The Miracle of Contact - a black and white book illustration by book illustrator Duncan Long

I had the pleasure of hearing from Victor Thorn (talk show host, reporter, and writer). He wanted to use 32 of my pictures in his upcoming book, Reality Bomb. I was happy to see so many of my illustrations getting exposure in his upcoming book (and a little cash in the exchange didn’t hurt anything, either, of course).

The pictures Thorn will be using are basically black and white (actually grayscale) versions of some of my color illustrations. The catch comes in translating the color into B&W since most pictures tend to be weighted toward one or another color.

That means simply hitting the “grayscale” or “desaturate” option in your software works on a very few pictures — but not for most. Instead it’s necessary to determine what the predominate color is, which color should become blackest and so forth. So what at first seems pretty straightforward is a bit more complex than one might suppose if the results are to look good. Then the range of brightness is adjusted so the lightest section becomes white and the darkest, black.

It can be a bit tedious, but fortunately the computer and software make it considerably faster than those good old days of burning, dodging, and chemical baths.

Above is one of the illustrations (The Magic Contact) that went through the conversion especially well, I think, keeping its dreamy quality without losing any of the details of the original. Except, of course, the color.

Duncan Long is a freelance book cover illustrator for HarperCollins, PS Publishing, Pocket Books, Solomon Press, Fort Ross, and many other publishers and self-publishing authors. See his cover illustrations at: