Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Split toning, part of Photoshop: Raw Workshop (2013).
If you were to just randomly stumble upon the split toning controls in Adobe Camera Raw and apply them to an image you might not think they were all that worthwhile for most photographs or maybe not for any photographs. Let me show you what I mean and then I'll show you exactly how I do use split toning in certain situations. You can see that split toning provides controls for highlights and shadows and specifically color controls. We can essentially add individual color tints to the highlights versus the shadows in an image. To get started though, we need to increase saturation for the color. So the first step is to increase saturation for highlights or shadows or both.
I'll go ahead and increase significantly the saturation for both Highlights and Shadows, so that we get an exaggerated effect. You can probably already see why many photographers might think these are not the most useful controls in the world. I'll then shift the hue, so I'll take the hue for the highlights into a sort of greenish tone, and I'll take the hue for the shadows into a magenta tone. I'll increase the saturation for shadows a just little bit so we can see that color better. And of course, I've really just made the image look even worse.
But the point here is just to illustrate that we have a green tint in the highlights and a magenta tint in the shadows. I can of course reduce the overall saturation if I want to tone down the effect. But let's also take a look at the balance slider. We can shift the balance between highlights and shadows. In other words, at what tonal value do we define the separation between the bright areas and the dark areas in the image. Or, put more clearly, how do we want to balance the green versus magenta? If I drag over toward the left, more of the image will be considered shadow areas, and therefore, we'll see more magenta.
If I drag over toward the right, more of the image will be considered highlight areas and so we'll see more green in the image. But we're still not producing a very good effect are we? And that's because, in most cases, I think you'll find that the split toning effect is better used for black and white images, not color images. So, I'll go ahead and switch to the HSL grayscale tab, and then I'll turn on the convert to grayscale check box. You can already see a somewhat interesting improvement in the photo. Then I'll go back to split toning, and of course I'll tone down the saturation for both highlights and shadows because in most cases we want a relatively subtle effect in the image.
I'll then, in this case, maybe shift toward a cyan or blue type of a tone for the highlights so that we get kind of a cool appearance in the sky. And maybe I'll take the shadows to more of a kind of sepia tone type of effect, maybe a slightly warmer sepia tone. A little bit of a perhaps slightly orangish value. I can also shift the split. And in this case I want to take the value over toward the left just a little bit so I get some more of that sepia kind of effect. And just so we can see a little more clearly what's going on, I'll adjust the saturation for our shadows, but ultimately I will typically use a relatively low value for saturation. I'll even bring the saturation down for the highlights a little bit there. And really I'm trying to get what is essentially a black and white image but with a little hint of color.
In some cases, I might use the same color for both the highlights and the shadows. For example, creating a sepia effect all over the image. In other cases, I might use a warm color for the highlights and a cooler color for the shadows, just to enhance the mood of those areas of the image. But the point is that with a black and white image or a grayscale conversion, we can actually produce a very nice and interesting artistic effect by utilizing split toning. So it tends not to work all that well with most color images, although certainly you can create a variety of very cool creative effects when applying split toning to color images.
But more often than not, I consider it an effect to be applied to a black and white image. But as you can see the basic concept is rather straightforward. We can add a color tint to our image, but with a different tint for the highlights versus the shadows, and we can even shift the balance between those areas of the image.
- Opening raw captures
- Setting Camera Raw preferences
- Zooming and panning
- Processing multiple images
- Image rotation, cropping, and straightening
- White balance and tonal adjustments
- Sharpening and noise reduction
- Split toning
- Compensating for lens vignetting
- Focused adjustments