Duo-, tri-, and quad­tone im­ages

Hans We­ich­sel­baum dis­cusses the many op­tions when it comes to split ton­ing your im­ages to achieve your de­sired look and feel

The Shed - - Tutorial -

Black-and-white print­ing never went out of fash­ion af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of colour film in 1936. On the con­trary, it has staged a come­back in fine-art pho­tog­ra­phy. This is not sur­pris­ing — who does not ap­pre­ci­ate a well-bal­anced mono­tone land­scape or por­trait im­age, printed on fine-art pa­per?

We all en­joy a colour­ful slideshow on the big screen, but mono­chrome im­ages need to be printed. Most, if not all, award-win­ning blackand-white im­ages hang­ing in gal­leries aren’t black-and-white at all — they are duo-, tri-, or quad­tone prints. The sub­tle colour tints give them the ex­tra depth and rich­ness.

You have prob­a­bly come across the Split Ton­ing tab in Adobe Light­room or Adobe Cam­era Raw. Whereas a black-and-white ad­just­ment layer al­lows you to add an over­all tint to your im­age, split ton­ing sim­u­lates a duotone ef­fect. In Im­age 1, I have given the shad­ows a blue tint to em­pha­size the freez­ing win­ter tem­per­a­tures. Then the high­lights were blended into yel­low to sim­u­late a late-af­ter­noon light, giv­ing the im­age some over­all warmth.

With the African scene (Im­age 2), I did the op­po­site: I chose a brown­ish tint for the shad­ows, and a bluish hue for the high­lights. In the black-and-white con­ver­sion ahead of the split ton­ing, I pushed the yel­low and the green slid­ers all the way up to max­i­mum to get the sur­round­ing green­ery as light as pos­si­ble, mak­ing the ele­phant stand out.

For split ton­ing, it is best to start with the high­lights, be­cause the ef­fect is eas­ier to see. Move the sat­u­ra­tion to around 40–50 and search for a hue that looks the best for the high­lights. Then re­duce the sat­u­ra­tion to get an over­all pleas­ing ef­fect. Then do the same with the shad­ows. The bal­ance slider al­lows for a fi­nal ad­just­ment.

For a con­ven­tional black-and-white por­trait, you’ll prob­a­bly want to give the high­lights and shad­ows dif­fer­ent hues of brown, but noth­ing stops you from go­ing wild and wacky by cre­at­ing blue/green Martians. This tech­nique even al­lows you to sim­u­late a tritone ef­fect by adding a tint to the en­tire im­age be­fore start­ing with the split ton­ing.

Don’t for­get that you can also run a PSD, TIFF, or JPEG file through the Adobe Cam­era Raw mod­ule. Sim­ply use the Open As com­mand and se­lect Cam­era Raw for the file type.

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