How To Create a Sepia Tone Image in Photoshop

How To Create a Sepia Tone Image in Photoshop

Create a sepia tone image using Adjustment layers.

Sepia tone images simply add a dash of color to a black and white image. This photographic technique has its roots in the 1880’s. At that time photographic prints were exposed to sepia in order to replace the metallic silver in the photo emulsion. By doing the replacement the photo developer could change the color, and increase the tonal range of the photo. It was also believed the sepia toning process increased the life of the print, which explains why so many sepia photographs still exist. So where did this sepia come from? Sepia is nothing more than the ink extracted from a cuttlefish.

In this “How To” we are going to look at three ways of using an Adjustment layer to create a Sepia Tone image.

Let's get started.

How To Add Sepia Tone To A Black And White Adjustment Layer

Desaturate a sepia color using the Color Picker.

In the first part of this series I showed how to create a Black & White Adjustment Layer. As I pointed out, you adjust the grayscale image by using the colour sliders or the On Image Adjustment button. There is also a Tint check box in the properties. Click it and a “sepia-like” tone is added to the image. To desaturate the intensity of the color, click the color chip to open the Color Picker. Drag the colour down and to the left- toward the greys- and when you release the mouse just a “hint” of the tone will remain.

Another way of using this technique is to select the eyedropper tool and sample a colour in the image. I like the brass in the fixture and sampled it. The resulting colour was #b88641. I selected Tint in the Properties, clicked the chip and entered that colour into the Colour Picker. Once you are satisfied, click OK to accept the changes.

How To Use A Gradient Map Adjustment Layer in Photoshop

Use a Gradient Map Adjustment layer.

A Gradient Map adjustment maps the colours in the image to the two colours in a gradient. This gradient is composed of the Foreground and Background colours in the Tools panel. To see what I am talking about , click the Default Colors button in the tools to set the foreground colour to black and the background colour to white.

To apply the Gradient Map select it from the Adjustment pop down and the image changes to grayscale and a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer is added to the Layers panel. Now that you can see what it does, delete the Gradient Map layer and apply a Black and White adjustment layer.

To create the Sepia tone, open the Gradient in the Properties panel and change the White to #b88641. You may notice the effect is a bit strong. Let’s fix it.

In the Layers panel reduce the opacity and apply either an Overlay or Soft Light Blend Mode to the Gradient Map layer. If you choose Soft Light feel free to increase the Opacity of the Gradient Map Layer.

How To Use A Photo Filter Adjustment Layer in Photoshop

A Photo Filter Adjustment is an uncommon,yet effective, approach.

Though primarily used to neutralize color casts in images the Photo Filter Adjustment layer can quickly create a sepia tone from a black and white image.

Open a color image and apply a Black and White adjustment layer. Next add a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer. The Properties panel will present you with two options: add a Filter or a solid color.

Open the Filter pop down and select Sepia from the list. To increase the color in the Sepia tone, drag the Density slider in the Properties panel to the right. This will increase the amount of color showing. If you are happy, save the image. Otherwise, feel free to apply any of the filters in the list to see what they do.

Another option is to select Colour in the Properties and click the color chip to open the Colour Picker. Choose or enter a color and click OK to apply the color to the image. Use the Density Slider to adjust the amount of color showing.

How to Create A Sepia Tone In Photoshop Using Camera Raw

The Convert To Smart Object menu item is shown.
Get into the habit of creating photos destined for correction as Smart Objects.

One of the advantages to using software to create graphics follows one of the fundamental truths of digital design: There are 6,000 ways of doing something and the best way is your way.

You have seen how to create a sepia tone image using a variety of techniques. In this “How To” we are going to explore my preferred method of creating sepia tones: through the use of the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop. You don’t need to have any experience with Camera Raw to create some pretty interesting imaging. Let’s get started by creating a Smart Object.

To create a Smart Object, Right-Click (PC) or Control-Click (Mac) on the image layer and select Convert To Smart Object from the pop down menu.

Next, with the layer selected, select Filter> Camera Raw Filter to open the Camera Raw panel.


How To Create A Greyscale Image In Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter

The HSL/Greyscale button in the Camera Raw Filter is highlighted.
The first step in the process is to convert a colour image to greyscale.

When the Camera Raw panel opens, click the HSL/Grayscale button, in the panels area on the right, to open the HSL/Grayscale panel.  When the panel opens click the Convert to Grayscale checkbox . The image will change to a Black and White image. 

How To Adjust A Grayscale Image In Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter

The colour adjustment area for the grayscale image is shown.
Use the sliders to adjust the tones in the grayscale image.

The original image is taken at dusk meaning there is a lot of yellow and blue in the image. The image sliders in the Grayscale Mix area, will allow you to lighten or darken color areas in the image. Moving a slider to the right will lighten  any area that contains that color and moving a slider to the left will darken the area.

This was taken at dusk which meant the red, yellow, blue and purple areas needed to be lightened to bring up detail in the image.


How To Apply Split Toning To An Image In Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter

The Split Tone controls are shown.
The sepia "look" is applied using Camera Raw's Split Toning panel.

With the grayscale image created and adjusted, we can now concentrate on adding the Sepia Tone. To do that, click the Split Toning tab to open the Split Toning panel.

This panel is divided into three areas- a Hue and Saturation slider at the top which adjusts the Highlights in the image and separate Hue and Saturation sliders at the bottom for the Shadows. There really isn’t much color in the Highlights area so feel free to leave Hue and Saturation sliders at 0.

The first thing to do is to choose a color for the Shadows. This is done by moving the Hue slider in the Shadows area to the right. For a common sepia tone a value between 40 and 50 seems to work.  I like my tone a bit “browner” which is why I selected a value of 48. Even then you won’t see a colour applied.  The colour appears by increasing the saturation value as you drag the Saturation slider to the right. I wanted the colour to be a bit visible and used a value of 40.


How To Apply Split Toning Balance To An Image In Photoshop’s Camera Raw Filter

The Balance Slider is highlighted.
Use the Balance slider to smooth out the tone transitions.

Though I didn’t add any colour to the highlights , it can be added by using the Balance slider to push the tone into the brighter areas of the image. The default value is 0 which is halfway between the  between the Shadows and Highlights. If you move that slider to the left you shift the color balance in the image toward the shadows. The result is the shadow color gets pushed into the brighter areas as well. I used a value of -24.

Once you are satisfied with your image, click OK to close the Camera Raw panel and return to Photoshop.  From there you can save the image.