Skip to Content

How can I remove color from an image?


Removing color from an image can be useful for a variety of reasons. You may want to create a stylized black and white effect, reduce file size, or simplify an image to focus on shapes and textures. Luckily, there are many different ways to desaturate color from images using software tools. In this guide, we’ll explore several methods for removing color in various image editing applications.

Desaturate in Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop provides a simple way to remove color through the Desaturate command. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Desaturate. This will create a new desaturate adjustment layer.
  3. In the new layer, you can adjust the desaturation level by moving the saturation slider. Dragging it all the way to the left will completely desaturate the image.
  4. You can also change the blending mode of the desaturate layer to adjust how it interacts with the layers below. The default Normal mode works well in most cases.
  5. When finished, you can merge the desaturate layer with the layers below or keep it separate for further edits.

The Desaturate command converts a color image to shades of gray while preserving the luminosity. This gives you full control over the desaturation level.

Convert to Grayscale in Photoshop

Another option in Photoshop is converting the image mode directly to grayscale. Here are the steps:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. Go to Image > Mode > Grayscale. This will convert the entire image to shades of gray.
  3. Click OK to confirm the conversion. This will discard any color information.
  4. You can adjust brightness and contrast to tweak the grayscale version.
  5. To revert to color mode, go back to Image > Mode > RGB Color.

Converting to grayscale transforms the color image into a true black and white version. Keep in mind this change is permanent, unlike an adjustment layer.

Use Black & White Filter in Photoshop

The Black & White filter in Photoshop provides precise control over the desaturation process. Follow these steps to use it:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Black & White. This adds a B&W adjustment layer.
  3. In the Properties panel, adjust the color sliders to control how each color channel converts to grayscale.
  4. Moving a slider to the right increases its brightness in the converted image.
  5. You can also choose color presets like Darker or Lighter to automate the process.
  6. Adjust the Opacity of the layer to fine-tune the desaturation strength.

The Black & White filter lets you decide exactly how each color converts to a gray tone. This can help maximize contrast and create a stylized black and white look.

Desaturate in GIMP

GIMP is a free open-source image editor with several tools for removing color. Here are two methods:

Desaturate Tool

  1. Open your image in GIMP.
  2. Select the Desaturate tool from the toolbox.
  3. Click and drag over the image to apply desaturation.
  4. You can adjust the Strength in the Tool Options to control the intensity.
  5. Applying the tool multiple times intensifies the effect.

This tool directly desaturates the color where you paint over the image. It allows selective desaturation of certain elements.

Desaturate Command

  1. Open your image in GIMP.
  2. Go to Colors > Desaturate.
  3. Choose one of the Desaturate methods:
    • Lightness – Converts each pixel to shade of gray based on luminosity
    • Luminosity – Similar to Lightness but also takes opacity into account
    • Average – Desaturates based on the average of RGB values
    • Value – Convert pixels to either black or white depending on brightness
  4. Click Desaturate to apply the effect to the entire image.

This command provides color removal options not available in Photoshop. The Luminosity method usually gives the best results.

Remove Color Tone in GIMP

You can also drain specific color tones from an image in GIMP using the Color to Gray tool:

  1. Open your image in GIMP.
  2. Go to Colors > Color to Gray.
  3. Select Preserve Luminosity to maintain brightness.
  4. Choose the color tones to desaturate using the checkboxes.
  5. Click Convert to remove those color tones.

This achieves a subtle desaturation focused on deemphasizing certain hues while keeping the image vibrant. It’s useful for color correction or creating a stylistic effect.

Convert to Black & White in GIMP

For a true black and white image, you can convert the image mode directly:

  1. Open your image in GIMP.
  2. Go to Image > Mode > Grayscale.
  3. Click Discard to complete the conversion.
  4. You can then adjust Levels and Contrast to refine the grayscale effect.

This method produces a similar result as converting to grayscale mode in Photoshop. Keep in mind it will permanently remove all color information.

Online Image Desaturate Tools

Several websites provide online tools for desaturating images instantly:

  • Imgonline – Has desaturate and black & white converters along with other editing options.
  • Photopea – This online Photoshop alternative has desaturate and grayscale conversion commands.
  • Canva – Design tool site with filters to desaturate or make black and white.
  • BeFunky – Creative editor with color splash and black & white effects.
  • Adobe ColorCC – Provides a dedicated B&W photo maker to convert images.

These websites provide a quick way to desaturate images without installing any software. They are handy for basic color removal, but lack fine control over the process.

Tips for Effective Desaturation

Here are some tips to help you achieve great results when removing color:

  • Use adjustment layers in Photoshop for non-destructive editing.
  • Try both grayscale conversion and desaturation to see which method works best.
  • Adjust individual color sliders when using the Photoshop Black & White filter.
  • When using GIMP, test different desaturate and color to gray methods.
  • Increase contrast and clarity after desaturating to boost definition.
  • Try partial desaturation when you want to deemphasize but not totally remove color.
  • Convert a copy of the image when using destructive B&W conversion methods.

The ideal desaturation approach depends on the particular image and your creative goals. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the various tools and techniques.

Common Uses for Desaturated Images

Here are some popular ways that removing color can be utilized:

  • Black & white photography – Creates a classic, timeless look and draws focus to shapes and texture.
  • Minimalist designs – Removes distracting colors so the layout and message take center stage.
  • Historical effect – Give images an aged, historical appearance like antique photos.
  • Artistic effect – Mimic a pencil sketch or add an atmospheric mood with solid grays.
  • Simplify diagrams – Desaturating complex infographics simplifies the message.
  • Reduce file size – Desaturated files have smaller file sizes, helpful for web use.

There are also practical applications like preparing files for laser engraving or embroidery where color information is unnecessary.


Removing color from images provides a creative way to alter their look and feel. Photoshop and GIMP offer powerful desaturation tools that give you precise control over the process. Many websites also let you desaturate images instantly online. Consider what you want the final image to convey when deciding which method to use. With some practice, you can master techniques for effective desaturation tailored to different needs.

Photoshop Method Description
Desaturate Converts image to shades of gray while preserving luminosity
Grayscale Mode Changes entire image to true black and white
Black & White Filter Allows adjusting conversion of each color channel
GIMP Method Description
Desaturate Tool Selectively desaturates painted areas of image
Desaturate Command Applies various desaturation methods to entire image
Color to Gray Removes specific color tones while preserving others
Grayscale Mode Converts image to true black and white