Split-toning in Aperture 3

Just before the holidays I did a tutorial on black and white processing in Aperture 3 in which I hinted at using Curves to do split-toning effects. This prompted my Twitter friend @rockymountainjoe to ask for more details - which I was happy to provide in a personal conversation. I also promised him I'd write an honest to goodness post on the subject eventually. Here we are.

To be perfectly honest I don't use split-toning all that much. But I know a lot of photographers do and it's certainly a great trick to have in our arsenal.


Well, don't. Curves are da bomb.
But I've found a quick and easy way to do split-toning in Aperture 3 with a lot less fiddling around than Curves: the Tint Wheels.

The Tint Wheels are the three multi-coloured circles you'll find at the bottom of the Enhance brick if you click on the Tint disclosure triangle. Each wheel targets a certain range of tones in your image: black (shadows), gray (midtones) and white (highlights). It can be easy to overlook them since they don't appear by default, but believe me if you're into colour treatments these are essential.

They're usually described as something you use to get rid of a colour cast. Which they'll totally do. But it pays to be creative as well. When you want to create a look like this for instance:

But that's for another post. Let's get into the split-toning trick.


Ahh... instances, how I love thee. Yup, this again uses Aperture 3's insanely useful ability to create multiple instances of adjustment bricks. In this case the Enhance brick.

1. Lower saturation to 0 in Enhance. That's your black and white:

2. Create another instance of Enhance and open the Tint panel if it isn't already.

use that disclosure triangle!

3. On the black wheel, choose the colour you want for the shadows. In this case I'm going blue.  Be careful not to overdo it.

4. On the gray wheel you choose a colour that will be affecting the midtones. Here I'm in the yellowish zone.

That's it. Usage of the white wheel depends on the picture you're editing and how much is already being affected by the gray wheel. As you can see in this case, I've left it alone. In theory this method should allow you to do tritone as well - again it depends on the picture and how much the wheels' effects overlap each other. If you do need to use it I suggest giving it the same colour value as the gray wheel. Unless you want to get funky - which is totally fine as well.

Here's a look at the final Enhance panel:

splitting the wheels

Have fun.

Update: In case you're wondering why I'm not using the Tint Wheels in the first instance of the Enhance brick, try it. I'll wait. See what it does? It's actually pretty cool as a black and white effect but as you can see it's not applying any colour. It's only affecting the luminance of the various zones. That's because the wheels are being superseded by the saturation slider. Thus the second Enhance brick.