The downside is the GIMP is harder to use and the documentation could be improved. The rendering engine is subtly different from that of Photoshop and the interface can be confusing.

Both these facts may confuse the beginner and could make it worth purchasing a Gimp package including a manual or a book that explains how to use the Nevertheless after a while it grows on you and you realise it is a very powerful tool

This tutorial was produced using GIMP 2.6.2 for OS X. The Windows and Linux versions should have the same interface.

This article illustrates the use of the GIMP's options for mono and semi mono photo editing.

The term "Monochrome" is normally used for greyscale images or images that contain a single hue varying in brightness. For pedants a true "monochrome" image would be an area of a single colour - say all black or all white. "Black and White" is achieved only by the Threshold operation or in the film world, with Lithographic film.

More about the place where I took these photos

Gimp Monochrome Options

As a lover of colour ( Maybe I should rephrase that but won't ) I am constantly amazed by the fact that black and white pictures may have more power and impact than the original colour version.

The Gimp offers several ways to convert a colour picture to a monochrome picture: a picture that is either black and white or shades of a single colour including: Desaturate, The Channel Mixer, Colorize and the Hue-Saturation control. All these are found on the Gimp's Colors menu and give plenty of gimp monochrome conversion options.

To start copy your image and drag the copy onto the GIMP icon.

Gimp desaturation options

Luminosity
Luminosity
lightness
lightness
Average
Average

Desaturate

This is the simplest option. There are three options in the Menu. Lightness, Luminosity and average.

Try each one and see whether you notice any difference, and if you do choose whichever you prefer.

Generally speaking I prefer the luminosity option. The advantage of simplicity using Desaturate is counterbalanced by the lack of control over the process and the fact you will probably have to use the dodge and burn tool to create a good picture.

I noticed incidentally, that the “Black and White” pictures in photo magazines often looked more of a chocolate colour and I got a more pleasing result by boosting the red with the colour balance menu

Hue-Saturation

This option lets you change the saturation of all colours or any one of the ranges corresponding to the three primary colours and the three complementary colours. These are arranged in a colour circle. If you increase the hue the colours move clockwise round the circle and anticlockwise as you decrease the hue. If you do not remove the colours entirely you get a subtle effect which can be rather like hand colouring a print, and in any case leaves a trace of colour ( and warmth) in the picture which offsets the coldness of a grayscale picture

Reducing the Saturation

Changed Saturation to -68
Changed Saturation to -68

Colorize

This menu lets lets you change the hue of a picture and the saturation of the result.
The effect is easier to control than with the Hue-saturation menu and can be very pleasing though sepia is hard to achieve.

Colorized with Hue 30
Colorized with Hue 30

Channel Mixer

This is  a sub menu of the Components menu. Check the Monochrome box and optionally the preserve luminosity box then adjust the sliders till you like what you see. The best effect  normally arises if you adjust the red first. Ideally all the  slider values should add up to 100%

Effect of Channel Mixer

Converted with channel Mixer
Converted with channel Mixer

Greyscale

Choosing image->Mode-> greyscale produces a result that is  close to the ideal channel mixer result but  does not do the same as  Desaturate.  The balance of  the RGB channels is different.

Conclusion.

The GIMP offers a number of ways to convert a full colour image to a single colour or grayscale image, These all produce different results and what works for one picture may not work for others. When converting an image be ready to try any or all of these methods. Always work on a copy not the original.

You may also be interested in Removing noise from digital images with the gimp

and may want to learn more about the place where these photos were taken

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • JanMaklak profile image

      JanMaklak 5 years ago from Canada

      It's easier to use Lightroom 4 and Nik Silver Effects Pro for the best results. Then if necessary use Photoshop for the last finishing touches. All professionals use this approach and in my opinion provided the best dynamic structure and contrast. Lightroom is very cheap right now and Nik Silver Effects Pro is reasonably priced and is now owned by microsoft so I am expecting big things in it's future.

    • profile image

      monchiron 8 years ago

      GRAYSCALE ? did you even read the article?

    • profile image

      Mik 8 years ago

      Why is it when you want to convert an image to black and white (for newsprint) that all the websites tell you how to convert it to greyscale (prob 16 colours) only and state its black and white. Black and white is 2 colours only not all the different hues in between....rant over.

    • profile image

      hikari 8 years ago

      Please, name your blog entries correctly, because right now i'm searching 30 minutes for REAL monochrome conversion. And this is not a monochrome, this is GRAYSCALE.

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 9 years ago from Free and running....

      I thought the gimp was a sexual deviant who wore a mask and lived in a closet

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)