CMSeter's blog

Mono conversion

posted by CMSeter, Jun 23, 2008 1:17 AM — 64 comments

First you need a photo to convert. I decided to use this one:

This is straight out of the camera, no changes to the photo

Step 1
Convert the image to black and white but tweak it with the sky as your priority. Don't bother with the ground at this point. The only thing you're after is contrast in the clouds.

Something like this:

Nice contrasty clouds

Step 2
Now open a copy of the image and place it in a layer above the previous one. Convert it once again but with the ground as your priority. The sky will probably bleed out a bit when you do this.

Like this:

Contrast in the ground

Step 3
Add a layer mask from black to white to your last conversion. Let the shift cover the horizon, this will hide the clouds but show your properly exposed ground.

The mask should look like this:

Layer mask that covers the horizon

The end result will look like this:

If the horizon is more complicated the mask will need more work, but it's worth the effort. If you want to you can add an adjustment layer and change the hue of the entire photo depending on what feel you're after.


Comments | RSS

1. posted by bmcvn, Oct 21, 2009 12:13 PM

I have a question: ( sorry if it's kinda stupid) but how exactly you convert the photo into black and white keeping the focus on the sky or the ground ...or whatsoever.
this is what I refer to: "Convert the image to black and white but tweak it with the sky as your priority"

2. posted by joaopereir, Nov 5, 2009 6:23 AM

nice work on the sky!

3. posted by aszxc, Jan 27, 2010 4:21 AM

nice tutorial, thanks for sharing...

4. posted by CMSeter, Oct 21, 2009 5:13 PM

Not at all stupid, I didn't know this until I learned it ;) The thing is that when you take the photo you usually get a decent result in both dark and light areas. If you shoot in raw you have a good base to compensate for this.

Make one image that is optimized for the sky (light), to get nice contrast in the clouds, and a deep blue (if colour).
Then do the same thing for the ground (dark) and paste the two different exposures into one image. Then mask out the (inevitably) bad part of the top layer to show the good part beneath.
What you're doing is basically faking a hdr-photo.

5. posted by analab01, Dec 29, 2009 11:39 AM

I canīt see the pictures what makes difficult to understand what you're talking about. I'd really love to see the effect, what can i do?

6. posted by dr0id, Dec 30, 2009 11:34 AM

Refresh images please, i can't see a thing. PLEASE!!! I have bookmarked this page, and while revisiting it cannot see the tutorial.
Images are DEAD, reload em please.
And thanks a lot for a great tut

7. posted by resignent, Jun 23, 2008 10:23 AM

Nice :)

8. posted by steavan, Jun 24, 2008 5:17 AM

thnx for the tutorial...

9. posted by yo5bdm, Jun 25, 2008 4:02 PM

nice efect!

10. posted by simpson1, Jul 4, 2008 10:06 AM

Thanks for the tutorial it 's simplicity is what makes it Nice.

11. posted by wishingbox, Jul 25, 2008 10:29 AM

Wow nice.
I'll definitely try it out.

12. posted by jtram, Aug 1, 2008 8:17 PM

sweet, I'll try it!

13. posted by treesurfer, Aug 2, 2008 5:29 PM

Now that's an easy tutorial that I can try. Thanks.

14. posted by naseemcvdy, Aug 14, 2008 1:55 PM

simply...its nice

15. posted by jayofboy, Aug 27, 2008 7:56 AM

very nice:)

16. posted by zhenzhen, Sep 1, 2008 8:37 AM

brilliant!! will try will try

17. posted by CMSeter, Sep 1, 2008 10:08 PM

I'm glad people like this! My [url=]field[/url] photos were done using the process in this tutorial

I'll try to write on some other topic soon :)

18. posted by ting666, Sep 4, 2008 9:38 AM

it's useful...and amazing~!
nice tutorial, thanks for sharing...

19. posted by dccreative, Sep 7, 2008 5:34 AM

Wow, love the final result man. It actually made me feel something...not sure exactly what, but 'something' none-the-less. Very nice! :)

20. posted by dccreative, Sep 7, 2008 5:42 AM

I'm confused though. Just to clarify something, does the final 'layer mask' over the horizon have a 'Blending Mode' of some sort. Otherwise how else are the 'contrasty clouds' still visible in the final?...Either you left out a step, or I'm overlooking something really simple here. Apologies in advance if it's the latter. :)

21. posted by CMSeter, Sep 7, 2008 5:26 PM

Glad you liked it :)
The final photo consists of the two converstions. If the top layer has the contrasty clouds, the mask should hide the bottom. You're basically just erasing the bottom of the layer so that both "good" conversions show. Hope that cleared it up a bit.

22. posted by trawarijus, Sep 7, 2008 11:18 PM

thanks a lot!

23. posted by amoorah, Sep 9, 2008 4:02 AM

great job ..
and the final result amazing

24. posted by tenyomelim, Sep 9, 2008 9:51 PM

This looks nice. Thanks. :)

25. posted by najol, Sep 18, 2008 8:51 AM

better it it's published as video :(

26. posted by y4nkee04, Sep 27, 2008 2:05 AM

Hey nice conversion but in step 1 how did you actually convert it to black and white? Did you just change the picture to grayscale? Sorry kinda new at this. Thanks

27. posted by CMSeter, Sep 27, 2008 2:51 AM

I shoot in raw-mode, When you do that you can change pretty much everything.
If you use a jpeg there's a number of ways to convert. One good way is image -> adjustments -> black&white, or just desaturate the photo and control the contrast with either levels or curves.

Google for "photoshop black and white conversion", you'll find a number of ways to do it :)

28. posted by Louisviton, Oct 8, 2008 4:06 PM

i am a newbie to this sorta thing, and i was wondering if you could help me, i can get all of this right i think until i get to the part where i have to ad a layer mask, from that point onwards i cant get any of it to work, i am not sure what i am doing wrong, can any 1 help please

29. posted by Louisviton, Oct 8, 2008 4:13 PM

i think what i dont understand is wether to put a reveal all mask or a hide all mask into the picture also if i try both of them it does nothing...

30. posted by CMSeter, Oct 8, 2008 6:33 PM

Add a reveal all mask. Click on the mask's icon in the layer palette, then add the gradient. Ask again if you can't get it to work.

31. posted by VinnyPrime, Oct 8, 2008 7:04 PM

I like to do this with different sections of color pictures so that I can use different Levels settings... kind of a poor-man's HDR.

32. posted by Louisviton, Oct 9, 2008 1:21 PM

sorry im still stuck i add a mask then click on the mask icon as you say but i cant put a gradient in only solid colour, just to make sure, i am putting this mask on the layer where the ground is most visable??

33. posted by LabSLAB, Oct 10, 2008 2:00 AM


I'm new to this technique and this tutorial was super easy to understand! I've done all the steps listed and added a reveal all mask then added a fill to the mask by clicking on the mask and using the gradient tool to fill it. It looks great! Love the tutorial and can't wait to try this technique out more!


34. posted by CMSeter, Oct 10, 2008 5:25 PM

You add the mask to the top layer. If that's the one where the ground is correctly exposed, the top of the mask should be black and the bottom white. The gradient itself just covers the horizon to get a smooth transition. What the mask does is hide everything that's black and the gradually shows stuff as it moves to white.

This is actually just a fast way to do this. What you really want to do is mask it carefully, but that's for another tutorial :)

35. posted by T_Roy, Oct 13, 2008 6:09 PM

Thanks for sharing your wisdom. We all appreciate and can benefit from it. Great Job, keep up the fantastic work.

36. posted by Louisviton, Oct 15, 2008 1:52 PM

wow ive got it, cheers CMS, thanks for the help, now i wil go and try some more techniques :)

37. posted by pumpuybgn, Oct 28, 2008 11:39 AM

very good it!

38. posted by Lenory, Nov 5, 2008 7:09 PM

Very cool, but I couldnt follow ......

39. posted by shareehan, Nov 8, 2008 2:53 PM

thanks :)

40. posted by margarismo, Nov 17, 2008 8:17 AM

I have a question: ( sorry if it's kinda stupid) but how exactly you convert the photo into black and white keeping the focus on the sky or the ground ...or whatsoever.
this is what I refer to: "Convert the image to black and white but tweak it with the sky as your priority"

41. posted by margarismo, Nov 17, 2008 8:25 AM

I'd rather convert the picture into black and white and than fix the contrast and so using curves or just levels with layer masks or creating different leyers...

42. posted by CMSeter, Nov 17, 2008 9:51 PM

The thing with this tutorial is that you get strong contrast in both the ground and the sky. Instead of overall contrast in the entire image you convert it twice and get much more contrast in both areas.

43. posted by margarismo, Nov 18, 2008 8:09 AM

Right! Thanks!

44. posted by Sh4rpie, Dec 16, 2008 11:53 PM

This is awesome!

45. posted by neilmitch, Dec 24, 2008 8:56 PM

think you should of added what settings u used to help novice members

46. posted by tantsnusk2, Jan 10, 2009 12:55 PM

How do u keep the focus on the sky or ground by tweaking it when u convert it?

47. posted by CMSeter, Jan 11, 2009 1:29 AM

You just don't care about what the ground looks like when you're converting to show the sky. And the opposite when converting the ground.
The result is two layers. One with good ground and one with good sky. Just erase the bad parts from the top layer.

48. posted by Antix1910, Jan 21, 2009 4:09 PM


49. posted by Myxmtosis, Feb 8, 2009 9:06 AM

Good Job!

50. posted by trgirl, Feb 19, 2009 1:44 AM

Instead of using a mask, wouldn't this be a good opportunity to use photoshop's Layer Style layer blending options? That way it doesn't have to be a black to white gradient mask, PS figures out the correct place to do it, and you can have a more correct blend of the contrast where needed.

51. posted by hanfei, Feb 19, 2009 8:45 AM


52. posted by CMSeter, Feb 20, 2009 1:04 AM

I'm not sure what blending mode you'd use to get the result of the mask?
I a gradient in the mask just to make the tutorial easier to follow. Ofcourse you need to do a more detailed mask for a better result. I'm just showing the concept here :)

53. posted by MGbeke, Sep 23, 2009 1:47 AM

Thanks Peter, nice tutorial!

54. posted by Sinfini, Apr 7, 2009 4:07 AM

Poster 34 said "I have a question: ( sorry if it's kinda stupid) but how exactly you convert the photo into black and white keeping the focus on the sky or the ground ...or whatsoever.
this is what I refer to: "Convert the image to black and white but tweak it with the sky as your priority"
Thanks! "

Thats what I would like to know too. How do you tweak different areas? That wasnt made clear.

55. posted by CMSeter, Apr 7, 2009 1:28 PM

Sorry, I missed that post. The only thing you do is adjust level, curves and such so that you get a nice sky. Open a copy of the original and do the same thing again but do it to get at nice ground. Copy both into one document and add a mask so the "bad" part of the top image doesn't show. I hope that clears it up :) Post again otherwise.

56. posted by montsull, Jun 28, 2010 1:12 PM

images please

57. posted by rayban1, Apr 15, 2009 10:53 PM

that's cool

58. posted by darker1985, May 27, 2009 10:34 AM

Yeah, I like that. Pretty easy and very simple.


59. posted by minitor_j, Oct 1, 2009 7:21 AM


60. posted by escan, Aug 18, 2010 12:05 PM

thanks :)

61. posted by cmario83, Nov 28, 2011 1:47 PM

where is image

62. posted by smegovikma, Jan 3, 2012 7:27 AM

Nice! Fotoshop forever!

63. posted by softener, May 31, 2013 7:39 AM

Great tutorial, clear and simple, thanks

64. posted by renderiska, Jun 21, 2013 5:33 AM

Good jub guys.

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