Kenneth Morris Lee
Toned Monochrome Images with Photoshop

There are many ways to make toned monochrome images with Photoshop. The first method we describe uses the Gradient Map feature. Gradient Maps are designed for this purpose. They lets us create duotones, tritones, etc. in 16-bit color space and save them as reusable presets.

For those who prefer a simpler approach, we describe the Color Fill and Photo Filter methods.

Finally, we provide a link to Additional Methods of Toning in Photoshop !

All these methods are non-destructive and support the 16 bit color space.

Toning with Gradient Maps


Here the warm tone peaks at 30% and decreases gradually.
The snow in this photograph looks almost white: a more natural rendering.

After converting your image to monochrome, add a Gradient Map adjustment layer.

Make sure that the blending mode is Color to ensure that grayscale values are replaced by tones of matching brightness.

Edit the Gradient Map adjustment layer: choose a color for the darkest value.

By default, toning is applied evenly from black to white. The midpoint tool has been automatically set to 50 percent. We have masked off the left-hand portion of the image to better observe the before and after effect.

If we slide the midpoint tool to the left, toning will be applied mainly to the lower values. The higher values will receive less toning.

If we slide the midpoint tool to the right, toning will be applied further up the brightness scale.

The Gradient Map is a very powerful tool ! We can specify multiple colors and blending points. Below we have applied a two-color gradient map to the right-hand portion of the image. The low values are toned with a cool shade of purple which blends into a warm brown shade in the high values. With the Gradient Map feature, it is very easy to create custom duotones, tritones, etc. in full 16-bit color space. We can save these settings and reuse them in other images.

To learn about Gradient Maps, watch these free tutorial videos: Creative Coloring with Gradient Maps in Photoshop by PHLEARN and How to Color Grade Images in Photoshop with Gradient Maps by Photoshop Essentials.

The Fastest Method: Color Fill Layer

Step 1 - Make sure your image is in RGB Color mode. On the main menu, choose Image > Mode > RGB Color.

Step 2- Create a Fill Layer: on the main menu, choose Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color. Choose "Color" as the Mode, and leave the Opacity at 100%. (You can change that later). Click on the OK button.

Photoshop Fill Layer Window

Step 3 - The Photoshop Color Picker window appears. Pick a color.

Photoshop Color Picker

In the Color Picker, you can choose a color on the left, and adjust the palette of colors with the slider, just to the right of the color window.

Now click on the OK button.

All Done!


Grayscale Image



Image toned with warm Color Fill layer

Another Quick Method: Photo Filter

Step 1 - Make sure your image is in RGB Color mode. On the main menu, choose Image > Mode > RGB Color.

Step 2 - Create a Photo Filter Layer: on the main menu, choose Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Photo Filter. Leave "Normal" as the Mode, and leave the Opacity at 100%. (You can change that later). Click on the OK button.

Photoshop Fill Layer Window

Step 3 - A new layer is created and its properties are displayed. Choose a Filter or Specify a Color

Photoshop Color Picker   Photoshop Color Picker

If you click on the Filter drop-down (red arrow), you can choose from a list of standard colors and filters. If you select Color and double-click on the color patch (yellow arrow), Photoshop will present the Color Picker control, which lets you specify any color you like.

After choosing a color, you can move the Density slider (green arrow) to further adjust the degree of toning.

Be sure to leave the option Preserve Luminosity checked so that grayscale values are replaced by tones of matching brightness.

All Done!


Grayscale Image



Image toned with blue Photo Filter

Adjust Opacity to Taste

If you chose 100% as the Opacity for the toning layer, the color may be too saturated. You can adjust the Opacity % of the layer to taste.

New Fill Layer

If you like the way it looks, you can now merge the toning layer with the background layer. Or you can leave it as-is. Because it is merely an adjustment layer - and not a copy of the image - it doesn't increase the size of the image.

Sample Duo-Toned Images

These duo-toned images combine gray and warm tints.

Selective Toning
Grayscale

Selective Toning
Toned

Selective Toning
Grayscale

Selective Toning
Toned

Selective Toning
Grayscale

Selective Toning
Toned

Sample Tri-Toned Image

This image contains cool shadows, neutral mid-tones and warm highlights.

Selective Toning
Grayscale

Selective Toning
Toned

More Methods of Toning with Photoshop !

See Additional Methods of Toning in Photoshop to read about toning using Levels Gamma, Levels Output, Blend If, Color Range, and All-In-One.