Split toning refers to the process of tinting the highlights of an image in one color and the shadows in another. In the days of film, it was often applied to black and white images, but it can be applied to color images, as well.
One of the most common applications of split toning is to tint the highlights with a warm color (yellow) and apply the opposite, a cooler color (blue), to the shadows. The steps are pretty simple, but I’ve also included a downloadable preset at the end of this post that you can download to get started.
In Lightroom, open up your image of choice and head in to the Develop module.
In order to see the effect of split toning most clearly, it helps to play with it on a black and white image, so under Treatment at the top of the Develop options, click Black & White.
Now, slide down to the Split Toning section. It may be collapsed if you haven’t used it, so click on the triangle top open it up. You will see two similar sets of options, one for Highlights and one for Shadows.
The basic steps are to first select the color you want to use for the Highlights or Shadows, and then select the level of saturation, which determines the level of tinting that is applied. Depending on your image and the colors you are using, you may find that you need to increase the saturation of either (or both) the Highlights or the Shadows to actually see the effect. Finally, you can adjust the Balance slider to more heavily lean the adjustment one way or the other.
The reason I recommended to first convert to black and white is because it makes it easier to see the effect when you don’t have all the other colors in the image. As you can see in the image below, I’ve warmed up the highlights using a yellow hue, and cooled the shadows using a blue hue, and I adjusted the saturation of each until I saw those colors in the image. I typically start out at 50 for both the Highlights and the Shadows, and adjusted the values from there.
Once you can see the effect in the image, switch back to the color version of the image, and you’ll see the Split Toning applied to the color image.
Below are side-by-side , the original image on the left and the split tone version on the right. I typically apply the effect subtlety, but you can see the cooler tone of the fence, and the warmer tone on the skin and shirt. The final image also has a mild vignette and some clarity applied, as well.
Use the button below to download the Lightroom preset. It includes the yellow/blue split tone, as well as a little clarity and a slight vignette. I’d recommend just using it as a starting point, because different images react differently to the colors and saturation levels in the preset. I have a few different levels of saturation in different presets so that I can use whichever one is closest to where I want to be with the final image, and then just adjust from there.
[tweegi-button name=”LRFanatic Split Tone Yellow Blue Preset”]