Home The Basics Toning black & white so that it is pretty ...
Toning black & white so that it is pretty ...

Last update:  12-31-1969

Submitted by roger_ele

A quick easy way to tone black & white that is pretty plus a cross toning technique. Done in Photoshop 7, but should apply to most programs and versions.

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OK, we have a black and white image we like and we want to add an overall color (toning). Black & white when printed and toned in traditional darkroom techniques gives a result that I really like and blows away toned photos in Photoshop because the light areas and mid-tones don't get very much color (it is coloring the silver portion of the image not the paper base). What we are going to do to improve on digital toning is to remove the coloring affect from the light areas and mid tones as follows ...

To start, here is a side-by-side of what we will be doing ...

Toning so that it is pretty ...

Select the Background layer and press control-alt-~ ('~' pronounced tilde is to the left of the 1 key on the keyboard) or the equivilent on the Mac to select the luminosity (brightness information) of the image.

Create a new solid color adjustment layer. Pick a medium brown color...

Click OK, the selection will automatically fill the associated mask. Change the blending mode to color (top of the layers window - says normal before being changed) and then press Control I to invert the created mask so that the light areas don't take the color and the dark areas do ...

Toned, Toned with mask and Layers window:

You can change the brightness of your mask, with the the same brown Solid Color adjustment layer selected type Control-L to bring up Levels, play with the triangle sliders and watch how the mask on the adjustment layer changes and how it changes the color in your photo. In this case darken it a little by moving the middle triangle to the right some.

Now for more fun lets add a cross tone / duotone affect to exagerate the difference in color between the lighter and darker areas.

Select the background, type control-alt-~ again to select the luminosity, now create a new Solid Color adjustment layer, pick a very subtle almost grey blue or grey violet color, Click OK and change the blend mode to Color. Type control-I to Invert the mask. With this layer still selected type control-L to bring up levels - slide the middle tringle to the left some to lighten the mask.

Your final photo and layers window should look something like this ...

How this works -

Color blending mode only uses the color information from the Solid Color layer, the mask hides the color more where darker and less where lighter. The light cool-grey layer under the brown layer affects the lighter areas more, but is hidden where the top layer changes the color to brown. In both of the Solid Color adjustment layers the whites are protected from coloring by the masks so the final photo maintains a clean look.

Hope you like this technique as much as I do, Roger