The help for the Export function is absolutely unclear. How can I specify options for my output format?

According to the documentation, PNG supports grayscale output. But this doesn't work, I still get an RGB image.

Export["somefile.png", something, "ColorSpace" -> "Grayscale"]
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think ColorSpace works only with Import, not with Export. Perhaps, you can ColorConvert[something,"Grayscale"] and then export as a workaround? $\endgroup$
    – kglr
    Nov 20, 2012 at 15:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related: mathematica.stackexchange.com/q/8818/121 $\endgroup$
    – Mr.Wizard
    Nov 21, 2012 at 0:19

2 Answers 2


The following solution works as a formatting step prior to performing the export of your output

(Please note that this is not my solution! it was posted here by @rm -rf - i'm reposting it because it got a little lost in the comments/editing of the other question and it seems to be a very effective post-processing method).

Where other approaches do not work, this one seems to get over the line.

toGrayScale[y_] := y /. x__?
(MemberQ[{RGBColor, Hue, CMYKColor}, Head[#]] &) :> ColorConvert[x, "Grayscale"]

greyscalemyPlot = myPlot // toGrayScale

Export["greyscale-myplot.eps", greyscalemyPlot]

I found this particularly useful when I have an array of plots like a GraphicsGrid of ListPlots or where I have used Show to overlay two plots. in both cases it is a pain to go back in and modify the options using GreyLevel etc.

  • $\begingroup$ @rm -rf, yes, that is what I meant, thanks. Happy to remove this answer if you want to post similar or simply redirect back to the original answer. As I said I have found it to be a very handy post-processing approach. Cheers. $\endgroup$
    – geordie
    Nov 20, 2012 at 23:48
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Alternatively: toGrayScale[y_] := y /. x : (_RGBColor | _Hue | _CMYKColor) :> ColorConvert[x, GrayLevel] $\endgroup$ Nov 20, 2012 at 23:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Grrwebb No worries, you don't have to delete this at all; I'm glad that you found it useful :) $\endgroup$
    – rm -rf
    Nov 21, 2012 at 3:50

The documentation can be a bit confusing sometimes, but in this case it is clearly stated in the elements section of the png help-page

enter image description here

The option "ColorSpace" is only for Import.

Anyway, what happens when you Export a png-file is, that (when it is a Graphics or Graphics3D) Mathematica calls Rasterize which accepts the ColorSpace option. Therefore one solution to your problem is to use

Export["tmp/gray.png", Rasterize[p, ColorSpace -> "Grayscale"]]

A quick test shows, that it creates identical images which only differ in ColorSpace

p = Plot3D[Sin[x + y^2], {x, -3, 3}, {y, -2, 2}];
Export["tmp/color.png", p]
Export["tmp/gray.png", Rasterize[p, ColorSpace -> "Grayscale"]]

   Import[img, #] & /@ {"BitDepth", "ColorSpace", "DataType", 
     "ImageSize"}] /@ {col, gray} // Column

and they fit exactly onto another

ImageMultiply @@ (Import /@ {col, gray})

Mathematica graphics


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