Advanced Color Toning Made Easy!
Over the years I have shown many ways to color grade your photographs from split toning to solid color overlays and even some unique methods using off the wall blend modes. While each technique has their benefits, they all require a great deal of studying to get perfected results. So, what if I told you there is an easy way to get professional results with your color toning?
While the word advanced usually implies that there will be a certain level of difficulty, this technique is far from challenging. It does require a bit of color theory knowledge and the understanding of the Soft Light blend mode but, it can be done in three straightforward steps:
- Select the Gradient Map
- Change the blend mode to Soft Light (Or Overlay)
- Select two or more colors (us grey to protect specific tones)
That’s it, pretty simple but very effective.
The important thing here is the use of the 50% grey (#808080) to protect the tones you do not want color graded. Soft Light is a unique blend mode that completely disregards the 50% grey tone (it throws it out) and only allows the selected layer to affect the underlying layers if the tones or colors are above or below 50% grey.
That means we can color grade any of our tones while protecting others from being affected at all. Because we are using a Gradient, we get to decide what will be protected and how much of it will be protected.
This technique is incredibly advanced for being as simple as it is, but it does have a slight learning curve. Below you will find 26 gradients that I created for you, an Action, and a 15-minute video explaining how this color toning is accomplished. Enjoy!
What an awesome way to kick of 2019. Very cool! Thanks Blake
🙂 Glad you liked it!
Awesome colour work, thanks for this video.
Blake you are amazing. The Ansel Adams of digital color.
Thanks so much 🙂 That is a big compliment, I don’t think my feet are big enough to fill those shoes!
I totally agree with Phillip’s comment. You made it extremely simple to understand, and the instructional video was spot on!
Excellent. I’ve been using Look Up Tables to build effects. This seems much simpler. Thanks for adding to my toolbox.
Lookup Tables are nice but very restrictive as you cannot edit them much after you create them. They kinda get locked in and only Opacity, Masks, and Blend If seem to be effective. You can use this technique to build those LUTs though, pretty cool idea.
I’ve used gradients for a while , but you have me thinking on the coloured wheel ..Thank you
Fantastic work – advanced but so easy to use and download Action and Gradient to Photoshop.
Awesome! Glad you liked it!
Hi Blake, really enjoyed this one. A question. I have Palette Effects 2 so is there a way of separating the different gradients.
You can load these gradients by appending them to the bottom of your existing gradients.
Very cool I tried it on a portrait a landscape but I think where it really shines is in the interior of buildings with a lot of contrast
Hmm, I will look at that, thanks for letting me know!
You did it, again, friend.
Absolutely awesome tutorial
🙂 Thanks so much!!
Hi Blake, Thanks so much. Really cool
Wow! Great tutorial! Thanks so much for always thinking of us and making our digital art process even easier! Thanks so much for the gradients and the action … really appreciate it! Happy new year to you and yours
It really is my pleasure. I love this stuff! Happy New Year to you too
I know you are a Lightroom atheist, but how is this different from simply using the split toning panel in Lightroom? Although I don’t do a lot of color grading, mostly because it doesn’t interest me or fit my photographic style, it seems to me the color grading effects shown here could be accomplished simply by moving around the sliders in the split toning panel of Lightroom to achieve the desired effect. It would also be easy to make a series of Lightroom split toning presets for some specific color combinations as you did with the Photoshop gradients. That would make color grading a one-click operation without the need to migrate to Photoshop. Those of us use who use Lightroom as the basis for our editing workflow prefer to stay in Lightroom, migrating to Photoshop or another plug-in for the rare operation that Lightroom doesn’t provide.
I am far from a Lightroom Atheist, geez that’s harsh! I just prefer not to use it 🙂 This technique is far more advanced than what ACR or LR can provide for a few reasons:
1. Lightroom does not allow for precision selection of colors only a slider. With this method you can pinpoint precise colors.
2. Lightroom only offers 2 colors (hence the term split tone) this method uses three colors with the 3rd being the most critical: 50% Grey so you can protect areas of your image.
3. Lightroom does not offer the use of Blend Modes for the color grade. Therefore, this method is not even possible in LR
While LR and the Split Tone are powerful, it just does not have the precision that this method allows.
Great answer to this question! I use Lightroom when I have a lot of photos taken at the same time and need to process them with identical lighting and such. If I’m just working on a single photo, I go straight to ACR and PS. There are many things that LR can’t do effectively and Blend modes is one of those. Like you said, the main point is the 50% grey and Soft Light blend mode.
Yes, but you would have to cancel your current subscription and then start a new one from that page.
This is really fun. I really do appreciate the portrait and environmental portrait examples. Thank you!
You never cease to amaze me with what you come up with! This is just a fantastic way of doing it! The 50% grey is an excellent idea! I’m off and running with it. Oh, it’s also helps in B&W photos … learned that from Jim W.
Absolutely, however, Black and White Photos don’t need too much color grading 🙂
I absolutely LOVE this tutorial !!!
Unique and easy way of enhancing photos in PS. Thank you for this great tip.
Thanks, it was a lot of fun to produce
Hi Blake – Happy New Year – Awesome as usual.
Great info Blake! Now I have to pick one or two of my photos for some weekend experimenting! Should be fun doing some drills so I remember this option. Thanks again!
🙂 That is what I like to hear!
Incredible, Blake. Thank you so much. My f.64 lifetime membership has paid for itself many, many times over.
Couldn’t agree more.
wow and double wow. I truly am in awe of you and your amazing knowledge. This is a brilliant concept and very well explained and demonstrated.
To anyone out there who is maybe wondering whether s/he should join f.64 Elite, let me tell you – you won’t regret it.
Before I took out membership to f.64 Elite, I too wondered if it was going to be worth the money, especially as there are so many free tutorials here on f.64 Academy.
I did join f.64 Elite and have never looked back – the courses you get on f.64 Elite, are without a doubt, money well spent. Each course topic is covered thoroughly and is broken up into easily managed chunks/lessons.
Blake teaches you editing techniques that you didn’t even know existed, techniques you’ve never even heard of OR thought about. Not only that but the techniques that Blake teaches are those that you don’t readily find on YouTube.
I cannot recommend Blake’s work enough. He is an editing genius. What he doesn’t know about editing in Photoshop isn’t worth knowing. PLUS if you want to know how to do something, you can bet your bottom dollar, Blake will know.
Don’t hesitate – jump in and subscribe.
Wow and double wow! I am in awe by your testimony here. I am smiling ear to ear and couldn’t be giddier! I put a ton of work into the Elite site and to read this makes all that hard work validated. I am going to have a great week now 🙂
Thank you! Trying to choke back some tears!
Blake, very good explanation! Thank you. I am forwarding this to my fellow photo club members
Thank you! I am so happy to hear that. I appreciate the sharing too!
Blake, happy New Year! I always hear you and others talking about art vs “image” (or the like). I tend to be on the image side of things myself. I often see/read things about color grading, but just never did anything with the information. But WOW this tutorial and “extras” made it really easy to go play with. Having some awesome starting points without needing to be a color theory expert was awesome – and guess what – I’m a convert. Looking forward to seeing what I can do with it on some new and old images. Thanks for changing the way I think about my final images now!
The actions loaded fine but the gradient maps didn’t. I can’t replicate the views that you show on either your youtube or the installation instructions.
Sorry…I worked it out.
Sweet! Glad it is good to go now!
Excellent stuff, Blake! You make the complex seem simple, as usual. Thank you, and Happy 2019!
🙂 Happy New Year too!
Thanks, so much, for sharing your vast PS knowledge, Blake!
It is truly my pleasure!
You never cease to amaze me! As you can see that coffee money that I sent you already paid off. Thank you Blake for another outstanding tutorial and for expanding our photographic horizons!
It sure did! I am energized this year! Wooo! Best year yet, let’s do it! Did you get my card in return?
Oh, this is excellent! You know, when you mentioned the 50% grey in conjunction with soft light, I thought of blend if immediately. But these gradients work so much better and are much more targeted for color toning, it is just amazing. You opened up the year with a bang! 🙂
Absolutely! Blend If is powerful, but even it is limited in its protection, this method knocked my wool socks off!
Yes, indeed … awesome is the perfect word to describe this technique for color grading. I’m astounded with what can be done so simply. And the added bonus of the action and gradients you provided makes this even more astounding! Thanks, Blake … you rock!
Thanks, Mary! I appreciate it 🙂
This is one of the best color grading techniques I have ever seen. I think I am able to understand what you are demonstrating having gone through the Palette Effects 2 training and your 4 week advanced program on color theory.
Awesome, Jim! That is great news! This stuff isn’t easy and definitely comes with a learning curve. Give yourself a round of applause 🙂
This is the best colour grading.
Your Photoshop (how do I do that) friend.
Once more about the same: easy and very effectiv!
Thank you Blake
haha you finally did a one-click color grading 🙂
The effects are amazing !!!
i looked in ZSE and palette effect 2 and didn’t notice this powerful protection with 50% grey in all your gradients.
does it change your mind about palette effect 2 (3?) which was using blendif with some buttons like “only dark, only white, no midtones,… ” ?
Do you mean that blendif cannot protect as good as the grey slider ?
A love the speed of your tutorials: straight to the point with the clarity of someone who knows what he is talking about and matches my way of understanding.
10 out of 10 Blake!