How to Master Split Toning in Lightroom

Video where do i find split tone in lightroom

Color grading, also known as split toning, can elevate your photographs by giving them a unique and stylized look. By adding hints of color, you can create a certain mood or evoke a vintage feel. If you’re wondering how to achieve earthy or golden tones in Lightroom, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will show you how to master split toning and color grading in Adobe Lightroom Classic and Adobe Lightroom CC.

What is Split Toning in Lightroom?

Split toning or color grading in Lightroom involves adding hints of color to the shadows or highlights of your image. In the latest version of Lightroom, you can even bring color into the midtones and make it a global effect. This technique allows for greater control and subtlety compared to simply adjusting the white balance of a photo. Split toning draws inspiration from the chemical processes used in film development, where unintentional color shifts would occur.

Split Toning Panel Options

In 2020, Lightroom revamped its split toning feature, now called Color Grading. The new panel offers more control and functionality. While it may seem confusing at first, understanding how the controls work will make it easier to navigate.

Lightroom provides three color wheels for introducing color: Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights. By default, you’ll see all three wheels in the 3-Way view. Clicking on the various icons next to “Adjust” allows you to see a larger version of each individual wheel. This gives you close control over each split toning adjustment, while the 3-Way view shows how your chosen colors relate to one another. There’s also a Global wheel that applies a color universally.

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Using the Split Toning Panel

Each color wheel has two handles: one in the center and one at the edge. Drag the center handle to choose a color or click on the color wheel. The further the handle is from the center, the higher the saturation. To adjust saturation without changing the hue, hold Shift while dragging the center handle. To change only the hue, hold Control (Windows) or Command (macOS) while dragging the handle.

Underneath each 3-Way color wheel, you’ll find a Luminance slider that controls the brightness of the introduced color. The Luminance slider for Shadows adjusts the black point, while the one for Highlights controls the white point. You can also fine-tune your settings using the Hue and Saturation sliders.

Blending and Balance sliders are important for controlling how the Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights interact with each other. The Blending slider determines the overlap of colors, while the Balance slider shifts the emphasis between shadows and highlights. Holding down Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS) while dragging the Balance slider boosts color saturation temporarily for a clearer view of the changes.

5 Key Split Toning Tips Before Starting

  1. Keep it simple: Simple color grades are often the most effective. Experiment with a hint of color in the highlights or shadows.

  2. Be subtle: Your split toning should complement your image, not overpower it. Step away from your editing and return with fresh eyes to ensure balance.

  3. Learn some color theory: Complementary colors and analogous colors work well together. Familiarize yourself with these concepts for more effective color grading.

  4. Try orange and teal: This classic combination adds a cinematic feel to your images. It works best in sunny situations with blue sky or ocean.

  5. Add mood to black and white photographs: Split toning can enhance black and white images, adding warmth or coldness and creating a vintage look.

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How to Use Split Toning in Lightroom

Follow these steps to effectively use split toning in Lightroom:

  1. Finish all other edits: Split toning should be the final step in your editing process. Adjust exposure, white balance, and other settings before adding split toning.

  2. Choose your hues and saturation: Use the Color Grading panel to select colors for shadows and highlights. Experiment with the various color wheels and views for precise adjustments.

  3. Set blending, balance, and luminance: Fine-tune your split toning by adjusting the blending and balance sliders. Take advantage of the luminance sliders for further control.

How to Use Split Toning in Lightroom CC

If you’re using the mobile Adobe Lightroom app, you can still enjoy all the benefits of split toning. Here’s how:

  1. Open Lightroom CC’s Edit section (press E).
  2. Scroll down to Color Grading under “Color.”
  3. Use the handles of each wheel to set hue and saturation.
  4. Adjust the luminance using the sliders.
  5. Perfect your split toning look by setting the balance and blending levels.

Final Words

Mastering split toning and color grading in Lightroom allows you to add a distinctive style to your photographs. By following these tips and experimenting with different color combinations, you can achieve stunning results. If you have any questions or need further guidance, feel free to comment below. Happy editing!

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