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Artist Tip: Strategic Use of Black and White

November 2, 2011

Altered found image by Shellie Lewis, 2011.

Adobe Photoshop has so many features for creative digital image manipulation, it sometimes seems like both a blessing and a curse.  I often can tell when someone is new to using the program because they try to use nearly every feature of Photoshop in one project.  If you were ever the little kid that always wanted the BIGGEST box of Crayola crayons -especially these days when you can get the 96 color mega-box- Photoshop is like having the million color box of crayons.  People new to the program try to smash everything the program has to offer into one art work, Photoshopping it to death, to make it as digital an art work as possible. 

I usually like to make fairly plausible looking collages from disparate images in Photoshop, but sometimes I will just take a base image and tweak it a little.  It is very good to use different functions, such as color manipulation and filters, in a restricted fashion to see what effects you can come up with.  I really like this modified image that I jacked from online.  I did two layers, making the graffiti artist black and white and did a layer mask to maintain the colors of the wall art in the original painting. 

Strategic use of black and white is eye catching; it has impact today because it’s use is now very clearly intentional.  In ye olden days, color is what caught people’s attention.  Printing in color was expensive and used less frequently.  When I was a kid, I eagerly looked forward to the Sunday newspaper to get the color comics, available only once a week.  Color was used sparingly in magazines, packaging and other print sources.  Having colored ink and images indicated it was good because it was valuable enough to have color.  Now black and white has become the unique element.

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