How to easily simulate classic chemical photo toning in Photoshop
In darkroom photography, chemical toning is used to extend the longevity of a black and white print, and to alter its color and tones. The effects can be beautiful.
But how can you get a great simulation of chemical toning in Photoshop? There are a lot of ways to accomplish a tone effect, but I have simplified some of the best ones into these actions for Photoshop, which you can download and import to your Actions palette for free. There’s no catch – it’s free. Because I’m nice like that.
One click toning for Photoshop
These actions allow you to simulate platinum, selenium, and sepia toning in essentially one click.
Download the free Photoshop actions here. (Opens a dropbox window)
Need help installing a Photoshop Action? Go here.
Legal disclaimer: These are just common Photoshop actions, but you download and install them at your own risk. I am not responsible for anything that may go wrong as a result of their download or use. By downloading the free actions, you are indicating your agreement with these terms.
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Platinum toning in Photoshop
I prefer to make my own black and white conversions before toning, so I’ve included an action for starting with an RGB grayscale image. But there is also an action that will convert a color photograph on the fly, and then apply toning. This is a pretty subtle application of the platinum tone, as can be seen in this example.
Selenium toning in Photoshop
This action will give a subtle effect resembling selenium toning. One caveat here: real selenium toning varies in effect depending on a lot of factors including the dilution of the solution and the temperature of the bath.
Sepia toning effects for Photoshop
As with the platinum and selenium actions, this one creates a sepia toning effect. A lot of people associate sepia toning with a photo that’s yellowed and aged because it was used in the early days of photography. But actually, sepia toning was a good way to enhance the longevity of those early prints.
A platinum toning alternative
For Nik users, there’s an alternative process that I actually prefer over the platinum action above. (I’m using an older version of Nik Color Efex Pro 4. It’s possible this filter isn’t available in newer DXO versions of Nik).
My Nik Color Efex Pro platinum formula
Start with a black and white (RGB) photograph.
Open the image in Nik Color EFX Pro
Select the Paper Toner option from the left menu
Select Setting 6 from the drop down menu at the right
Strength 55 – 65 %
Most of all, have fun!
Thanks for reading!