Selective Sepia

Selective Sepia

Selective Sepia

Learn how to use Photoshop to create selectively add a dramatic sepia effect a photo. This Photoshop effect works best when used with Photoshop CS3 but will also work with Photoshop CS2 or older using an alternative method.

Preview of Final Results


Selective Sepia Photoshop Tutorial

Selective Sepia Photoshop Tutorial



Step 1: Open an image into Photoshop

Open the File menu and select Open. Browse for the photo you would like to add a selective sepia effect to and click OK.


Step 2: Create a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer


In the Layers pallet, click on the New Adjustment Layer icon and select Hue/Saturation.

A Hue/Saturation window should appear. With this tool, we'll specify where the sepia effect will appear. Decide if you want to select the sepia toned areas according to the color of the image or by manually painting the areas where you would like the sepia tone.

Choose one of the following:

A) Select by color

Selecting the sepia areas based on color will give the most natural effect.

First, decide which color in the photo that you want to keep. Then, select from the edit drop down menu the each color in the list except for the colors you want to keep and reduce the saturation to -100. For example, to keep the reds in the photo use the following settings:

  • Reds: 0 Saturation
  • Yellows: -100 Saturation
  • Greens: -100 Saturation
  • Cyans: -100 Saturation
  • Blues: -100 Saturation
  • Magenta : -100 Saturation

B) Select manually

Manually selecting the sepia toned areas will let you specify precisely the area that you would like toned. Set the master saturation to -100 and click OK. Your image should now appear grayscale.

Activate the layer mask by clicking on the layer mask thumbnail in the Layers pallet. Select the Eraser tool and erase the areas where you don't want the sepia tone to be applied to.


Step 3: Add a Black & White adjustment layer


In the Layers pallet, click on the New Adjustment Layer icon and select Black & White. If you are using Photoshop CS2 or older, select Hue/Saturation instead.

A Black & White (or Hue/Saturation if you're using Photoshop CS2 or older) adjustment layer should appear. Simply click OK without editing the settings. Then, change the blend mode of the top adjustment layer to Overlay. Double click back on the icon of the layer to bring back the tool.

Photoshop CS2 or older:

You will be using the Hue/Saturation tool to add a sepia tone. Checkmark "Colorize" and apply the settings below:

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