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Split Toning with Lightroom2

The often overlooked split tone adjustment tab could be just what you were looking for. Sure split toned black and whites can look nice, especially when used sparingly, but I have to say that i find split tone adjustments in Lightroom/ACR far more useful for creating unique color looks and simulating film stocks.

Although the adjustments are pretty simple there are a few key points to take note of that will having you wielding these adjustments like a seasoned pro.

- Split toning does not effect pure (255) whites or pure (0) blacks.
This is often most challenging in images with bright highlights, especially in a near blown out area of skin tone.
From my experience, if you want a heavily toned highlight you’ll be better off reducing exposure slightly which will decrease contrast a bit. If you want you’re bright highlights back without loosing your color, a curve in photoshop will do the trick. Of course you could also just leave exposure alone and just do your toning in photoshop but the toning process is not quite as flexible non-raw files.

- Adding a split tone to a color image will decrease global saturation. Shifting color schemes to more analogous like palettes and increasing local saturation. If you need some of you’re original color back and don’t want to spoil your new look use split tones in combination with the vibrance slider. ( read all about using the vibrance adjustments here )  Although I find that the reduction in palette is most often quite nic and has a rich filmic look.

- Low saturations make it difficult to judge the hue you’re toning with.
Yes it does make a difference.  When selecting a hue hold down the alt/option key which will show you the full saturation of the color you’re choosing.
-If you’re trying to get a better feel for how you’re color will effect the image. Select the color box right above the hue slider. This will allow you to see your adjustments in real time and to experiment with more subtle tones.

- Its easy to be lazy and leave the balance slider at 0.
You can achieve a more fine tuned result by checking the distribution of highlight vs shadow tones. When shifting highlights warm for example you would want, in most cases, to set balance to the right to warm the image overall.


you can see how the balance slider controls the range of tones that are effected.
Balance Shadow
Balance Center
Balance Highlight

In this color test you can see how some colors saturate while others desaturate





Real world examples
After Toning
Before Toning


  1. Martin says:

    Brad Hamilton has some nice split toning examples on his site too.

  2. Great work. Simply stunning work. Love the color palate choices.
    Thanks for inspiring!
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