In the tutorial we are going to look at split toning in Silver Efex Pro 2 from NIK Software. Split toning used to be a film-based technique in the pre-digital photography days, but we now have a number of ways to digitally create artistic split tone images, whilst it’s perfectly possible to crate split tones in Photoshop and Lightroom, but we concentrating on Silver Efex Pro 2, which is a truly fantastic piece of software, and is my favourite choice for monochrome and split tone image-editing and retouching.
Firstly, we need to use a suitable image that will benefit from the split tone aesthetic. In this tutorial I’m using a winter image that I captured in Reculver, England.
We want to create a moody and powerful image that will suit the split tone effect, this is the final image that we will be working to achieve:
The first thing we need to do is open Silver Efex Pro to create the black and white image we are going to use a base. Below is the monochrome image shown as when first opened in Silver Efex Pro, as you can see it looks rather flat and dull.
On the left hand side of the Silver Efex Pro workspace there a number of preset black and white conversions you can use, but we want more control for this image, so I’m going to use the primary controls on the top right. We want to give a big boost to the structural contrast of the image. To do this I boosted the structural slider on the top right to 54%, it’s best not to push this too far as the image can start to get too noisy. Then I boosted the contrast slider to 29%. You can see the results of these adjustments below, we now have more dynamic image on which to base our split tone upon:
Creating the split tone
We then move on to adding the split tone, to do this we look down the right-hand side again to a panel called finishing adjustments, and then to the toning sections within. I selected the third toning colour option (green), below is how our image looks after these selections:
For my taste the default strength of the tone is a little too strong, so I reduced the strength slider down to 49%, brought the silver toning slider down to 49%, and finally reduced the balance slider to 46%. You can play around with these sliders to get the aesthetic you want, but in this case I just wanted to make the toning effect a touch more subtle. Below you can see the results of these further adjustments, the green tone is now less saturated:
Adding the vignette
To complete the look, and give the image a little more atmosphere, I’m going to add a custom vignette to the image. The vignetting panel is again located in the finishing adjustments section of Silver Efex Pro. First select the custom option, then adjust to suit your particular image. In this case I chose a size of 58% and set the amount to -42%. You can also adjust the vignette shape to be circular or rectangular in shape (or somewhere in between), for this shot I adjusted towards the rectangular end of things, simply as it best suits the composition of my chosen image. Let’s look at the resulting vignette:
And that completes our tutorial on split toning in Silver Efex Pro, let’s look again at our final image:
Hopefully this tutorial illustrates the power of Silver Efex Pro, it’s super-easy to use, it really takes no time at all to create striking looking monochrome or split tone images. We will also be looking at split-toning in Photoshop and Lightroom in separate tutorials.
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