SPLIT TONING TUTORIAL! Learn How To Use Split Toning

Let’s unpack it together in this photography tutorial.

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Home / Photography Tutorials / SPLIT TONING TUTORIAL! Learn How To Use Split Toning


How to use split toning explained in this quick and easy editing tutorial.

Split toning is a feature included in pretty much every photo editing application, but it can be hard to figure out how to use split toning or what color schemes to choose.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been frustrated trying to get split toning to work and wondering what the different sliders do. Inside of this video tutorial, we’re going to take a deep dive into split toning and explain how it works, when to use it, and tips and tricks for the best possible results. By the end of this editing tutorial you’ll have a firm grasp on how to use split toning in every situation, and why split toning is such a powerful editing tool for your photography.

What Is Split Toning?

Split Toning Definition:

Split toning is a method of adding selected colors to the highlights and shadows of an image. It is called split toning because these tones are split into highlight colors, and shadow colors. As an aesthetic tool, split toning allows you to create and enhance the mood of an image through the strategic use of color.

Without further ado, lets jump into the video tutorial and show you how to use and understand split toning step by step to enhance your photography editing:

Split toning techniques for better photography

Whether you’re using Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw, Capture One, Luminar or some other photo editing software, the basics of split toning are going to be the same. Split toning is an editing tool that lets you add 1 or 2 tones (colors) to your photos. For example, you can use split toning to enhance a sunset by adding pink to the highlights, and orange to the shadows. Or you can create a blockbuster movie look by adding some teal to the shadows and orange to the highlights. You can even use split toning to add blue to a washed out sky. Split toning color schemes are actually pretty endless.

Split toning explained:

The easiest way to explain split toning is that split toning is a creative tool for adding color to your images. Think of your editing your photo like a dinner you’re cooking. Split toning is like the seasonings you add to that dinner. Different seasonings on chicken will give it a totally different flavor. Oregano and rosemary would give it an Italian flavor. Cumin and paprika would give it a Mexican or Spanish flare.

The color scheme you use for split toning is like the combination of spices on your dinner. There is no “right” or “wrong” – It comes down to personal taste, and the flavor you’re going for. 

Different split toning color schemes

Just like different cuisines have different spice combinations, there are different combinations of split toning colors. The easiest way to get a handle on different combinations is to learn about the different color schemes. Complimentary color schemes & monochromatic color schemes are the most important color schemes for split toning, since we can use only 1 or 2 colors.

Some of the most popular split toning schemes are orange and teal, orange and blue & orange and yellow. Orange tends to be one of the most popular split toning colors because it is flattering to skin tones. A pretty safe bet for split toning is to use orange and any other color, because almost all of these combinations will look good.

Split Toning Tips

#1 When you’re using split toning, less is more!

It’s very easy to go overboard with split toning. Just like adding too much salt, too much split toning is NOT a good thing.

Start by choosing your colors, and then dialing back the effect so that you “feel it” without really seeing it. You want your split toning to be subtle and feel natural for the best results.

#2 Work WITH your photos, not against them.

Split toning is meant to enhance the existing colors in your images, not fight against them. While you can use split toning to make your color scheme more unified, choose colors that compliment the existing color schemes in your photos for the best results.

#3 Combine the split toning panel with other tools

The best results using split toning come when it is used in harmony with the other editing tools. Rather than trying to manipulate the colors solely using split toning, use a combination of the tone curve, HSL panel, split toning and camera calibration to get a more natural & pleasing edit.

#4 Practice makes perfect

Learning how to use split toning is a process that comes with practice. Watch our tutorial video, then grab a few sample images and experiment with different color schemes until you have a hang of things.

The easiest way to understand how split toning works is to see it in action, so make sure to watch our video tutorial first.

#5 Save split toning presets!

Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw and most other photo editing applications let you save presets for split toning. Once you find a look you like, save it as a split toning preset so you can easily add that effect to other images at the click of a button. This will save you time and give you more consistent results in the split toning panel.

That’s split toning explained in a nutshell.

Remember to watch the split toning tutorial video, as it’s 100% easier to understand how everything works by watching it vs reading about it. Hopefully this split toning tutorial has given you fresh insight into the creative ways you can use split toning to enhance your images!

Now go create something awesome


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