Staxringold Portrait 1

A black-and-white portrait.

This article is about the term as used in media and computing; for more specific uses, see Black and White.

b/w is also commonly used with old 45 and 78 RPM records and stands for "backed with" and thus refers to the flip side (commonly called "B side") of the record.

Black-and-white is a broad adjectival term used to describe a number of forms of visual technology. Most forms of visual technology start out in black and white, then slowly evolve into color as technology progresses.

"Black-and-white" as a description is also something of a misnomer, for in addition to black and white most of these media included varying shades of grey. Further, the original stock of many early photographic and film formats were in sepia, which gave a richer, more subtle shading than reproductions in plain black-and-white, although less so than color.

Media Edit


Black-and-White photos on a photo booth strip.

Some popular black-and-white media forms of the past include:

  • Movies and animated cartoons. While some color film processes (including hand coloring) were experimented with and in limited use from the earliest days of the motion picture, the switch from films almost always being in black-and-white to almost always being in color was a gradual process mostly taking place from the 1930s to the 1950s, with higher budget pictures being in color earlier. For the years 1940–1966 a separate Academy Award for Best Art Direction was given for black and white movies, along with one for those in color.
  • Photography was black-and-white or shades of sepia. Color photography was originally rare and expensive, and early on often less true to life. Color photography became much more common in middle of the 20th century, and has been getting more and more common since. Black-and-white remains a niche market for photographers who use the medium for artistic purposes. This can take the form of black and white film or digital conversion to greyscale, with optional image manipulation to enhance the results.
  • Television was originally broadcast in black-and-white. Some color broadcasts began in the 1950s, with color becoming common in western industrialized nations during the 1960s and 1970s. The United States upgraded to the color standard between 1964 and 1967, while the United Kingdom settled on an official color system in November 1969. Australia would keep airing black-and-white broadcasts until 1975.
  • Most newspapers were black-and-white until the late 1970s; the New York Times and Washington Post remained in black-and-white until the 1990s, some claiming USA Today was the major impetus for the change. Even today, many newspapers restrict color photographs to the front and other prominent pages since mass producing photographs in black-and-white is considerably cheaper than color.
  • Jet magazine was either all or mostly black-and-white until the end of the 20th century, when it became all-color.
  • School yearbooks have (historically) been printed either entirely or mostly in black-and-white. All-color school yearbooks are rare as of now.

Today black-and-white media often has a "nostalgic," historic, or anachronistic feel to it. For example, the 1998 Woody Allen film Celebrity was shot entirely in black-and-white. Other films, such as Pleasantville and The Wizard of Oz play with the concept of the black-and-white anachronism, using it to selectively portray scenes and characters who are either more outdated or dull than the characters and scenes shot in full-color. This manipulation of color appears in the film Sin City and the occasional television commercial.

Since the mid-1960s, few mainstream films have been shot entirely on black-and-white film stock, even if they are intended to be presented theatrically in black-and-white. The reasons are frequently commercial, as it is difficult to sell a film for television broadcasting if no color version exists. For example, movies such as John Boorman's The General and Joel Coen's The Man Who Wasn't There were obliged to be filmed in color by their respective distributors, despite being presented in black-and-white for artistic reasons. Clerks. is one of the few well-known recent films shot in black-and-white for no artistic purpose; due to the extremely low out-of-pocket budget, the production team could not afford color film.

Some modern film directors will occasionally shoot movies in black-and-white because they believe it captures their vision better. This is also true of black-and-white photography, where many photographers choose to shoot in solely black-and-white since the stark contrasts enhances the subject matter.

See: List of recent films in black-and-white

Computing Edit

Most personal computers had monochrome (black-and-white, black and green, or black and amber) screens until the late 1980s. However, the Apple II family of computers was a major exception to this.

In computing terminology black-and-white is often used to refer to an image consisting solely of black or white pixels; what would normally be called a black-and-white image is more accurately referred to in this context as grayscale or greyscale, ie an image containing shades of grey.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

  • Digital image manipulation : Tutorials, guides and a comparison of digital conversion techniques (lightness and colour channels) Plus instant feedback and guidance via the forums.

es:Blanco y negro fr:Noir et blanc pt:Preto e branco

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