Photographic Toning


In photography, toning is a photographic print toning process carried out on silver-based (black-and-white) photographic prints to change their color. Some toning processes can improve the chemical stability of the print and allow it to last longer. Other toning processes can make the print less stable.

Many early prints that exist today were toned with sepia toner.

Most toners work by replacing the metallic silver in the emulsion with a silver compound, such as silver sulfide (Ag2S) in the case of sepia toning. The compound may be more stable than metallic silver and may also have a different color or tone. Different toning processes give different colors to the final print. In some cases, the printer may choose to tone some parts of a print more than others.

Toner also can increase the tonality of a print. This increases the range of visible shades without reducing contrast. Selenium toning is especially strong in this regard.

Selenium toning

Selenium Toning - Andrew Sanderson

Selenium toning is the most popular of the archival toning processes, converting metallic silver to silver selenide. In a diluted toning solution, selenium toning gives a red-brown tone, while a strong solution gives a purple-brown tone.

Selenium toning may not produce prints quite as stable as sepia or gold toning. However, its appearance is much more subdued than sepia and it is cheaper than gold. Selenium toning also increases the tonal range available in the paper.

Different printers use somewhat different methods of selenium toning, but most often a fixed (and perhaps rinsed) print is placed in selenium toner solution and then rinsed, treated with hypo clearing agent, washed, and hardened.


Gold Toned

Gold toning used alone gives blue blacks, but used with sepia toners produces orange-red effects.

Gold toning - Andrew Sanderson

Sepia Toning

Hex triplet #704214
RGBa (r, g, b) (112, 66, 20)




Sepia is a rich brown pigment derived from the ink sac of the common cuttlefish, and it is also the name of a dark brown-grey color.

Sepia - Andrew Sanderson

Sepia was commonly used as writing ink in classical times.

In the last quarter of the 18th century, Professor Jacob Seydelmann of Dresden developed a process to extract and produce a more concentrated form for use in watercolors and oil paints.

Sepia is also favored in photography; the color can be obtained with a gold toning bath. The reddishness we nostalgically associate with sepia is actually the result of fading over time. Consequently, sepia has become a very vaguely defined term.

The word sepia is Greek for "cuttlefish".

Sepia tones in pop culture

Sepia-toned images are heavily associated with the 1800s and "that old-time feel." Many photographs of the American Old West were recorded in sepia tones,

particularly Edward Weston's photos of Carmel.

The Kansas scenes in The Wizard of Oz were in sepia tone, until Technicolor takes over in the land of Oz.

Wings of Desire movie by Wim Wenders is filmed in sepia mostly, to depict that the movie protagonists, invisible angels, lack the usual human senses; when the angels are not present, the movie is shown in full color.

Don Hong-Oai

Photographer whose unique and poetic images of the Chinese landscape were created by blending photo negatives, who began showing his photographs at street fairs after moving to San Francisco's Chinatown and went on to see his work exhibited throughout the world and sought after by private, corporate and museum collectors, died on June 8, 2004 in San Francisco, having undergone heart surgery in December. He was 74 years old.


sepia toned gelatin-silver prints

Don Hong-Oai

Don Hong-Oai

Don Hong-Oai

Don Hong-Oai

Other examples


Like sepia, cyanotypes hail from an old and long-forgotten photographic process ( from the glass-plate era ) that produced bluish-cyan prints.

blueprint on grayish paper, from streaky fogged negative; infrared original photo

Vintage Bondage Cyanotypes from 19th c. France







Charles FranÁois Jeandel (1859 - 1942) was a honorable member of the Archeological Society of Charente. With his wife Madeleine (left picture), he seemed to have a quiet life in the countryside. Or not (right picture).

Charles and Madeleine didnít have any children. Itís a miracle that this album didnít get lost or finish in the hands of a private connoisseur... Today, the collection belongs to the Musťe díOrsay.

The blue cyanotyped pictures give a touch of morbid mystery to these images.


Platinum prints

Platinum prints, also called platinotypes, are photographic prints made by a monochrome printing process that provides the greatest tonal range of any printing method using chemical development.

Unlike the silver print process, platinum lies on the paper surface, while silver lies in a gelatin or albumen emulsion that coats the paper. As a result, since no gelatin emulsion is used, the final platinum image is absolutely matte with a deposit of platinum (and/or palladium, its sister element which is also used in most platinum photographs) absorbed slightly into the paper.

Small Gamut Toneable Inkset - for Black and White Inkjet Printing

Using this inkset the photographer can tone a print warmer or colder and produce your own definition of a neutral print. This flexibility, is a prime reason why the Small Gamut inks are our most popular inkset for black and white inkjet printing.

Small Gamut effects include: selenium-toned silver; black and warm Gray duotone; warm-tone; cool-tone; absolute neutrality; split toned; or even localized color effects!

This inkset has a certified Longevity of 60 - 100 years (depending on the amount of toning and paper used). Small Gamut ink is compatible with the full range of Lyson Media.


Hue/Saturation Toning

Sepia toning Adobe recommends setting Hue = 27 and Saturation = 21 and checking the Colorize box in the Hue/Saturation filter in Photoshop

Create a sepia PSD template with a hue/saturation adjustment layer. Hue = 27 and Saturation = 21


The Hue/Saturation command has an option called "colorize". This changes the way hue and saturation works and applies a "wash" of color to the image.

Select "colorize"
To begin, select the colorize (or equivalent) option.

Adjust Hue
As the hue slider is moved, the color of the picture will change. It's pretty easy to get every color of the rainbow. For a sepia look, try a hue setting between 30 and 50.

Adjust Saturation
For a more subtle tone, adjust the saturation to between 30-40.





Platinum 2

Van Dyke




More Curves

Duotones in Photoshop