Split toning for a tinting effect in Lightroom

One thing I have always loved is a split toned wedding image. I have never been a huge fan of a traditional sepia photo, for whatever reason true sepia images just don’t fit my style. They remind me of an old western image and for me they don’t work. But changing the tone a little bit to be a warm/cool split tone, the image takes on a very different feel and I love these types of toned shots. Split toning is basically a way of toning your image in two different tones so you have the highlight area a certain tone and the shadows another tone. You can use this method for really any type of tones you would like but one of the most popular types of split toning is a warm brown tone with underlying cold bluish tones. This gives a very subtle contrast with the image and I think can create a very dramatic shot because of that extra contrast.

I used to use Photoshop for split toning and do have a nice little Photoshop action I will share later this week along with another set of free Lightroom Presets for different types of split toned images.
Lightroom makes it much easier for split toning since they have a split tone setting built right into Lightroom. Here are the steps to create a split toned image in Lightroom:

1) First start out my converting the image to Black and White using the Greyscale Mixer. Adjust the exposure settings and curves to get a good Black and White image.

2) Right below the greyscale settings is the split toning section. This has 2 section the top one is for Hightlights and the bottom one is for shadows.

3) Starting with the highlights slide the saturation slider all the way to the right. This will give you a better idea to what color tint the highlights will be. Move the Highlight Hue slider until you get to the color you want for the highlights. In my opinion for a good medium tone split tone image i’ll set this to 34. Then slide the saturation level all the way down.

4) Next do the same thing for the shadows sliders. Another good starting point for my taste is setting the color to 83.

5) Finally slide the saturation sliders for the highlights until you get the effect you want. I will usually use around 40 for the Highlights and 19 for the shadows. It’s always different for each image and sometimes I want a lighter or deeper split toned look so it really depends on the image. Play around with the different sliders and have fun! The more saturation the more tint the image will get.

I do have some presets for split toning that I use and will share those later on in the week, so don’t forget to check back. You can also sign up for our email updates to the top right of the page where it says “Sign up for our free photography tips & inspiration!”

If you have a way of split toning or some great samples of split toned images, share them in the comments below or on our FaceBook page.

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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  1. Very useful step-by-step instructions for using the the split tone feature in Lightroom!

  2. Thanks Lloyd, I am glad you enjoyed it!

    — Mark

  3. Nice tip, very useful along with the step by step tutorial. Although you failed to mention the balance slider which deals with the amount of dominance in the highlights and the shadows color cast, you slide to the right to give more effect on the highlights and slide it ti the right to give more effect to the shadows, using the balance slider can help you to deal with the amount of saturation that is applied without constantly changing the saturation values.

    Try 51° hue and 40 saturation in the highlights and 260° hue and 30 saturation on the shadows with a balance of 40 to 60, it gives a nice warm purple tint I love.



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