In this tutorial we are going to look at split toning in Lightroom. Split toning can be a great way to add a unique look to your images, it basically works by adding specific colours to the highlight and shadow areas of your image.
It can work equally well with either colour or black and white images, we’re going to look at both methods in this tutorial. I’m working in Lightroom 5, but everything outlined in this article will work equally well in Lightroom 4.
Split toning a colour image
For the colour example I’m going to use a shot I took at sunset in Thailand, whilst it’s a good shot in its own right, I want a warmer and more vibrant/tropical feel to it, split toning is a great way of achieving this, below is the original shot.
Here’s how the image looks with split toning applied in Lightroom.
Let’s look at how I achieved this, firstly you need a colour image present in the Develop module of Lightroom (press D on your keyboard to get there once you’ve selected your shot).
You can do any basic adjustments needed, and then open the dedicated split toning panel, shown below.
Using the split tone controls is super-easy, to choose the colour you want to apply to the highlights or shadow areas of your image you simply drag the Hue slider, then once you’re happy with the colour you adjust the saturation slider to determine how strong that colour is applied.
When you are adjusting the Hue slider, if you hold down the Alt key on your keyboard, you will get a preview of how your chosen colour will look at 100% saturation, so this immediately gives you a very good idea whether a specific colour is going to work well or not.
It is worth noting that the actual colour chosen will not be applied until you increase the Saturation slider, as this is set at 0% as default.
The Balance slider defines how the effect is applied to your image, with more or less emphasis placed on shadows and highlights, it’s best to play around with this slider to get the look you want, there was no need for me to adjust this in the above example.
Split toning a black and white image
You can get some classic effects when working with black and white images, either working with both highlights and shadow colours, or just using the highlight colour, in order to achieve a duotone image. Here are a couple of examples, first here is the original monochrome version:
Split tone adjusted version:
The exact settings used for this version:
Here is another version based on the black and white original, this time I’ve just used the highlight colour, adding a blue hue to create a conventional duotone image.
Here are the exact settings used for this version:
Whilst split toning isn’t something I use an awful lot, it is a great skill to have in your processing tool-kit, you can get some excellent results in rapid fashion with a little practice. If you develop a few split tone styles that you like, then you can save them as presets so you can apply them in the future via a single mouse click.