Breathtaking Split Toning Effect

This dramatic effect is an ideal alternative to black and white. Instead of being pure black and white, split toning creates a multicolor toning effect where the shadows and highlights are of two different colors. This effect, which was a popular film developing method, can now be done digitally in minutes. Find out how to make your photos look breathtaking with this classic split toning effect.

Sample PSD (Photoshop Document)

Before you begin

The split toning effect can be done much faster with the latest version of ACR (Adobe Camera RAW), Adobe Lightroom, and possibly Apple Aperture – please confirm this with me in the comments if you know.This Photoshop tutorial is meant as a solution in case you do not have any of those options. For example, editing a JPEG file with Photoshop.

Split Toning Photoshop Tutorial

Step 1

As usual, begin by opening a photo into Photoshop. If this is your first time following this tutorial, use a close up portrait photo. This split toning Photoshop effect works well with portraits but not very well with landscapes.

Portrait inside Photoshop

Step 2

First, if you didn’t open a black and white photo, you need to convert the image to black and white. There are many ways of doing this but the easiest method with Photoshop CS3 is to add a Black & White adjustment layer. If you’re using an older version of Photoshop, you can also use:

  • Hue/Saturation
    This method is for beginners. Simply set the saturation to -100 and click OK. If you want to be more precise, you can also go into each color and adjust the brightness.
  • Channel Mixer
    This method is for the more advance Photoshop user who understands how to use the Channel Mixer to create a black and white photo.

In the layers palette, click on the new adjustment layer button and select the method you want to use to convert your photo to black and white.


I’m using Photoshop CS3 so I chose to use the Black & White tool to make my color photo black and white. Here, I adjusted the settings to create the best tonal information. There isn’t one setting that will work with every photo – you’ll have to adjust the settings yourself.


Step 3

Now that our images are black and white, we’ll add a color balance adjustment layer. This adjustment layer is the key layer that will create the split toning effect. Go ahead and add a color balance adjustment layer.


Inside the color balance tool, you can see that you can modify the shadows, midtones, and highlights. We will be working with only the shadows and highlights. What we’re going to do with this tool is alter the color balance of the shadows and highlights so that it creates a color tint.

First, toggle the highlight option and use the settings below. Your image should have a warm tint.


Now, select toggle the shadows and use the settings below. This will add a cool tint that will create a balance with the warm tint that we applied previously.


You can play around with the settings to achieve different color results but leave the settings alone if this is your first time following this Photoshop tutorial. Below is what the image looks like after applying the color balance adjustment layer. It has the split toning effect, but it might not be the colors that we want. In the next step, we’ll use the Hue/Saturation tool to modify the colors.


Step 4

Add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. With this layer, we can alter the hue of both the colors and adjust the saturation.


In the Hue/Saturation tool, adjust the hue to get the color effect that you like. Below is the settings I used to create a warmer and slightly more vivid effect.


Step 5

Finally, you can decide to add more contrast. This step is optional, but you will find that many times, the split toning effect will make your image look a little dull. You can add a brightness/contrast adjustment layer to enhance the contrast.

If you’re using Photoshop CS3, add a brightness/contrast adjustment layer. It has been greatly improved from the previous version of Photoshop. If you’re using Photoshop CS2 or older, add a levels adjustment layer instead.


With the brightness/contrast tool, you can simply adjust the contrast input slider to enhance the contrast. If you’re using the Levels tool, move the left and right input sliders towards the middle to increase the contrast.


Here’s a comparison of the color image, black and white, and split toning. As you can see, the split toning is like a step between a color photo and a black and white photo. It is a beautiful effect for portraits and more and more photographers are using this.



  1. kalyani February 19, 2012
  2. split urlaub January 30, 2012
  3. Kurumsal Kimlik January 8, 2012
  4. Hayashi December 31, 2011
  5. shawon July 20, 2011
  6. shahzad March 6, 2011
  7. Susan Ward March 6, 2011
  8. Lai November 25, 2010
  9. croondevil November 21, 2010
  10. Alexandru Vita November 4, 2010

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