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Digital sepia toning

Recreate those olde-worlde sepia photographs using image editing software. Peter Bargh is your guide.

| Specialist Photographic Subjects

A sepia effect can transform a digital photograph and, unlike the, old chemical toning method, it's quick and easy to achieve using basic software.
Words & Pictures Peter Bargh

Digital sepia toning

The natural first step, if you're thinking in the old darkroom way, would be to convert the photograph to black & white and then add a brown colour, but digitally you need to convert back to colour before adding a tone. If you use Photoshop you could convert to duotone rather than colour, which allows very subtle changes to hue and comes with some pre saved sepia tones. Alternatively you can reduce the saturation of a colour image without going to all the trouble of converting, and this can even be down with more basic programs. Photoshop Elements image editing software has been used to create this effect, but most other programs have similar options, so the same effect can be achieved with ease.

Digital sepia toning

1 Open the picture and select Image>Adjust>Hue/Saturation. InPaintShopPro7you'llfindthisunder Colour>Adjust>Hue/Saturation/Lightness (Shift+H) and with PicturePublisher10 it'sMap>Hue Shift (Ctrl+U).

Digital sepia toning

2 A dialogue box appears with several sliding controls to adjust hue, saturation and lightness. The hue control changes the colour saturation the depth and vividness of colour and lightness is the brightness of the colour. There's also a colorize box that you could now click to turn it on. You'll notice the photo goes mono-coloured, which may be blue or red, but at this stage it's unlikely to be sepia.

Digital sepia toning

3 Adjust the hue slider until you see a red brown colour.

4 Now adjust the saturation slider so that the colours go from being vivid to almost greyscale. The less you move this, the deeper the sepia tone.

Digital sepia toning
Digital sepia toning

5 Adjust the hue slider again if the sepia tone isn't quite to the level you would like. And continue to experiment with all three sliders to create a pleasing tone. You will also find you could create other subtle tones -blue or green can work well with some images.

Digital sepia toning

6 When you are happy with the tone click okay and save the picture.

Digital sepia toning

In Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro you have access to Adjustment Layers where the hue and saturation can be controlled on an independent layer. This means the picture will change, but can still be edited while ever the layer is separate. The effect only becomes permanent when you save the picture and flatten the layers.

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