How To Separate Grayscale Images in Photoshop

Learning how to separate grayscale images in Photoshop can greatly increase your value as a color separator. Fortunately, it’s actually a lot easier than most people think!

In this tutorial, I’ll take you from start to finish and show you exactly how I do my grayscale separations. I guarantee you’ll get some valuable tips and tricks along the way.

Hopefully, this will show you guys how to separate your own grayscale images. And perhaps open your shops up to accepting jobs you may have shied away from in the past.

So without further ado, here’s my video tutorial on:

How To Separate Grayscale Images in Photoshop

How To Separate Grayscale Images in Photoshop
Watch this video on YouTube.

Separate Grayscale Images in Photoshop Quick Reference Guide

  1. Start by saving a working file and keep your original intact.
  2. Check your resolution. 200dpi at final print size is fine.
  3. Make sure to have your info palette open while separating to check ink coverage.
  4. Make your tee channel and set it to 100% opacity.
  5. Set your base channel opacity to emulate what your particular base is going to do once printed.
  6. Try grabbing your base using an existing channel, then pull back the edges with a levels adjustment.
  7. Don’t print the base underneath your darkest grays and only put a little bit (30%-60%) underneath your mid to light grays.
  8. Transfer your selected colors from your original image to your channels using the # value.
  9. Soften up your edges between colors using a brightness contrast image adjustment.
  10. Keep your coverage light. Remember, it’s easier to hit the screen twice than it is to pull back an already heavy print.

Shortcut Keys Used in This Tutorial

  1. Cmd+backspace to fill background color.
  2. Opt+backspace to fill foreground color.
  3. Shift+backspace to open fill dialog box.
  4. Cmd+click on thumbnail in palette to get selection.
  5. Cmd+D to deselect.


Download the File Complete With My Seps

separate grayscale images

Download the seps used in this tutorial and follow along, step by step.

Grab your own copy of the file to follow along with the video and print up your own version or use my seps and print from those!

Comments 6

  1. This is great! Watched it three times already and been jotting down pages of notes! I’d love to see a full color simulated process separation at some point.

    Once you complete your separation, do the separations need to be adjusted at all for dot gain before printing films? What do you recommend for frequency and angle settings for film output? What about mesh count?

    1. Post

      Thanks, Geoffffffffffffffffffff! I will eventually do a full simulated tutorial and may actually do one soon. I have to create the image for it first, though. It will most likely be a simple image as full-color simulated process seps tends to be a little more complicated to teach.

      In regards to the dot gain, I’ve never had to adjust my files for dot gain once I was finished with the separations. If you’re watching your info palette while sepping, you should be good to go so long as you remember not to take your coverage too high. So far in as total ink coverage goes, it’s a good idea never to go above 120% coverage. I personally try to keep mine around 100% or slightly below to adjust for the gain you’ll experience on press.

      For lpi and angle, I’d output this at 50lpi/67˚. For the base, I’d run through a 203 and set aside 305’s for the rest of the colors. Flash the base only and run the rest of the colors wet on wet. If you want to really pump your white more at the end, flash just before it.

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  4. I want to post a translation of this video on youtube in portuguese, but for doing this i need you guys to send me the video script and also to allow the video for receiving contributions.

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