Download my Photoshop Action.
There are many ways to create a High-Key Black and White Image. This is one method which uses mainly the channels panel.
Once you’ve downloaded the actions. open the Actions Panel Menu and “Load” the actions from where you downloaded them on your computer.
Any image will do. But, a portrait with a white, or light coloured background will be best.
It is best to duplicate the image as we are going to change the mode to grayscale at the end. So go Image > Duplicate to be on the safe side.
Before we go any further there is an optional filter (Diffuse Glow) that can be applied to the image which requires the image to be eight-bit. So, if you want to run this filter please change the mode of your image to eight-bit by going: Image > Mode > 8 bits per channel.
Go to the Channels Panel (Window > Channels).
Then create a new channel by clicking the icon that looks like a page with bottom left-hand corner turned upwards.
Now you have a channel called “Alpha 1” which will be filled with black.
Command (Mac)/Control (Windows) Click the RGB channel which is also known as the Composite Channel because is a mix of the Red, Green & B
Now go Shift + Backspace and fill with: White, Normal and 50% grey.
We now inverse the selection by going to: Select > Inverse (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + I). This will select any pixels darker than 50% grey.
We then repeat the fill using black this time.
Now reverse the selection by going to Select > Inverse (Cmd/Ctrl + Shift + I) to return the selection of more than 50% grey.
Then fill the channel with White as before but we now do this TWICE.
De-select by Select > De-Select (Cmd/Ctrl + D)
Repeat the Fill process using Black and the blend mode to Soft Light. This process will darken only the darker pixels. We do this TWICE as this will enhance the effect. If you don’t want a strong effect just do this fill once.
Before you run this filter make sure your image is set to the
To give the image a glowing effect we can run Filter > Filter Gallery > Distort > Diffuse Glow. The settings below work well. The”Clear Amount” move to the right will affect the lighter pixels. Moved to the left it will affect the darker pixels. Ten is halfway and works ok.
If you need to lighten or darken areas. You use a brush set to Soft Light, and around 30% Opacity and about 40% flow; in either black or white to brighten and darken respectively.
This image only exists in the Channels Panel and is effectively useless.
To do anything with this image we need to convert it to greyscale.
Make sure you are in the channels panel and the Alpha 1 channel is selected.
This process will flatten the image and when prompted discard the other layers.
Go to: Image > Mode > Grayscale
You can now run a Levels or Curves adjustment layers to whiten and darken the image. Or, re-convert back to RGB to have more control over any adjustments you may want to do.
I’ve converted this image back to RGB and ran a Curves Adjustment Layer to make the image very high key.