A Guide to What Split Toning Is and How to Use It in Lightroom

Split toning is a quick and effective way to give a photo a more distinctive look. This helpful tutorial will show you what split toning is, how it works, and how to easily add it to your images using Lightroom.

Coming to you from Lucy Martin, this video details the process of what split toning is and how to use it in Lightroom. Split toning is just that: toning that is applied to different areas based on luminance values. This allows you to add one color at a certain saturation level to the highlights and another at a different saturation level to the shadows. Landscape photographers frequently take advantage of this, adding a bit of coolness to shadows and warmth to highlights, but really, it can be done in any genre and is often a big part of a photographer's signature "look." The great thing about the Lightroom implementation of the tool is that is also contains a balance slider, allowing you to essentially move the line where shadows transition to highlights, which helps you to really dial in the exact look you're going for. As with all such effects (particularly color toning), it's very easy to go overboard, so remember to have a subtle touch. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

Log in or register to post comments

Lucy, really nicely done tutorial - like the no-nonsense fast enough pace. One thing I would add - usually for split tone colors you will choose complimentary colors from the color wheel, so orange/blue, red/green, etc.

Looks like F-Stoppers has given up on McKinnon and are now focused on Lucy. I appreciate her stuff, but what is the strategy here? How do you guys pick and choose these guys who cover topics that are a dime a dozen online?

Excellent tutorial on a portion of LR that most people just skip right over. The concept of applying the split tones to multiple images to keep a specific look is helpful. Much appreciated on the straight forward, well paced tutorial, not too much self promotion or reflective rambling that some of these tutorials consist of. Not too long also, which is helpful.