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Adding a split tone to transform the mood of a black and white image

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Toning is a powerful creative tool. It corrects overall brightness and contrast for a better-balanced image. It can be used to get the right tonal harmony for your photo or create a beautiful split-tone effect by changing the color of the highlights and shadows of the image.

These effects have been used for years in Hollywood to color grade film. Photographers started using the same effect for their photos.

But did you know you can also use this powerful creative tool for black and white photos, too? Here’s how to add a split tone to transform the mood of a black and white image.

Step 1: Convert the image to black and white

Using LuminarAI, I find the fastest and easiest way to convert an image to black and white is to select a template. I choose Soulful, which can be found in the Monochrome collection.

Step 2: Apply the Toning tool

The Toning tool is part of the Creative filter set. Let’s start at full strength, then adjust it as needed.

Step 3: Choosing the right tonal colors

You can’t adjust the Hue of the image until you set the Saturation value. I like to start at 50 then adjust it as needed.

Now, scroll through the spectrum of colors to choose the toning of the highlights  — the bright values in a scene. Blues will make the image appear cooler and yellows or gold will make it appear warmer. Once color is selected, use saturation to control the strength of the color.

Now let’s do the same to the shadows or the darkest values in the scene.

You can always experiment by changing the values of the Highlights and Shadows until it’s exactly what you are looking for. You can also adjust the balance between the two colors.

By using the creative Toning tool, we split-tone the image and transformed the mood of a black and white image. You can see how great this looks when applied to a landscape image. Be sure to try it on a portrait and see how it will transform the portrait’s mood.

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Vanelli is a working sports and portrait photographer, educator, and author living in Florida. After a successful career as a three-time, Triple Crown Karate champion, Vanelli turned his attention to teaching the visual arts. As an experienced educator, Vanelli has created videos for LinkedIn Learn, has written hundreds of articles, taught at major photography conferences and has developed many photography and digital workflow programs including Click for Kids. Currently, he is the Director of Education at Skylum Software, teaching workshops, writing for Photofocus and creating tutorials for the Vanelli and Friends series. You can find out more about Vanelli at

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