Split toning in Photoshop: get a two-tone effect without all the chemicals

Split toning in Photoshop

Split toning in Photoshop

In the traditional darkroom, split tone effects are applied to images using a combination of chemicals to tint different tonal areas, such as the shadows or the highlights. This effect can be recreated in the digital darkroom by using this very simple method for split toning in Photoshop. It’s a great way to add a creative edge to black-and-white photos!

Unlike conventional tints, such as sepia, split toning targets specific areas of tone, such as the highlights or shadows, and tints them with different colours.

This means that you can produce an eye-catching two-tone effect that gives your images an artistic twist. Here, we’ll show you how to use the powerful tools in your Adobe Camera Raw editor for split toning in Photoshop in just 6 easy steps.

Remember that not all images will work well with this split toning effect – some are much more suited to it than others. We found that this striking shot of modern architecture came out a treat, so read on to find out how we did it.

Split toning in Photoshop CS3 or higher


Split toning in Photoshop: step 1

Step 1 Convert to greyscale
We open the image in Photoshop’s Adobe Camera Raw editor. Next, we click on the HSL/Greyscale tab and check the Convert to Greyscale box. To tweak the mono tones, we use the various colour sliders; for this image, we set the Blue slider to -20 to darken the shot’s blue sky.

Split toning in Photoshop: step 2

Step 2 Split the tones
Now, we click on the Split Toning tab and set the Highlights Hue slider to around +70 and Saturation to +35, followed by the Shadows Hue slider to +230 and Saturation to 50. This will create a split-tone effect with a yellowish tint in the highlights and a blueish tint in the shadow areas. We set Balance to +35.

Split toning in Photoshop: step 3

Step 3 Tweak the effect
To adjust the effect, we click on the Basic tab and use the sliders there to tweak the tones and contrast of the shot. We opt for Blacks at +17, Brightness at +25, Contrast at +50 and Clarity at +40. These settings will boost the shot’s overall tones, contrast and sharpness.

Split toning in Photoshop: step 4

Step 4 Add a vignette
With the shot’s colours calibrated, it’s time to add a vignette, which will darken the four corners of the scene and help to draw the viewer’s eye into the image. To do this, click on the Lens Corrections tab and drag the Lens Vignetting Amount slider back so that its value is around -50.

Split toning in Photoshop: step 5

Step 5 Add some blur
All done, we click on Open Image. We create a duplicate layer, then go to Filter>Blur>GaussianBlur and set Radius to 80 pixels. Changing the layer Blending Mode to Soft Light and reducing the layer Opacity to 30% boosts the contrast and gives the shot a subtle diffused look.

Split toning in Photoshop: step 6

Step 6 Dodge and Burn
To finish off, we create a Curves Adjustment Layer to fine-tune the tones and a Colour Balance Adjustment Layer to tweak the colours. Finally, we click on the bottom layer in the layer stack and then select the Dodge and Burn tools from the Tools palette to darken and lighten areas of the scene selectively.


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