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How To: Split Tone

Split toning is the process of changing the tones of the bright and dark parts of an image into two different colors. It was originally performed in a darkroom using chemicals. Now days, the effect is performed digitally. It's usually applied to greyscale images for artistic effect, but the same process can also be applied to color images as one approach to color grading.

There are multiple ways to perform split toning using Phoduit, but the process below is very flexible and makes it easy for you to find a pleasing look. You can follow along or download the template at the bottom to start split toning your images immediately.

You should already be familiar with the basics of Phoduit before continuing. If you've never used Phoduit before, consider reading through the getting started page.

The first thing you need to do is convert your image to the Linear ProPhoto color space which makes it much easier to fine tune the split toning effect. If you're working with a PNG, JPEG or TIFF image, using the Image Open node, just change the Color Profile field to Linear ProPhoto. If you're working with a raw image, perform white balance, demosiac, etc. as usual and then insert a Color Profile node and change the Output Color Profile field to Linear ProPhoto.

Change Color Profile to Linear ProPhoto

The next thing you need to do is convert your image to greyscale. This can be done using the Greyscale node. Click the Color button at the top and select Greyscale from the list. Then, insert the node into your graph. You can change the Type field to change how the colors in your image are converted to greyscale. Each type uses a different method to determine which parts of your image are bright and which are dark. This will affect where the two colors will stand out in your final image.

Insert a Greyscale node

Insert a Levels node, followed by an Invert node, after your Greyscale node. Both can be found under the Color button at the top. They are used as masks to define how your tones are split to be either one color or the other. How to use these nodes will be covered at the end when the graph is all setup.

Insert a Levels node and an Invert node

Add two Solid Color nodes from the Input button at the top. Connect the output of the Levels node to the input of each Solid Color node so that they produce images with the same size as the image you are split toning. These nodes are used for selecting the colors you want to apply to the tones in your image.

Insert two Solid Color nodes

Next, it's time to tie all of these nodes together using a Blend node. Add a Blend node by clicking the Composite button at the top and selecting Blend. This part can be tricky if you've never used the Blend node before. Use the image below as your guide.

  • Connect the output of the Greyscale node to the Destination field on the Blend node.
  • Connect the output Image field of the Blend node to the Render node.
  • Connect the output of one of the Solid Color nodes to the Add Source field on the Blend node and then do the same for the other Solid Color node.
  • Connect the output of the Invert node to the lower Mask field on the Blend node.
  • Connect the output of the Levels node to the upper Mask field on the Blend node.

Insert and connect a Blend node

Finally, change both Mode fields on the Blend node from Normal to Overlay. The Overlay blend mode allows the greyscale image's texture to show through. Leaving this set to Normal would make the resulting image look like a flat cut-out.

Change blend modes to Overlay

Phew! Your split toning graph is complete! If you're new to Phoduit, this may have taken some time. As you become more familiar, you'll find that a graph like this can be setup in just a few seconds by reasoning about the effect you want to achieve.

Now to make use of your graph. Your image probably looks over brightened at the moment. Correct it by clicking the white button next to where it says Color on one of the Solid Color nodes and then selecting a color using the pop-up color selector. Then do the same for the other Solid Color node. The Solid Color node connected to the top Source field on the Blend node is applied to the brighter tones and the other Solid Color node is applied to darker tones. It's up to you to decide which colors to select but try starting with complementary colors like red and blue which are pleasing to look at.

Select a different color in each Solid Color node

There are two ways to control how much the two colors stand out. The first is to adjust the Opacity fields on the Blend node. This method lets you adjust how much each color stands out individually.

The second is to adjust the Gamma field on the Levels node. This method actually controls how the tones are split by defining which tones are bright and which are dark. It works best when Gamma is set somewhere between 0.5 and 1.5.

That's all it takes! Just experiment to find what colors work best for your image. If you want to skip the graph building part, feel free to download this template. Simply open it up with Phoduit, click Select Image File on the Image Open node on the far left, select your image and then start split toning.

Was this helpful? Have you created your own split tone image? Let us know by posting a comment below or by sending us a tweet at @Phoduit!

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