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Black and White Toning

The toning of black and white images is not mandatory.  In black and white film photography, it was done for several reasons.  To increase the archival quality of a print.  To intensify contrast.  To neutralize undesired color casts inherit in some photographic papers.  Or, to give an image a specific color cast.

In digital photography, archival quality is determined by the paper and inks used to make the print.  Contrast and undesired color casts are managed by controls such as Levels and Curves.  In black and white digital photography, toning is done to give an image a desired color cast.

The common color casts are sepia, selenium and platinum.  Even though each has a distinct color cast, there is no specific, industry recognized definition of the color.  That is why a sepia toned photograph from one photographer can look quite different than a sepia toned photograph from another photographer.  In film photography, the color cast and the intensity of the color cast was determined by the toning mixture and method, the photographic paper used and how long the paper was allowed to tone.  But generally speaking, sepia has a yellow-brown color cast. Selenium has a violet-brown color cast.  And platinum has an orange-brown color cast.

On the Downloads page of this web site is a zip file that contains Adobe Photoshop settings that I created that will allow you to create 70 tones.  Including light, medium, dark, heavy and max tones of sepia, cool selenium, warm selenium and platinum.  In addition, the zip file contains settings for many other tones.  In Figure 1 are examples of sepia, cool selenium and cool gray toning.


Sepia Figure 1A.  Medium Sepia

Selenium Figure 1B.  Cool Selenium

Cool Gray Figure 1C.  Cool Gray

After downloading the file, to create the desired color cast, create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer as the topmost layer.  Load the desired Hue/Saturation adjustment setting and click OK.  Change the blending mode to Color to prevent the image's tones from changing.  Leave Opacity and Fill to 100% each.  An example of how the Layers panel should look when done properly is shown in Figure 2.  As a side note, the settings will not remove the layer mask from the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.  I removed the layer mask manually.

Layers panel

Figure 2.  Color Blending Mode