Split toning is the one of the most beautiful photo effects you can do.
In split toning, the highlights and shadows of an image are tinted in different colors. The result is that an otherwise run-of-the-mill photo can be turned into an image that is unique, striking, rich and warm. It’s just gorgeous.
Split toning has its originals in the days of film photography and darkroom processing. But luckily we can create the effect today using digital techniques available in both Lightroom and Photoshop. And while split toning can be done on both color and black and white images, I really like the way it enhances a black and white photo. So that’s what we’ll be looking at today.
We’ll start by looking how to create toned images in Lightroom. Since the process is nearly identical in Photoshop, we’ll quickly touch on that towards the end of the post.
The first step when creating a split toned image is to select an appropriate photo to start with.
While you can use any image you’d like, the effect is especially striking when created from photos with two basics characteristics:
I’ll be using the photo below for the example we’ll be working through. It has nice areas of highlights and shadows and has a easy going, "yesterday" feel to it.
We’ll start by converting the photo to black and white.
There are a lot of different ways to convert an image to black and white in Lightroom’s Develop Module. So feel free to use whatever method you like.
For the photo that we’re using here, I’m going to convert it by first clicking on the B&W button at the top of the HSL/Color/B&W Panel found on the right side of the Lightroom Develop interface.
This will convert the image to black and white. This conversion uses Lightroom’s Auto Mix settings and is based on the colors in the photograph.
Then I’ll tweak these settings just a bit to add a little more contrast to the scene.
Okay, so now that we have our image in black and white, let’s move on to look at Split Toning Panel.
The Split Toning Panel can be found just under the HSL/Color/B&W Panel along the right side of the Lightroom Develop interface.
Click on the left facing triangle to twirl it open.
The top section of the Split Toning panel contains sliders and a color picker. These controls can be used to adjust the hue and saturation of the image highlights. Another set of these same controls appear in the bottom part of the panel; the lower controls can be used to adjust the hue and saturation of the shadows.
You can add tones to your photo either in the highlights or the shadows by either working with the color picker, using the Hue/Saturation sliders or typing in a number in the box.
There’s also a balance slider in the center of the panel. This slider allows you to change how much of the scene Lightroom considers highlights and how much it considers shadows. If you move the slider to the left, there will be more shadows in the image; if you move it to the right there will be more highlights.
Looking at the Split Toning Panel, it would seem to be a pretty easy task to start applying tones to your image highlights and shadows. And it generally is as long as you keep one little trick in mind.
If you decide to choose the colors for toning using either the Hue slider or the numerical box, you could quickly become frustrated because no matter how much you move the slider or what number you input into the box, your image won’t change as long as the Saturation value is zero.
There are two ways to get around this issue:
Press and hold the Option key (the ALT key on a PC) as you move the Hue slider. This will temporarily bump the Saturation up to 100% and let you preview the tint color you are selecting.
This is my preferred approach since I find the 100% Saturation option above a bit distracting. I just make a point of pushing the Saturation slider up a bit to about 30-40 before moving the Hue slider.
Once you’ve converted your photo to Black and white, you can use the Split Toning panel to create a Sepia tone image.
In the classic Sepia tone darkroom process, color is only added to the image shadows. So to reproduce this in Lightroom, use a single tone effect leaving both the Hue and Saturation of the Highlights section set to zero. Then in the Shadow section, use a Hue value of between 45 and 50 and then work with the Saturation slider and Balance Slider until you have the look you like.
I like to add a little vignetting to my toned images. To do that, go down to the Effects panel and move the Slider under Post Crop Vignetting. Moving the slider to the right lightens the edges of your photo; going to the left produces dark edges. For this example, I’ll add a dark vignette.
To create a Split Toned image, start with the black and white version of our photo. Then add Hue and Saturation values to both the Highlights and Shadow sections of the Split Toning panel until you get a look you like. And don’t forget to add in Saturation before Hue so that you can preview the tint that you’re using.
So, really, the process is very straightforward. The trick can be to find hue combinations that work.
Here are a couple of suggestions:
I have found that Highlight toning often (although not always) works best when you use a warm color. So try using a Highlight Hue value that’s below 100 or above 310.
Complementary colors–those on opposite sides of the color wheel–work well together and can give your image both a vibrance and a sense of balance. So after choosing the Highlight Hue, add the complementary color as the Shadow Hue.
To find the complement of a color, add 180 to the Hue value and if that number is greater than 360, subtract 360.
For example, if you use a Hue value of 70 for Highlights, try a Hue of 250 for Shadows:
Or if you use a Hue value of 330 for Highlights, try a Hue of 150 for Shadows:
Since 510 is greater than 360, we'll set the shadow hue to 510-360 =150
With either of these examples, a post crop vignette can add a nice finishing touch:
We’ve been working through converting a photo to a black and white split toned image using Lightroom.
This conversion can also be done in Photoshop. In fact, the same tools that are available through the Lightroom Develop module are also available in Photoshop via the Camera Raw Filter. And the process in Photoshop is almost identical as in Lightroom.
There’s really only one additional step that you’ll need to take in Photoshop and that’s to convert the image to a Smart Object before opening the Camera Raw Filter. Converting the image to a Smart Object lets us use the Camera Raw as a Smart Filter, meaning that you can re-edit the Camera Raw settings at any time in the future.
You can convert an image to a Smart Object in a couple of different ways:
If the image isn’t yet open in Photoshop, you can open it as a Smart Object by choosing File>Open as Smart Object from the top menu bar.
If the image is already open, right-click on the image layer and choose Convert to Smart Object from the drop down menu.
With the image converted to a Smart Object, we can now move into the Camera Raw Smart filter. Open the Camera Raw Smart Filter by Selecting Filter>Camera Raw Filter…
The Camera Raw Filter will open. And if you starting poking around in it, you’ll notice that it has all the same tools that we used to apply a Split Toned effect in Lightroom. So we can apply the same process we used in Lightroom here in Photoshop.
If you would like to learn more about some of the effects we've done here–converting to black and white, split toning, and vignetting–check out the video below from Julieanne Kost, Adobe Digital Imaging Evangelist.
So there you go! Split toning in Lightroom and Photoshop!
See you all next time!
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