Split Toning Using Curves in Photoshop

Split Toning using Curves in Photoshop - Christie studio demo shot with toningIn an earlier post we’ve already looked at split toning using Lightroom. Here we will see how easy it is to tone and split tone an image in Photoshop using curves. When using curves adjustment layers it can be easy to forget that we can manipulate the individual Red, Green and Blue channels as well as the combined RGB. These individual channels give us the possibility of toning an image quickly and easily.

Split toning using curves is as simple as choosing a channel and dragging a curve. It can easily be undone or altered and of course its overall effect can be adjusted using the opacity slider as well. The demonstration image that you can see here has been toned with blue in the shadows and some yellow in the highlights. It also has a small amount of magenta added in the shadows to make a the blue slightly purple. Finally, the Red channel has some green added in the highlights to stop the skin from looking too warm.

One big advantage that you get when split toning using curves in Photoshop as opposed to the sliders in Lightroom is that you can refine in much more detail what the effect is applied to. You can use multiple points on the curve if you want to restrict the tone to a smaller group of tones. Or, for example, you could mask areas out or use the Blend If sliders to limit the range of tones affected by the added colour.

The video below shows you how easy it can be to add colour toning to your image. You can use the various individual channels within one curves adjustment layer or you could use multiple layers if you prefer. If you are a little unsure about how to use the Red, Green and Blue curves then just think of your colour temperature sliders. The opposite of Blue in colour temperature is Yellow. So, if you take the Blue curve down you get less blue and more yellow. Similarly, the Red will give you cyan and the Green will give you magenta.

Split toning using curves is a technique that is often used to create a kind of cinematic toning. You can also achieve classic looks such as Sepia and Cross-Processing. If you find you use similar settings regularly then you can always save your toning curve as a preset in the drop down menu or as an action if you prefer.

Here is the full tutorial video showing this technique in action:


© Joe Lenton, December 2017

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