Film Magic for Digital Cameras
The Sepia Tone Effect
Sepia and Color Tones

There is color in black and white! Or least there can be... For years photographers have enhanced the mood of black and white prints by adding color tones. The most common is the deep brown "sepia", but special colors like blue, red, and orange are also used.

The prints are washed in specialty chemicals which react with the shadow detail. The longer the print is washed, the stronger the color.

  • normal black and white film is used - no special processing
  • prints are washed in a toning bath to produce the effect
  • the common sepia tone ranges from deep orange to deep brown
  • other colors are available - blue, red, orange, green, etc..


The Digital Sepia Effect Formula
The sepia effect is easy reproduce with a computer. You can start with black and white or color images and still get a good result. With digital images, what used to take hours can be done in about 3 seconds!

Use hue/saturation in colorize mode to create sepia and other color toned effects.

1. create black and white image (optional)
You can perform this effect on a color photo, but it's a good idea to start with the black and white film effect so you can have more control over the brightness, contrast, and grain.


2. Sepia Effect with Hue/Saturation
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.


Before and After Results:

click image to show before and after

Practical Tips
"Colorize" changes the way hue and saturation works on the image. By adjusting the parameters you can quickly create many tones and effects.