Creating Sepia Toned Images In GIMP

0Comments

Sepia toned images appeal to a variety of people.  They have become popular enough to earn their own preset in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, where with one simple click on the mouse, the tone is rendered.  This tutorial is for those who don’t have Lightroom or Photoshop and wish, instead, to use the freely available GIMP photo editing program.  You can click on most any image in this post to see the full screen image.

Step 1 – Pick An Image And Open It In GIMP

Starting at the start, open up an image in GIMP.  If you are opening a RAW file and using a MAC, GIMP 2.6 has the UFRaw converter built into the standard install package.  For Windows users, there are instructions here on DPS to help.  And for the Unix crowd, check out UFRaw’s download page for the appropriate package.  If you are using a JPG, you can skip all that and open the photo directly.  I’m using an image from the Mayan ruins at Tulum along Mexico’s Riviera Maya.

Step 2 – Desaturate

Next, click the Colors menu item and Desaturate.  In the next screen, choose Luminosity and click OK.

Step 3 – Increase Brightness

Click Colors again and then Brightness-Contrast.  Set the Brightness to +30.

Step 4 – Duplicate The Background Layer

Duplicate the Background layer by either clicking Layers-Duplicate Layer in the menu, right clicking on the layer in the Layers Palette and clicking Duplicate Layer or by keyboard shortcuts specific to your operating system.

Step 5 – Set The Foreground Color

Double-click on the foreground color swatch in the Toolbar (in this case, black).

In the Change Foreground Color screen that appears, enter 6b420c in the “HTML notation” box.  This equates to settings of Red: 107 Green: 66 Blue: 12.  Then click OK.

Step 6 – Add A New Fill Layer

Click the Layers item in the menu bar and New Layer.

In the next box, choose the Foreground Color as the Layer Fill Type and click OK.

Your Layers Palette will now look like this

Step 7 – Overlay And Merge Down

In the Layers Palette, click the top Mode: drop down and select Overlay.

Then click Layers from the Menu and Merge Down.

Step 8 – Create Layer Mask

Click on the Layers menu item, then Mask and Add Layer Mask.

On the next screen, choose “Grayscale copy of layer”, check the box for “Invert mask” and click Add.

Some will be happy with this rendition of sepia.  For me, it is a bit light. If this version works for you, go ahead and merge your layers (in the Layers menu item) and you’re done!  If you want a bit more oommph, continue to…

Step 9 – Duplicate Layer

Click the Layer menu item and then Duplicate Layer as in Step 4.  This will create a darker sepia tone.

From here the tone can be fine tuned to your liking by adjusting the opacity of the last layer created.  Once the fiddling is finished, simply merge the visible layers (right click on the Layers Palette and choose Merge Visible Layers) and the image is done!

During the process of creating this image, you will find ways to tweak and fine tune the coloring to your liking.  Certainly other slight shades of brown can be used and I encourage you to find your own settings.

I hope this tutorial has given you an easy tool to create sepia tone images to your liking!

Read more from our Post Production category

Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Panama, Alaska, Seattle and Los Angeles. He is also the creator of 31 Days to Better Photography & 31 Days of Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

  • Peter:
    Thanks for the tip; this is a very good article. I especially like that you are publishing tips for open-source tools available to everyone.

    I would like to point out that you can achieve a similar result in Step 7 by using the colourify… option under the gimp menu as opposed to adding a overlay layer.
    [eimg url=’http://desic.smugmug.com/Blog/workflow/colourify/1128404105_sSUhF-M.png’ title=’1128404105_sSUhF-M.png’]

    I will use a much lighter shade of brown, but I tend to find that the colourify… tool will have better results for sepia tone.

    Thanks again!

  • Ryan

    Nice tutorial. One question. What’s the purpose/point of the inverted layer mask. Wouldn’t it be easier to skip this step and apply more granular control by adjusting the top layer’s opacity?

    Thanks,
    Ryan

  • Always great to see more Gimp tutorials! Great idea. Thanks for posting!

  • Ryan

    Another quick tip (and there may be some technical reason It’s not the best idea), if you skip the “merge down” part of step 7, you can simply bucket fill your “New Fill Layer” with a different color for different effects.

    In fact, for a super fast (and possibly somehow inferior) version of this effect. Just;

    1 De-saturate an image,
    2 Create a New Layer and name it “Tone-Layer,”
    3 Bucket-fill “Tone-Layer” with whatever color you want,
    4 Change “Mode:” from “Normal” to “Overlay” on the now colored Tone-Layer,
    5 Adjust opacity of the Tone-Layer to intensify or soften effect.

    Repeat steps 3 and 5 for endless adjustment possibilities. That’s how I usually do it anyway.

    Bonus: there’s lots of fun to be had playing around with the “Mode:” of the Tone-Layer. Especially fun are Multiply, Divide, Difference.

    Thanks again for the tutorial though!

  • Mark

    While I don’t see much need for this exact lesson, I do want to thank you for recognizing that a lot of us use Gimp. I would love to see more tutorials on using Gimp on this site. Not all of us can afford Lightroom and Photoshop. I would much rather buy good lenses than Photoshop. Usually I can find some way of adapting a Photoshop trick to Gimp, but not always so any help is appreciated.

  • steve

    Thanks for giving us a GIMP tutorial. Please keep them coming!

  • I am with Mark, thank you very much for adding Gimp material. I know a lot of photographers that use it, and not only for financial reasons.

  • Matt

    Hooray for a GIMP post! I have always used it, until I got PSE9 and LR3 for free from school. It’s a really great free tool that more amateurs should look into before spending $99 or $299.

  • Tiffany

    I too, am very excited to see something on here about Gimp, Thank you so much. Can’t wait to see more.

  • Hi, here is an alternative algorithm by Eric R. Jeschke, directly from Gimp website. If you like the result, you can get it as a plugin prepared by Dominik Holler. Once installed, you can invoke it as a single function.

    Quite handy if you need to handle many images. However even that can be labour intensive – imagine you want to convert fifty or more images, that would be a lot of clicking! One option is to use good old command line. Install ImageMagick tools and run following script. The core comes from this forum post. It has been tested on Ubuntu 10.04 but should run on any *nix. Rewriting it for Windows shouldn’t be a big problem but you can always run it in original form under Cygwin.


    cd {your-folder-with-original-jpg-images}
    # create subfolder for sepia images
    mkdir sepia
    # loop through all jpg files and create their sepia versions
    # resulting files will have a suffix "_sepia"
    for i in `ls *.jpg`; do
    convert $i -colorspace gray \
    \( +clone -sepia-tone 80% -alpha on \
    -channel alpha -evaluate multiply 0.19 \) \
    -composite sepia/${i//.jpg/}_sepia.jpg
    done

    And just for completeness, here is another snippet for converting large number of jpg files to black&white:


    cd {your-folder-with-original-jpg-images}
    # create subfolder for black&white images
    mkdir bw
    # loop through all jpg files and create their b&w versions
    # resulting files will have a suffix "_bw"
    for i in `ls *.jpg`; do
    convert $i -colorspace gray bw/${i//.jpg/}_bw.jpg
    done

  • Thank you thank you. I’m gonna jump on the band wagon and say there’s not enough GIMP out there and it’s nice to see your tutorials on DPS.

    Photography is expensive enough without forking over $90-$1000 on PS. I really think interest in GIMP will start to pick up as folks try to save money on their hobbies.

  • Ryan

    Now if only we can get the developers of GIMP to change the name to something less offensive and downright humiliating to say in a professional environment.

  • Stephen Smith

    A great tutorial. I agree with the other commentators who say we need more GIMP tutorials; it’s a great program!
    One thing, though: never, ever use the desaturate tool! the Channel Mixer gives a much higher level of control over the toning in the initial black-and-white image. There’s a great tutorial on on the strengths, weaknesses, and how-to’s for various methods of B&W conversion. The Channel Mixer is at the bottom of the page. Happy toning!

  • Stephen Smith

    A great tutorial. I agree with the other commentators who say we need more GIMP tutorials; it’s a great program!
    One thing, though: never, ever use the desaturate tool! the Channel Mixer gives a much higher level of control over the toning in the initial black-and-white image. There’s a great tutorial on on the strengths, weaknesses, and how-to’s for various methods of B&W conversion. The Channel Mixer is at the bottom of the page. Happy toning!

  • Gary

    Im new to Gimp so thank you for an easy to follow tutorial. Delighted with my 1st attempt!

  • Leah M

    Always thankful for a good GIMP tutorial!

Some Older Comments

  • Gary July 14, 2011 03:15 am

    Im new to Gimp so thank you for an easy to follow tutorial. Delighted with my 1st attempt!

  • Stephen Smith December 22, 2010 03:48 am

    A great tutorial. I agree with the other commentators who say we need more GIMP tutorials; it's a great program!
    One thing, though: never, ever use the desaturate tool! the Channel Mixer gives a much higher level of control over the toning in the initial black-and-white image. There's a great tutorial on on the strengths, weaknesses, and how-to's for various methods of B&W conversion. The Channel Mixer is at the bottom of the page. Happy toning!

  • Stephen Smith December 22, 2010 03:48 am

    A great tutorial. I agree with the other commentators who say we need more GIMP tutorials; it's a great program!
    One thing, though: never, ever use the desaturate tool! the Channel Mixer gives a much higher level of control over the toning in the initial black-and-white image. There's a great tutorial on on the strengths, weaknesses, and how-to's for various methods of B&W conversion. The Channel Mixer is at the bottom of the page. Happy toning!

  • Ryan December 20, 2010 02:41 pm

    Now if only we can get the developers of GIMP to change the name to something less offensive and downright humiliating to say in a professional environment.

  • Kat Landreth December 20, 2010 02:07 pm

    Thank you thank you. I'm gonna jump on the band wagon and say there's not enough GIMP out there and it's nice to see your tutorials on DPS.

    Photography is expensive enough without forking over $90-$1000 on PS. I really think interest in GIMP will start to pick up as folks try to save money on their hobbies.

  • Tomas Sobek December 19, 2010 05:05 pm

    Hi, here is an alternative algorithm by Eric R. Jeschke, directly from Gimp website. If you like the result, you can get it as a plugin prepared by Dominik Holler. Once installed, you can invoke it as a single function.

    Quite handy if you need to handle many images. However even that can be labour intensive - imagine you want to convert fifty or more images, that would be a lot of clicking! One option is to use good old command line. Install ImageMagick tools and run following script. The core comes from this forum post. It has been tested on Ubuntu 10.04 but should run on any *nix. Rewriting it for Windows shouldn't be a big problem but you can always run it in original form under Cygwin.


    cd {your-folder-with-original-jpg-images}
    # create subfolder for sepia images
    mkdir sepia
    # loop through all jpg files and create their sepia versions
    # resulting files will have a suffix "_sepia"
    for i in `ls *.jpg`; do
    convert $i -colorspace gray \
    \( +clone -sepia-tone 80% -alpha on \
    -channel alpha -evaluate multiply 0.19 \) \
    -composite sepia/${i//.jpg/}_sepia.jpg
    done

    And just for completeness, here is another snippet for converting large number of jpg files to black&white:


    cd {your-folder-with-original-jpg-images}
    # create subfolder for black&white images
    mkdir bw
    # loop through all jpg files and create their b&w versions
    # resulting files will have a suffix "_bw"
    for i in `ls *.jpg`; do
    convert $i -colorspace gray bw/${i//.jpg/}_bw.jpg
    done

  • Tiffany December 18, 2010 02:18 am

    I too, am very excited to see something on here about Gimp, Thank you so much. Can't wait to see more.

  • Matt December 17, 2010 11:43 pm

    Hooray for a GIMP post! I have always used it, until I got PSE9 and LR3 for free from school. It's a really great free tool that more amateurs should look into before spending $99 or $299.

  • Leandro December 17, 2010 11:34 pm

    I am with Mark, thank you very much for adding Gimp material. I know a lot of photographers that use it, and not only for financial reasons.

  • steve December 17, 2010 11:10 pm

    Thanks for giving us a GIMP tutorial. Please keep them coming!

  • Mark December 17, 2010 04:28 pm

    While I don't see much need for this exact lesson, I do want to thank you for recognizing that a lot of us use Gimp. I would love to see more tutorials on using Gimp on this site. Not all of us can afford Lightroom and Photoshop. I would much rather buy good lenses than Photoshop. Usually I can find some way of adapting a Photoshop trick to Gimp, but not always so any help is appreciated.

  • Ryan December 17, 2010 03:16 am

    Another quick tip (and there may be some technical reason It's not the best idea), if you skip the "merge down" part of step 7, you can simply bucket fill your "New Fill Layer" with a different color for different effects.

    In fact, for a super fast (and possibly somehow inferior) version of this effect. Just;

    1 De-saturate an image,
    2 Create a New Layer and name it "Tone-Layer,"
    3 Bucket-fill "Tone-Layer" with whatever color you want,
    4 Change "Mode:" from "Normal" to "Overlay" on the now colored Tone-Layer,
    5 Adjust opacity of the Tone-Layer to intensify or soften effect.

    Repeat steps 3 and 5 for endless adjustment possibilities. That's how I usually do it anyway.

    Bonus: there's lots of fun to be had playing around with the "Mode:" of the Tone-Layer. Especially fun are Multiply, Divide, Difference.

    Thanks again for the tutorial though!

  • McKay December 17, 2010 03:16 am

    Always great to see more Gimp tutorials! Great idea. Thanks for posting!

  • Ryan December 17, 2010 03:02 am

    Nice tutorial. One question. What's the purpose/point of the inverted layer mask. Wouldn't it be easier to skip this step and apply more granular control by adjusting the top layer's opacity?

    Thanks,
    Ryan

  • Eric December 17, 2010 02:56 am

    Peter:
    Thanks for the tip; this is a very good article. I especially like that you are publishing tips for open-source tools available to everyone.

    I would like to point out that you can achieve a similar result in Step 7 by using the colourify... option under the gimp menu as opposed to adding a overlay layer.
    [eimg url='http://desic.smugmug.com/Blog/workflow/colourify/1128404105_sSUhF-M.png' title='1128404105_sSUhF-M.png']

    I will use a much lighter shade of brown, but I tend to find that the colourify... tool will have better results for sepia tone.

    Thanks again!

Join Our Email Newsletter

Thanks for subscribing!


DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed