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Create a split-tone effect without leaving RGB mode

Added on Thursday 27th of January 2005 12:37 am EST


Adobe Photoshop 7/CS

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


Split-tone images are black-and-white images that are partially toned with subtle color washes. This technique is traditionally done during the photographic development process, but you can mimic it using Photoshop. The effect is subtle and quite elegant, and you can use it to give your photos unique coloring. While you might think these are the same a duotones, they actually produce a more understated look that allows you to continue to work in RGB or CMYK mode, making it easier to edit and integrate with other layers in your composite images.


Set the tone

In this article, we’ll go over the steps used to create the look of a split-tone image. We’ll begin by opening a grayscale image and converting it to RGB mode. Then, we’ll use two color-balance adjustment layers to create our separate tones. From there, we’ll use the Layers palette blending options to combine the tones to create a split-tone effect similar to that shown in Figure A.


Figure A:

Create a split-tone effect using color-balance adjustment layers for fast, elegant color changes.


Open your image

Select an image to work with and open it in Photoshop. We selected the image shown in Figure B. It can be a color image or a grayscale image. If you initially open an RGB image, choose Image > Adjustments > Channel Mixer, select the Monochrome check box in the resulting dialog box, and click OK to make your image grayscale. If it’s already grayscale, change its color mode to RGB. Now, you’re ready to create your split-tone effect.


Figure B:

Open a grayscale image to work with, or convert a color image to grayscale using the Channel Mixer.


Adjust the shadows and midtones

Now, go to the Layers palette and click the Create New Fill Or Adjustment Layer button CREATENEWFILL and select Color Balance from the pop-up menu. If the New Layer dialog box opens, click OK to move on.

First, we’re going to cast a slight sepia tone over the image by adjusting the Shadows and Midtones. Select the Shadows option button in the Tone Balance area. Also, make sure the Preserve Luminosity check box is selected. Then, move the Cyan slider to 11, the Magenta slider to 1, and the Yellow slider to -10, as shown in Figure C. Select the Midtones option button in the Tone Balance area, and then move the Cyan slider to 4, the Magenta slider to -20, and the Yellow slider to -20, as shown in Figure D. Click OK to apply the changes. Your image should now resemble ours shown in Figure E.



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