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Stark black-and-white images seldom look their best. Even the most beautiful and famous black-and-white images aren't simply black, white, and grayscale. Most every beautiful black-and-white image you see has at least one color or tone in it. A color tone can increase the tonal range of a grayscale image and give it depth and life. I am going to show you a very easy way to add a color tone on top of a black-and-white image. Begin by adding a new blank layer, by going to the bottom of your Layers panel and selecting the Create a new layer icon.
Next, we will go to our color picker and choose whatever kind of tone you'd like on your image. I am going to go with sort of a sepia feel, so I am going to stay in the brown tones. You can always change your tone later, so you can just begin with one and go with it, and I'll stay with this one. Next, we want to fill in our blank layer with Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete. Then you just simply go to your Blend modes, and you can scroll through them to see which one works for you.
Color Dodge is a nice transparent one. Soft Light has a good transparency to it if you bring the Opacity down. Just go through the Blend modes and see which one works for you. I am going to stick with Color Dodge. You can lower your Opacity, play with it and see how you like it, a little more color and little less. I'm going to stay right around 75%. And you can even add more colors to it, tone on tone, a duotone effect, or tri-tone, whichever you decide.
I am going to create another new layer. This time I think I'll go for a little darker tone, maybe bring out some of the contrast. Click OK, Alt+Backspace or Option+Delete to fill, and then go through your Blend modes. I am going with Soft Light this time. It has the darker darks in it. And I'm going to bring the Opacity down to about 50% or so. You can see there is quite a difference from our first color.
It brought some deeper tones into it and gave it some life. I'm going to zoom out. Let's look at our original black-and-white, and here we are with our quick duotone effect. Black-and-white images can be very flat and uninspiring, or they can be incredibly beautiful. That beauty is usually achieved through depth and tone. Adding a little discrete color to a black-and-white image can make a world of difference.
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