How to Make an Image Grayscale in Adobe Illustrator

Have you ever created a design and wished you could easily try part of all of it in grayscale? Adobe Illustrator offers some edit color options that make this a possibility. 

You can make an image grayscale using the Edit menu, Edit Colors > Convert to Grayscale. Or if you want more control, I will show you how to use the Adjust Color Balance option in the Edit Colors menu.

My name is April, and I’ve been working in the graphic design field for 14+ years now. Colors are very important in a design, but so is knowing when to pull back. Grayscale can be just the touch needed in a design and if you think you have to use Photoshop for that, you are incorrect.

Illustrator has an entire Edit Colors menu that offers a quick solution to make color changes. Let’s try it out! 

Key Takeaways

  • The Convert to Grayscale option works on raster images, vector graphics, and text. 
  • Use the Adjust Color Balance option to adjust the settings as it converts.
  • You cannot adjust the color change after the grayscale has been applied.

Note: The screenshots from this tutorial are taken from Adobe Illustrator CC Windows version. 

Method 1: Convert to Grayscale

Colors and design are what Adobe lives on, so they have included lots of wonderful options in Illustrator to recolor an image. We are going to go over how to use the Convert to Grayscale option.

Step 1: Using the Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut V) or the Direct Selection Tool (keyboard shortcut A), select the image in your layout that you want to make grayscale. I am using this image of a cat.

Step 2: Navigate to the top main menu, Edit > Edit Colors > Convert to Grayscale.

Step 3: Choosing that option will auto apply it without any adjustments. It is a very quick way to see if you want to use grayscale on that image. 

Method 2: Adjust Color Balance 

If you want a little more control over the grayscale that gets applied, you can Undo (Ctrl/Command + Z) and we will try again by adjusting the color balance. 

Step 1: Select the image, and this time go to Edit > Edit Colors > Adjust Color Balance.

The Adjust Colors dialog box will pop up.

Step 2: Since we want grayscale, we want to first choose that option from the drop-down box.

Step 3: The options in the dialog box have changed. We want to checkmark the Convert option and also make sure Preview is checkmarked so you can watch the image as you adjust the settings here in a bit.

Step 4: Now we can use the slider and adjust the settings. 0 is the middle and creates a nice balance of light and dark:

Moving the slider to the left in the negative numbers creates a lighter version:

Moving the slider to the right creates a darker image:

For example, I like the 22 setting. Once that is set, click OK.

Now you have your grayscale image!

Tip: You can also select more than one object/image/text at the same time and convert them all to Grayscale at once!


Here are some frequently asked questions that you might be interested in.

Can I use the Convert to Grayscale on vector graphics?

Yes! It works the same way. You can use the Adjust Color Balance or Convert to Grayscale option to make a vector image grayscale:

Can I use the Convert to Grayscale on text?

Yes, this option works on live text or outlined text. Edit > Edit Colors > Adjust Color Balance or Convert to Grayscale:

Will the object be affected by the color change if it is a locked layer?

No, that object will not be changed if the layer is locked. Be sure to unlock the layer before converting the color to grayscale.

Final Thoughts

Adobe Illustrator’s Edit Colors menu is a great way to try out new colors without spending hours trying new swatches. The Convert to Grayscale option makes it quick to convert raster images, vector graphics, or text to grayscale in your design.

Have you tried to make an image grayscale in Illustrator? What did you create with it and was it for fun or work? Let me know in the comments below. 

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