Digital Sepia Toning in Photoshop

Digital imaging techniques can be used to emulate this stepwise toning process of conventional photography. Adobe Photoshop for the Mac or PC provides excellent controls for achieving a stepwise toned look with black and white digital images. Within a few minutes you can experiment with variations which might take an entire day to do the conventional way. The digital process is consistent, has no finicky wash requirements and does not involve the ecologically harmful chemicals which are used in most toning processes.

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DIGITAL SEPIA TONING TUTORIAL


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If your image is not already in grayscale format, select ‘Mode’ from the menu bar and then select ‘Grayscale’ > ‘Mode’ > ‘Duotone’ to bring up this dialog box. Select Duotine, Tritone or Quadtone in the text window. In this case, I selected Tritone.

SHADOWS


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Click on the 1st curve box to bring up this dialog and shape the curve so that it primarily covers shadow areas. You can drag and drop points on the curve or you can set values in the text entry windows.


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Click on the 1st color swatch to bring up this dialog and use it to select a hue for the shadow areas.

MIDTONES


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Click on the 2nd curve box to bring up this dialog and shape the curve so that it becomes the midtone curve. You can drag and drop points on the midtone curve or you can set values in the text entry windows. A variation for midtone curves is to hold them flat for a very short ways at the highlight end. This is similar to what is shown for the shadow curve above.


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Click on the 2nd color swatch to bring up this dialog and use it to select a hue for the midtone areas. The color selected for midtones will become the predominant color for the image.

HIGHLIGHTS


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Click on the 3rd curve box to bring up this dialog and shape the curve so that it becomes the highlight curve. As with the shadow and midtone curves, you can drag and drop points on the highlight curve or you can set values in the text entry windows.


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Click on the 3rd color swatch to bring up this dialog and use it to select a hue for the highlight areas.

Once you find a particularly useful set of toning parameters, you can save them for use again on another image. The preview capability makes it easy to adjust curves and try many different color combinations. I usually find that Tritones seem to work nicely. They are a good compromise between complexity and flexibility. The one-to-one color mapping with highlights, midtones and shadows make adjustment more intuitive. Occasionally, you may find it useful to adjust the contrast and brightness of a black and white image before or after toning. Pull a toned reference image onto the screen when you need to create matched sets of toned images.

Toning prints this digital way is so much easier and more flexible. The ease and speed with which a matched set of toned prints can be created will be greatly appreciated by those who have struggled with creating consistent results the conventional way.