How to Create a Black and White Image in GIMP

How to Create a Black and White Image in GIMP, the free, open-source raster graphics editor that GIMP uses offers users several ways to make color images black and white.

In this article, we will discuss the differences between black and white and grayscale images. Then we’ll talk about some of the ways you can use GIMP to convert an RGB color image to grayscale or black and white mode.

For this GIMP tutorial, we used the latest version available for Microsoft. Windows, GIMP 2.10. Download GIMP for Windows, MacOS and Linux from

How to Create a Black and White Image in GIMP

What is the difference between black and white and grayscale? In black and white photography, the terms are used interchangeably. Look at the image below.

This is a color photo in RGB mode. If we remove the color, then it looks like this:

Most people describe this colorless image as a black and white photo, but a more accurate term is “grayscale”. Although black is the only color used in the image, the image consists of a spectrum of gray tones ranging from pure white to pure black.

In the world of photo editing, it is important to distinguish between grayscale and true black and white, which only uses black and white and has no gray shadows. Here is an actual same black and white image.

The first step in creating a black and white image in GIMP is deciding whether to convert it to a true black and white image or grayscale. We will consider both below.

How to Convert a Color Image to True Black and White in GIMP

The GIMP process for converting a color image to black and white involves using the Threshold tool.

  1. Open your image in GIMP. We will use this bicolor bird image.
  2. In the Color menu, select Threshold. This tool converts the current layer or selection into a black and white image. This is what our image looks like now.
  3. Notice the Channel slider in the Apply Threshold dialog. Move left and right to adjust the threshold until you like what you see.
  4. Check the Split view box to see the threshold applied to half the image so you can compare it to the original color image.
  5. When you are satisfied with the threshold, click OK.

Images that used to be full color are now all black and white and you don’t even have to buy Adobe Photoshop.

How to Create a Grayscale Image in GIMP

There are several ways to convert a color image to grayscale in GIMP.

Convert Image to Grayscale Mode

The quickest and easiest way to create a grayscale image in GIMP is to change the document’s color mode to grayscale.

  1. Select Image > Mode > Grayscale.
  2. Your color picture now consists of only black, white and gray pixels.

Note: When you convert an image to grayscale, you cannot revert to color. Save a color copy of the image before you begin. Also note that changing the image color mode applies to the entire image, even if you select only part of the image.

Create Grayscale Images with Mono Mixer

To use GIMP’s Mono Mixer tool to convert a color image to grayscale, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Color > Desaturate > Mono Mixer. (Alternatively, right-click to open the same menu options.)
  2. If you have the preview box checked, you will see that the color image now appears in grayscale.
  3. By default, each color channel will be set to 0.333. Try changing the rates for one or more channels. In the example below, we increased the red channel multiplier to 1.826, the green channel multiplier to 0.930, and the blue channel multiplier to 0.686. Checking the Keep brightness checkbox will keep the brightness at the same level no matter what changes you make to the mixer.

As you can see, adjusting the RGB channels in the Mono Mixer can make a huge difference.

Desaturate to Convert Color Image to Grayscale

The third method for converting a color image to grayscale involves adjusting the saturation of the image.

  1. Choose Color > Desaturate > Desaturate.
  2. Try different options such as Brightness, Luma, Lightness, Average, and Value using the Mode drop-down menu. Check the Split view box to compare the desaturated image to the original.
  3. If you are satisfied with the result, click OK.

How to Use the Color to Gray Tool in GIMP

You can also use the Color to Gray tool to convert an image to grayscale in GIMP.

  1. Pilih Colors > Desaturate > Color To Grey.
  2. GIMP doesn’t provide any documentation of what the Color to Gray tool does, but as you can see from the image below, the effect is much more artistic than desaturating.
  3. Experiment with the Radius, Swatch, and Iteration sliders, and the Enhance Shadows checkbox for different effects. The image below has these settings: Radius – 217, Samples – 5, and Iterations – 23.

Use the Tonal Saturation Tool to Create a Grayscale Image in GIMP

The Hue-Saturation tool is another way to create grayscale images in GIMP.

  1. Select Color > Hue-Saturation.
  2. Set the saturation to -100 or move the slider all the way to the left to convert the image to grayscale.
  3. Click OK.

As you can see, there are many ways to create a black and white image in GIMP. By knowing more than one method, you’re more likely to find the one that works best for the image you’re editing.


A lot of image editing depends on trial and error, so whether you use GIMP or not, don’t be afraid to explore all the tools at your disposal. Photoshop , or someone else ‘s image editing application .

To get started, try our tutorial, where you will learn how to create a transparent background layer mask in GIMP. Or experiment with Plugins for GIMP This will expand the functionality of the application.

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