How to Use the Black & White Adjustment Layer in Adobe Photoshop

In Brief...

The Black & White Adjustment Layer allows you to easily make a color image appear grayscale and then apply other effects from there.

This feature works the same in all recent versions of Adobe Photoshop: CS5, CS6, and Creative Cloud (CC).


  1. In the Layers Panel, click the Adjustment Layer button Adjustment Layer Button and select Black & White.

  2. In the Adjustment Panel, check the box for Tint. The tint option creates the illusion of a duotone image.
    Black & White Adjustment Panel

  3. Click the swatch next to Tint to open the Color Picker. When the Color Picker opens, adjust the RGB color values to choose your desired tint color, then click OK.
    Color Picker

  4. Uncheck Tint to return to the grayscale version.

  5. Press the letter D on your keyboard to reset your foreground and background colors to black and white.

  6. Click on the layer mask thumbnail on the Black & White 1 layer in the Layers Panel to make it active, which is indicated by the corner brackets around the thumbnail.

  7. Select the Gradient Tool Gradient Tool. In the image below, we went to the right edge of the image, then held down the Shift key to keep the direction horizontal while dragging straight across to the left edge of the image. This technique reveals color on the left side of the image.
    Create Gradient

Author: Tracy Berry

Tracy has been a senior graphic designer/programmer, instructor, and consultant since 1993 and has developed hundreds of logos, marketing materials, websites, and multimedia solutions for customers worldwide, including involvement in large corporate software rollouts. She has helped many organizations optimize and streamline data solutions. She teaches both onsite and online courses and has her CTT (Certified Technical Trainer) certification. Tracy specializes in teaching graphics, desktop publishing, web design, reporting/productivity applications, as well as the creation of online courses with software from leading vendors.