Variations



The Variations technique seems to be an easy and simple method to tone a black and white image with Photoshop Elements but as we all know, looks can be deceiving!

In this tutorial Terry, who is a staunch Paint Shop Pro user, offers some really interesting insights into toning that awesome black and white image you ended up with after using the Gradient Map with Photoshop Elements.

Terry previously explored toning with Paint Shop Pro however the method he used required access to a Curves adjustment which is not available in Elements. There is, however, a light version of curves in Elements in the Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Color Curves menu.  It allows you to change the shape of the curve but only at 3 points and you cannot access the individual color channels - so that's out for toning a black and white.

Here's the image that will be toned.  It was converted to black and white with a Gradient Map adjustment layer.


variations original


Plugins


Here are examples of toning using three popular plugins fom Nik Software, OnOne and Topaz.

All three of these well known plugins do a good job and your favourite will depend on how you view things as an individual.  Now, as mentioned earlier I’m a Paint Shop Pro guy who’s had to learn Elements 10 and Photoshop quickly and apply the rules to a new game.

NIK Warm

variations nik warm

OnOne

variations onone

Topaz

variations topaz warm


Photoshop Elements Variations


With Photoshop Elements there are a couple of different methods to tone an image -  one of them can be done using the Gradient Map technique and another is to use Variations.

The idea is to ...
  1. Create a black and white image OR greyscale image which combines the information from the Red, Green and Blue channels, then to ...

  2. Make this combined information available to the three channels as identical copies, and finally ...

  3. Adjust the information in the channels separately to make a toned image.
Sounds complicated but it isn’t.  It’s simple but needs the skills and knowledge of layers.  (If layers are a problem for you then review the Layers Tutorial)

Let's get started but first a word about the different tones demonstrated here.

The colour recipes have no particular significance - they were chosen using the following rigorous methods ...
  • By eye.
  • By referencing some CS3 stuff I have (stuff is an honoured scientific term).
  • Memory.
  • Back in the day.
  • Magic.
Now that the method of selecting the tones is clear, lets really get started ...

Make a copy of the background layer.  This is always a good workflow move so you’ve something to go back to if you make a real error of judgement.

You need a black and white image to work with.  You can use the black and white you made with the Gradient Map technique or make a RGB greyscale image by Enhance > Convert to Black and White.

If you use the latter method then you will need to mess about a bit to find the black and white conversion you like the best.

We need the three channels to be able to tone the image.  We get these by Image > Mode > RGB Colour.

You are going to need to make sufficient copies of the Background Layer to enable you to carry out the changes in the table below, ie for sepia1 you’ll need 3 copies and 5 for sepia2.

For each layer you need to go to Enhance > Adjust Color > Color Variations ...


var-dialogue


And make the adjustments in the Color Variations menu box.

TIP – if you find that you want more or less of the adjustment than clicking the button gives you, you can click upto 10 times to really move the colour. But the aim of the game is to make subtle changes to the image rather than brash ones – but what the heck if that floats your boat.

Toning Variations

Sepia 1

Layer
Background
Copy 1
Background
Copy 2
Background
Copy 3
Layer
Position
Bottom


Sepia 1
Increase red
midtones
with intensity
slider set to
halfway
decrease
green
midtones
with intensity
slider set to
halfway; set
opacity of
layer to 50%
normal blend
Decrease
blue
midtones
with intensity
slider set to
halfway; set
opacity of
layer to 50%
normal blend


variations sepia 1


Copper Uranium


Layer
Background
Copy 1
Background
Copy 2
Background
Copy 3
Layer
Position
Bottom


Copper
Uranium
Increase red
midtones
with intensity
slider set
to three-
quarters
decrease
green
midtones
with intensity
slider set
to three-
quarters; set
opacity of
layer to 50%
normal blend
Decrease
blue
midtones
with intensity
slider set
to three-
quarters; set
opacity of
layer to 50%
normal blend


variations copper uranium


Uranium


Layer
Background
Copy 1
Background
Copy 2
Layer
Position
Bottom

Uranium
Increase red
shadows
with intensity
slider set to
halfway
Decrease
blue
shadows
with intensity
slider set to
halfway; set
opacity of
layer to 50%
normal blend


variations-uranium


Blue Cyanotype

Layer
Background
Copy 1
Background
Copy 2
Background
Copy 3
Layer
Position
Bottom


Blue
cyanotype
Decrease
red shadows
with intensity
slider set to
75%
Increase
green
midtones
with intensity
slider set
to three-
quarters; set
opacity of
layer to 50%
normal blend
Increase
blue
highlights
with intensity
slider set
to full; set
opacity of
layer to 50%
normal blend


variations blue cyanotype


Sepia 2


Layer
Background
Copy 1
Background
Copy 2
Background
Copy 3
Background
Copy 4
Background
Copy 5
Sepia 2
Increase red
shadows
with intensity
slider set to
75%
Increase red
midtones
with intensity
slider set
to full; set
opacity of
layer to 50%
normal blend
Increase red
highlights
with intensity
slider set
to full; set
opacity of
layer to 50%
normal blend
Decrease
blue
highlights
with intensity
slider set
to three-
quarters; set
opacity of
layer to 50%
normal blend
Decrease
blue
midtones
with intensity
slider set
to three-
quarters; set
opacity of
layer to 50%
normal blend


variations sepia 2


So there you have it. Experimentation with the variations combinations and the order in the layers panel can produce some interesting results – so this is worth a try.

The Last Word

A reconnaissance through Black and White images from yesteryear will yield a whole gamut of tones – some more interesting than others.

If you want to simulate the paper tones (the white bits) you adjust the highlight part of the RED,
GREEN, and BLUE variations. If you want to simulate the silver tones (the black and grey bits) you adjust the shadows part of the RED, GREEN, and BLUE variations.

You need to look at the colour wheel to choose the mixtures of the color variations – opposites on the wheel! Increasing blue is the same as decreasing green and red. Experimentation is advisable.


Page Links

Plugins
Elements Variations

Toning Examples

The Last Word







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