How do I create a split-tone effect in GIMP?

Here is an example of the effect I am looking for.

split-tone effect


2 Answers 2


The effect is not a single color, but a gradient map, where everything between black and white is replaced with a transition between two colors. To create this effect in GIMP, you would first set the active foreground and background colors to the colors that you want to map to black and white, respectively:


The source image should have good contrast for best results:


Make sure that the the active gradient is set to "FG to BG (RGB)", which is the default, then from the "Colors" menu, select "Map>Gradient Map":


(image source)


One way I often achieve a similar look in Gimp is the following:

  • Convert your source shot to black and white,
  • Duplicate the Layer, so you have to similar b/w layers, I will call them "light" (top layer) and "dark".
  • Add a layer mask to the "light" layer (right click layer->'Add Layer Mask') and choose 'Grayscale copy of layer'.
  • Select your "light" layer (not its layer mask!), go to 'Colors' -> 'Colorize', choose the hue for the lighter areas of the picture. I tried to mimic the middle one of your example, so I chose a hue value of 5. In this case, set Saturation to its maximum Value. I also had to reduce Lightness by 20.
  • Select the "dark" layer, again select 'Colors' -> 'Colorize', choose the hue for the darker areas. Normally you get a good effekt by choosing a hue that is roughly the opposite color (add or substract 180 degree to the light hue). Again to mimic your example I chose hue 266. Saturation to the max, Lightness -20.
  • To tweak the shift between light and dark and also the color contrast, you can now play with the layer mask of "light". For that I suggest using the 'Levels' tool in the 'Colors' menu. I increased the contrast of the layer mask by changing the lower Input level to 80 and the upper one to 180. The middle value can be used to get the right dark/light transition.

Here are the original and result:

original Portrait duo tone effekt

Image credit: Kelsey's GB Photography

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just by the way: this is one of the best examples I could give for an effekt that justifies using Lightroom instead of Gimp (which I do like!): You can achive this very effekt in a matter of seconds, while maintaining full control over every value you can change over the whole process. In Gimp when you follow this procedure, in order to change the light hue you would of course have to go reverse all your steps, make your correction, and then try to remeber and recreate the steps that you did before... \$\endgroup\$
    – smow
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 20:46
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There's slight difference - reference image goes from orange to violet directly, whereas your effect has black in the middle. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 6:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ As @junkyardsparkle mentions, gradient map is the correct approach. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 7:50

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