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“Toning” And Colorizing Monochrome Images; Expanding The Monochrome Palette:
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This photo was first converted to grayscale and then to duotone (#15). Once duotone was selected the Duotone dialog box appeared and I chose the ink mix for a Tritone (three inks), with black, blue and a neutral gray (#16). The changes happen right on the screen as you work so it’s easy to get just the look you want when working (#17).




If you want to try out some presets, or “canned” duotone, tritone and quadtone combos click on the “Load” button in the dialog box and you’ll get a set of folders with presets you can try out. You might want to rename them so you can identify them next time you visit the folders.

If that were all there was to these nearly infinite combinations of color in duotone you could just stick with Variations or Hue/Saturation but, as with many of the image-editing programs, it’s just the start. After you have selected colors you can then change the “curve” of the color, or how it is laid down in all the tonal areas of the image. Click on the curve box next to the color and you can manipulate the curve at will, changing how ink goes into the various tonal areas. This multiplies the infinite, if you will. And, if you do this on a duplicate layer you can modify it with all the Layers tools at your disposal.

This is very complex, very rewarding and a bit of a Pandora’s box.

Split toning is available in many programs, including Adobe Camera Raw. You can choose different toning effects for highlights and shadows, blue for highlights and sepia for shadows (#18).


“Split toning” is different, though a variant on duotoning, and this involves applying two different color tones to the image, one to the highlight and the other to the shadow areas in the image. This is an old darkroom technique and actually one that comes closest to emulating what chemical toning looks like, since toning involved the attachment of sulphides from the toning bath to silver molecules in the print, with the more silver (more density) getting more colorization than areas of less density.

Split toning is available in Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom and various plug-ins, such as Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro.

Colorizing Techniques
“Colorization” is a wide field of techniques that can involve using a very light wash of color, a patch of color or even a hand-colored oil look to images.

Hand coloring technique removes the original color from the scene then works with a few colors and various size, feathered and opacity-strength brushes in a freehand style. Working with a pen and tablet makes it easier. Here I used green, yellow and magenta only for this colorization, working with various levels of saturation and brush strength as I applied the color wash (#19).


There are numerous programs that allow you to “paint” a monochrome image. Here’s how I do it in Photoshop.

If you are aiming for a hand painted look the first step is to create a color “wash” or foundation that will serve as the undercoating of the image. Usually warm brown, lightly applied, works best. To do this open the monochrome (though RGB mode) image and work in the Hue/Saturation Layer, clicking on “colorize” to have the color applied. Drop or raise the effect using the Opacity slider in the Layers palette to adjust to your liking.

Now choose a few colors from the Color Picker and place one in the foreground color box and then toggle to the background color box. This way you always have two colors on your palette. Start to paint, adjusting the opacity of the color between 10 and 20 percent for each stroke. This creates transparent colors just as if you are applying photo oils to a traditional print. If you need to switch colors just double click one of the color boxes and move on to the next set of colors. If you want to create a duplicate layer for each color set then you can work more carefully throughout.

Low-sat, or low saturation color is a technique that flirts with color but is essentially a black and white image. I find it particularly effective with landscapes, nature and even portraiture. It’s very simple to do. Just open the image in color and then use the HSL (Hue/Saturation/Luminance) adjustments and drop the saturation way down low. If you do this on a layer you can work with opacity and have even more control over the effect.

Florals are particularly beautiful when given the low-sat treatment (#20). You can control the degree of color and which colors will be shown by working with the Hue/Saturation controls found in pretty much every image-editing program.

This coastal scene (#21) was opened in Adobe Camera Raw and then saturation was dropped to about 10 percent. Clarity was also reduced giving it an ethereal look.



This field of geysers was photographed on an overcast day (#22). The two steps performed on this image could be done with almost any image processing program—desaturation, added brightness and reduced contrast.


When used with the right image low-sat has a look that is quite unique and for me is somehow more satisfying than HDR, but that’s a personal opinion of course. This photo has a very small touch of color but the architectural elements do not demand color to be effective (#23).


The wall here was off-white, but when I desaturated the image to about 10 percent the wall became neutral white while the implements retained a brown tone, looking like I had toned only the tools (#24).


Touch O’ Color
Using layers it’s easy to mix color and black and white in the same image. Start with a color shot and create a layer on which you either reduce saturation or turn it into black and white entirely. Then use a Layer Mask to paint down through the top layer to reveal what is underneath.

This color image was desaturated on a duplicate layer, then I used a Layer Mask and brushed back to reveal the yellow signs (#25).


I was attracted to the light coming through the dirty windows in this train station and decided to remove color from everywhere in the frame except the train and platform kiosk (#26). To me, desaturation works great with architecture, but a touch of color in the frame can add to the visual appeal.


While images of fall foliage often are tempting subjects for increased saturation, here all the color was removed on a duplicate layer, and then a Layer Mask brush was used at very low intensity to bring back a touch of color to what in the original are brilliant fall leaves (#27).


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