Black and white

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A black-and-white photo of a breadfruit, c. 1870 Breadfruit.jpg
A black-and-white photo of a breadfruit, c.1870

Black-and-white (B&W or B/W) images combine black and white in a continuous spectrum, producing a range of shades of grey.



The history of various visual media began with black and white, and as technology improved, altered to color. However, there are exceptions to this rule, including black-and-white fine art photography, as well as many film motion pictures and art film(s).


McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana - Ansel Adams - Taken between 1933 and 1942 Looking across lake, "McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park," Montana., 1933 - 1942 - NARA - 519873.tif
McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana – Ansel Adams – Taken between 1933 and 1942

Contemporary use

Since the late 1960s, few mainstream films have been shot in black-and-white. The reasons are frequently commercial, as it is difficult to sell a film for television broadcasting if the film is not in color. 1961 was the last year in which the majority of Hollywood films were released in black and white. [1]


In computing terminology, black-and-white is sometimes used to refer to a binary image consisting solely of pure black pixels and pure white pixels; what would normally be called a black-and-white image, that is, an image containing shades of gray, is referred to in this context as grayscale. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Halftone Printing process

Halftone is the reprographic technique that simulates continuous-tone imagery through the use of dots, varying either in size or in spacing, thus generating a gradient-like effect. "Halftone" can also be used to refer specifically to the image that is produced by this process.

Binary image Image comprising exactly two colors, typically black and white

A binary image is one that consists of pixels that can have one of exactly two colors, usually black and white. Binary images are also called bi-level or two-level, Pixelart made of two colours is often referred to as 1-Bit or 1bit. This means that each pixel is stored as a single bit—i.e., a 0 or 1. The names black-and-white, B&W, monochrome or monochromatic are often used for this concept, but may also designate any images that have only one sample per pixel, such as grayscale images. In Photoshop parlance, a binary image is the same as an image in "Bitmap" mode.

Monochrome Composed of one color

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In digital photography, computer-generated imagery, and colorimetry, a grayscale image is one in which the value of each pixel is a single sample representing only an amount of light; that is, it carries only intensity information. Grayscale images, a kind of black-and-white or gray monochrome, are composed exclusively of shades of gray. The contrast ranges from black at the weakest intensity to white at the strongest.

Grey Intermediate color between black and white; color of a cloud-covered sky, ash and lead

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Color balance Adjustment of color intensities in photography

In photography and image processing, color balance is the global adjustment of the intensities of the colors. An important goal of this adjustment is to render specific colors – particularly neutral colors – correctly. Hence, the general method is sometimes called gray balance, neutral balance, or white balance. Color balance changes the overall mixture of colors in an image and is used for color correction. Generalized versions of color balance are used to correct colors other than neutrals or to deliberately change them for effect. The term white balance is called that way due to the nature of the adjustment in which colors are adjusted to make a white object appear white and not bluish or reddish.

Netpbm is an open-source package of graphics programs and a programming library. It is used mainly in the Unix world, where one can find it included in all major open-source operating system distributions, but also works on Microsoft Windows, macOS, and other operating systems.

Floyd–Steinberg dithering

Floyd–Steinberg dithering is an image dithering algorithm first published in 1976 by Robert W. Floyd and Louis Steinberg. It is commonly used by image manipulation software, for example when an image is converted into GIF format that is restricted to a maximum of 256 colors.

Error diffusion

Error diffusion is a type of halftoning in which the quantization residual is distributed to neighboring pixels that have not yet been processed. Its main use is to convert a multi-level image into a binary image, though it has other applications.

Tint, shade and tone Mixture of a color with white or black

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Monochrome photography Photography in which every point in the image has the same hue but different intensity

Monochrome photography is photography where each position on an image can record and show a different amount of light, but not a different hue. It includes all forms of black-and-white photography, which produce images containing shades of neutral grey ranging from black to white. Other hues besides grey, such as sepia, cyan, blue, or brown can also be used in monochrome photography. In the contemporary world, monochrome photography is mostly used for artistic purposes and certain technical imaging applications, rather than for visually accurate reproduction of scenes.

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Digital micromirror device

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Shades of white Range of color shades

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Shades of gray Variations of the color gray

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This article provides introductory information about the RGB, HSV, and HSL color models from a computer graphics perspective. An introduction to colors is also provided to support the main discussion.

Shades of black Colours that differ only slightly from pure black

Shades of black are colors that differ only slightly from pure black. These colors have a low lightness. From a photometric point of view, a color which differs slightly from black always has low relative luminance. Variations of black include what are commonly termed off-black colors, which may be considered part of a neutral color scheme, usually in interior design as a part of a background for brighter colors. Black and dark gray colors are powerful accent colors that suggest weight, dignity, formality, and solemnity.


  1. Robertson, Patrick (2001). Film Facts, Billboard Books, p. 167. ISBN   9780823079438
  2. Renner, Honey (2011). Fifty Shades of Greyscale: A History of Greyscale Cinema, p. 13. Knob Publishers, Nice.