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Get the moody monochrome look in Affinity Photo: split toning explained

Affinity Photo split toning
(Image credit: James Paterson)

There are several ways to convert to monochrome in Affinity Photo, but the two most useful methods both offer crucial control over the brightness of different colours during the conversion. One of these is the Black & White adjustment layer, which is found within the Photo Persona. The other is the Black & White panel within the Develop Persona. Both offer a similar set of colour sliders that let you fine-tune the look of the black and white by, say, darkening a blue sky or lightening foliage. 

Here we’ve used the Develop Persona (which can be used for Raws and JPEGs). The controls allow us to lower the brightness of the blown-out lights in the scene, revealing detail and balancing out tones.

Of course, converting to mono is often only the starting point for a range of other edits. Initially, black-and-white images can look a little flat, so we’ll go on to boost contrast here with Curves

Black-and-white images also offer the chance for selective lightening and darkening (often to a greater degree than the colour versions), so we can dodge and burn parts of the scene to balance the dark foreground with the brighter sky.

We do this using the Develop Persona’s Overlays – the best tool for selective adjustments. Finally, we can add a colour toning effect. We created a warm tone using the Develop Persona’s Split Toning controls.

Read more: Affinity Photo 1.8 review

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Step 1: Convert to mono

To view a full-size version of any of these screenshots, click the gadget in the top right corner. (Image credit: James Paterson)

We open the image then click on the Develop Persona at the top left. Next, we go to the Tones tab on the right and check Black & White. The sliders here let us alter the brightness of the different colour ranges in the picture. We drag the Yellows slider to the left to darken down the bright lights.

Step 2: Tweak white balance

(Image credit: James Paterson)

The conversion is based on the colour information in the photograph, so we can affect the general look of things by altering the other colour settings in the Develop Persona. We click on the Basic tab, then go to the white balance settings and experiment with Temperature, Tint and Saturation to tweak the conversion.

Step 3: Use Curves for contrast

(Image credit: James Paterson)

Next, we click the Tones tab again and check Curves, then drag the curve line upwards near the top and downwards near the bottom to make an S-shaped curve that boosts contrast. At this stage, if you like, you can click the Preset dropdown at the top to make a new preset so you can use the same settings on other images.

Step 4: Darken the sky

(Image credit: James Paterson)

The sky is looking too bright, so we grab the Gradient Overlay tool from the toolbar, then click-and-drag downwards from the top of the frame towards the middle. Once done, we click the Basic tab and drag Exposure downwards to darken the sky.

Step 5: Lift the foreground

(Image credit: James Paterson)

Sometimes a second gradient to darken the very top of the sky can be effective, so we go to the Overlays tab and click the Gradient tool, then make another gradient. Next, we grab the Brush overlay tool, paint over the water, then use the Basic panel sliders to lighten the area slightly.

Step 6: Try split toning

(Image credit: James Paterson)

For this, we go to the Overlays tab and highlight the Master Overlay, then go to the Tones tab and check Split Toning. We can drag the Highlights Hue to yellow and use the Saturation slider below to control the strength of the colour. Similarly, we can add a red hue to the shadows, then use the Balance slider to control the split.

Quick Tip

Using a Black & White adjustment layer in combination with certain layer blend modes can give us some very interesting tonal effects to our photograph. By first of all adding a Black & White adjustment layer, then changing the blend mode to Overlay, we can get a rather fun grungy high-contrast look. Of course, we can still fine-tune the effect by altering the colour range sliders within the Black & White settings. The Luminosity blend mode is another one to try out – it keeps the original image in colour, but lets you alter the luminance of the different colour ranges.

About N-Photo magazine

This tutorial originally appeared in N-Photo, the monthly newsstand magazine for Nikon photographers. Why not subscribe to a print edition, and have the magazine delivered direct to your door every month?

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