Digital Toolbox: No Tone

Everything looks better in black-and-white.

Reading Digital Toolbox every month, you might think I have a love affair with Adobe Photoshop. But one thing I hate is using it alone to convert color images to black-and-white. Sure, you can fiddle with Channel Mixer's infernal sliders, geek out with Calculations, or shuttle between the presets of Photoshop's mediocre built-in b&w conversion tool. But none of these is intuitive, and it takes a lot of effort to get decent results.

If you do a lot of b&w conversions, or if you want to, a plug-in is a very good idea.

Alien Skin's Exposure 2 is one of my favorites because it lets you replicate a long list of great-looking film stocks, as well as easily make your own b&w and split-toned versions. (For the truly nostalgic, the program also comes with a module that will let you replicate old-school color film, too.) Exposure 2 works with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Corel's Paint Shop Pro Photo XI. Here are four great ways to make better-than-average monochromes, and for the heck of it, one fun re-colorization. To do it yourself, download a 30-day trial at www.alienskin.com.