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PS Tutorial – Sepia/B&W Toned Layer

I’ve read through many photoshop tutorials to get ideas on what effects I can achieve with photoshop. Some techniques are tricky and require a lot of tinkering before adjusting a photo just right. I personally like simple techniques for everyday pictures. Here is one that I made up myself and I use quite often. I’m pretty sure it’s nothing unique and many people use this (or a variation of it), but I have yet to see this on an existing online tutorial.

Here is the before and after. I used the sepia tone on this photo, but you can use any colour tint with this technique, including black and white.

  1. Rotate/Crop
    Rotate and crop your photo accordingly. I find that it’s best to crop photos at the beginning, but that’s my preference. This one has already been cropped and is ready to be edited.

  2. Auto Tone
    Apply the auto tone feature. Depending on your photo, this step can be skipped. The auto tone function automatically evens out the colour balance in your photo, but it doesn’t always do what you want it to (ie. brightens up areas you want to be dark).

    Taskbar: Image>Auto Tone
    PC keyboard: Shift+Ctrl+L
    MAC keyboard: Shift+Command+L

  3. Fade Auto Tone
    Apply the fade auto tone feature. This allows you to choose from a list of tones (not sure if that’s the right term) you can apply to your picture. Play around with them to figure out which one you like along with the opacity level. The opacity level changes how much of the tone you want applied to your photo.

    For this shot I chose the “soft light” tone and I kept the opacity at 85%.
    Taskbar: Edit>Fade Auto Tone
    PC keyboard: Shift+Ctrl+F
    MAC keyboard: Shift+Command+F

  4. Extra Step
    This is the point at which you would edit your picture with functions such as brightness/contrast, shadows/highlights, hue/saturation, etc. All of these functions can be found under Image>Adjustments>[function of your choice]. I didn’t do anything additional to this particular picture.
  5. Duplicate Layer
    So you have the picture you want it before applying a sepia tone to it. Now we want to make a duplicate picture of what you have by creating a new layer with the picture as it currently exists. You can name the new layer whatever you want. I kept mine as the default background copy name.

    Taskbar: Layer>Duplicate Layer

  6. Apply Sepia or B&W Tone
    Make sure you are on the background copy layer. To check this look at your layer toolbox which is most likely situated at the middle left of your window. Background copy should be highlighted.

    Now you want to apply a sepia or b&w tone. Follow the taskbar or keyboard instructions below to access the black & white function. Your photo will automatically turn black and white. If you want a b&w tone then play around with the percentages for each colour and click on ok when you’re done.

    For those who want a sepia or other colour tint do the following. On the window that pops up there will be a tint box. Check that off and adjust the numbers to whatever tone you want. For the sepia tone I used I chose hue: 42 and saturation: 20%.

    Taskbar: Image>Adjustments>Black & White
    PC keyboard: Shift+Ctrl+Alt+B
    MAC keyboard: Shift+Command+Option+B

  7. Eraser
    We don’t want the photo to be entirely sepia or b&w. Staying on the background copy layer, select the eraser tool. The mode should have brush selected, and you can adjust the size as you like. For this you want to have a large brush as you will be manually brushing the photo and you don’t want to miss a spot. You can play around with the opacity, but I chose 60%. Using the eraser tool, erase away the background layer in one go (don’t take your finger off the mouse until you’ve erased it completely). You should be left with the following tone.

    Right sidebar: The eraser tool looks like a cuboid (3D rectangular) eraser. It is the 11th function from the top on my PS edition.

  8. Merge Layers
    We’re almost done! We now want to merge the layers together to make a solitary picture. Once you have done this you can save your picture as its final form. If you forget to merge the layers then your image will save as a psd file instead of a jpeg.

    Taskbar: Layer>Merge Visible
    PC keyboard: Shift+Ctrl+E
    MAC keyboard: Shift+Command+E

I hope this was helpful and not too confusing. It’s a really easy editing technique once you get the hang of it. Depending on what fade auto tone and what additional tone (sepia, other tint, b&w) you use, you can completely change the look and feel of your pictures. Try it out and have some fun experimenting. Good luck!

1 comment to PS Tutorial – Sepia/B&W Toned Layer

  • Tina

    Wow, the photos look unreal! The quality’s so sharp. Also, I’ve never used/realize the difference the sepia tone has. Awesome technique :D

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