Skip to content

Getting Toned

February 18, 2010

In the last post I wrote about curves and how they can be used to “tone” a picture, or change the coloring of a picture.  There are a thousand different ways to do this, so I thought I’d go over a few more.

Here’s the picture I’m going to use before doing anything to it:


One way to adjust the colors is by using a Levels Adjustment layer.  Just like the Curves Adjustment layer, you can go into the individual color channels and make changes to them.

Here I went to the blue channel and moved the midpoint to.91 (from 1.00) making the picture more yellow.  I also adjusted the output levels, dragging both sides in a bit (normally they’re at 0 & 255, not 12 & 245).

You can go into each channel and make adjustments ~ I tend to use the blue channel and sometimes the red channel.

(And if you play with the output levels on the default RGB  screen, dragging both ends in it gives the picture that sort of hazy, underexposed look that’s popular).


Another way to add toning and a bit of an underexposed look is to use a blue color fill adjustment layer, set the mode to exclusion and reduce the opacity:

Go up to Layer, New Fill Layer, Solid Color and choose a nice dark blue.  Then set the layer to Exclusion and reduce the opacity (here it’s at 28%).  If you don’t like how it looks, click on the layer and choose a different blue ~ play around until you find a look you like.


Another method is to add a Color Fill Adjustment layer (Layer, New Fill Layer, Solid Color), set the mode to Pin Light and take the opacity down:

Here I chose a nice brown and set the opacity to 26%


You can also go up to Layer, New Fill Layer, and choose Gradient.  When I do this for toning I tend to choose Radial and I click reverse.  I also play with the size of it:

To change the color of the gradient, you click the Gradient drop down, highlighted in yellow.  Once you do that you get this dialog box:

To change the color you first click on the stop, and then on the color box.  Here I have a dark purple going to transparent.  You can change both stops (so you could have blue going to yellow, or whatever you want).  You can add stops ~ it gets a tad crazy though.  You can also use a preset if you have one you like, or if you’ve saved one from before.

You can then play with the mode and opacity ~ here I’ve set it to Soft Light and 89%.

And here I have two fill layers.  You can see the settings for the bottom layer ~ the top layer is set to Soft Light and 52%


So there you have a few examples of different ways to add toning to your pictures.  You really do need to experiment and figure out what works best for you, or for the individual picture.  And don’t be afraid!  If you mess up just delete the adjustment layer and start over!

(Here’s my finished version)

15 Comments leave one →
  1. *Olivier permalink
    February 18, 2010 10:52 am

    Great job ! … i’ve learned something i didn’t know, again … ! If one of my occupations is inter alia to give trainings on this kind of subjects to graphic design students, i’m still impressed by some of your methods that i haven’t read anywhere else … You’re the new scott ! lol.

  2. February 18, 2010 10:59 am

    thank you!! i have learned so much already from just these first blogs you have posted.

  3. February 18, 2010 11:56 am

    Many thanks. This is a great blog!

  4. February 18, 2010 4:16 pm

    hi, ms lauren. thanks so very much for these tutorials. please keep them coming! more power to you & your kids 🙂

  5. Ken Robinson permalink
    February 18, 2010 6:14 pm

    Lauren, thanks so much for this tutorial. You have a way of explaining a complicated process in simple terms. Thanks again! Ken:-)

  6. MAOJ - Mariah Lehman permalink
    February 18, 2010 6:49 pm

    Thank you Lauren … I’m not ready for all this information yet. But, I admire your work immensely and am so grateful you are generous enough to share. You are an inspiration in so many ways (openness, mothering, and awe-inspiring photography and editing skills).
    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  7. February 18, 2010 10:34 pm

    thanks girl! These posts are great! All the info I need and I can keep it! What did you shoot this with and what setting? I love the original picture too!

    • elycerose permalink*
      February 19, 2010 6:32 am

      Hi anne 🙂

      This is the 50mm, probably around f/2.0

  8. minhapequenagaleria permalink
    February 19, 2010 4:30 am

    Hi Lauren, I was experimenting your tips with some other techniques at photoshop, and ended up creating an action of my own! I’ve posted a test image on my flickr

  9. February 19, 2010 9:58 am

    Hey, Thanks so much for your tutorial !

    I have a couple questions.
    1) How do you choose “transparent” in the gradient box?
    2) Do you know how to save a gradient that you have created yourself to make it’s own folder?
    Whenever I save mine they get saved in with the other presets ( whichever I have open at the time ) I have tryed all kinds of things and can’t find a way to do this??

    Thanks SO much !
    I am really enjoying your tutorials !
    I appreciate the time that you take to share your knowledge!

    • elycerose permalink*
      February 19, 2010 1:39 pm

      Hi GeriJean ~

      1) Foreground to Transparent is the second choice in the preset box (so whatever your foreground happens to be set to will be the starting color). You can click on it and then change the color if you need to by following the steps I outlined in the tutorial.
      2) I don’t know ~ I’ll ask around and see if I can find an answer.

  10. February 21, 2010 9:08 pm

    Thank you SO much for replying so quickly…

  11. LauraM permalink
    February 28, 2010 8:45 am

    These are really great techniques, explained wonderfully! Thanks so much!

  12. March 28, 2010 7:10 am

    Great work 🙂


  1. How I Process II « Flimmerings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: