Quickly Apply a Sepia Tone to a Picture in Photoshop

Give your photo an antique appearance

Mother and smiling baby on boat; sepia tone
Carlos Davila/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

Sepia tone is a reddish-brown monochrome tint. When applied to a photo, it gives the picture a warm, antique appearance. In the early days of photography, photos were developed using sepia in the emulsion, which is derived from the ink of cuttlefish.

Now with digital photography, there's no need for emulsions for photo development, but something is still appealing about the rich quality of sepia-toned portraits and photos. You can get that in your digital photos easily with Adobe Photoshop

Photo Filter Method for Sepia Tone

  1. Open the image in Photoshop.

  2. If the image is in color, go to Image > Adjustments > Desaturate.

    If the image is in grayscale go to Image > Mode > RGB Color.

    Screenshot showing how to desaturate an image in Photoshop
     Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash
  3. Go to Image > Adjustments > Photo Filter.

  4. Click the radio button next to Filter, and select Sepia.

    Screenshot of the sepia filter option in Photoshop
    Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash 
  5. Check the box next to Preview located on the right side of the Photo Filter window (it may already be checked). Also, you can move the Photo Filter window to an area of the screen that makes seeing the preview easier.

  6. At the bottom of the Photo Filter window, adjust the Density slider to 100 percent. If you would like to lower the sepia tone, fine-tune the slider down until the photo has the tone you desire.

    Screenshot of the sepia filter density options in Photoshop
     Photo by Guilherme Stecanella on Unsplash
  7. Click OK.

Use Desaturate on a photo, and then experiment using Photo Filters to apply other color tints and filters to your photos for different effects and moods.

Camera Raw Filter Method for Sepia Tone

Another method for creating sepia tone in a photo is to use the Camera Raw filter. You can follow the method detailed below in Photoshop Creative Cloud (CC) versions.

  1. Open the image in Photoshop.

  2. Go to Filter > Camera Raw Filter.

  3. Click HSL Adjustments in the right panel's menu of the Camera Raw Filter window. Hover over each until the name appears in a dialog box; the HSL Adjustments button is the fourth one from the left.

  4. Select Black & White next to Treatment.

  5. Click Split Toning, which is located to the right of the HSL Adjustments button from the previous step.

  6. Adjust the Hue slider (in the Split Toning menu, under Shadows) to a setting between 40 and 50 for a sepia tone hue; you can adjust this later to find the sepia hue you prefer. You won't notice a change in the image yet, not until you adjust the saturation level in the next step.

  7. Adjust the Saturation slider to add the sepia hue you chose. A setting around 40 for saturation is a good starting point, and you can adjust from there to your preference.

  8. Click OK.

If you're using older versions of Photoshop, the steps may be different, but as with most techniques in the graphics industry, there are many ways of applying a sepia tone to a photo.