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How to Split-Tone Photos for Creative Color Balance (Lightroom and Photoshop)

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Read Time: 2 min
This post is part of a series called Split Toning Your Photographs for Emotional Impact and Excitement.
Quick Tip: 2 Split Toning Techniques in Adobe Photoshop
Split Toning Colour Pictures in Photoshop: Theory and Practice

Split-toning photos goes back to earliest days of darkroom photography, but today we usually mean digital post-production techniques that add a selective color cast to your image. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to make split-tone images using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

(Editors note: this tutorial, originally published in 2013, uses older versions of Lightroom and Photoshop, but the tools and techniques shown here work the same in the 2018 versions of the software and, we assume, onward.)

Airplane flying above cloudsAirplane flying above cloudsAirplane flying above clouds
This image has a subtle split-tone: warm color added to the highlights, cool color added to the shadows.

The "split" part of split-toning means the color cast can be added, in a targeted way, to highlights but not the mid-tones or shadows, or vice versa (the shadows but not the highlights and mid-tones). This technique gives you a lot of creative range for making expressive images.

Split-toning can also be used in a corrective way. In cases where the sky has been over exposed, for example, split-toning offers a way to add a pleasing blue cast back to it. However, split-toning is more commonly used creatively to completely alter the look of an image.

Easy Split-Toning Photo Effects for Lightroom and Photoshop

Want to try out more split-toning effects but don't have the time or desire to do it manually? You can take inspiration from other visual artists by using already-made Adobe Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets. Envato Elements is an all-you-can-download subscription service that includes plenty of high-quality split-toning presets and actions.

Check out these actions and presets to recreate the split-tone effects with a single click:

Premium Looks for Lightroom (Adobe Lightroom)

The Premium Looks pack is a collection of interesting looks that you can apply in Lightroom. It includes a number of impressive split-toning effects that are a breeze to apply to your images. 

Premium Looks LightroomPremium Looks LightroomPremium Looks Lightroom

Orange and Teal Pro (Adobe Photoshop)

Split-toning works perfectly with complementary colors. There's no better example of this than the orange and blue combination as a visually appealing effect. Try this Adobe Photoshop effect out to see it in action.

Orange and Teal ProOrange and Teal ProOrange and Teal Pro

Orange and Teal (Adobe Lightroom)

Similar to the effect above, this is the Adobe Lightroom version of the orange and blue complementary color set. Apply these as Lightroom presets for easy split-tone photos.

Orange and TealOrange and TealOrange and Teal
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