Wednesday Gimp Plug-in Review: Split Tone

August 12, 2009

I’m hoping to have another weekly thing going on here at After all, I did two weeks in a row of the Weekend Links, so that’s a good sign that I might be able to keep up with weekly things, right?

Well. Now I’m introducing Wednesday Plug-in Reviews! Did you know that Gimp has plug-ins that you can add (much like Photoshop’s Actions)? There’s a whole registry of them over here. Personally, I find the registry hard to navigate, and with not a lot of reviews or organization, it’s hard to figure out just which ones I want to spend the time downloading. So, I’m going to help do the work for you and review one every week.

This week, I’m going to look at the Split Tone script. Split-toning, in case you don’t know, is taking a black and white photo and adding a different tone to the highlights and shadows of the photo. This used to happen naturally years and years ago when processing film, but it’s a nice effect to add to digital photos now and then. (note: this script includes a step where it converts the image to black and white, so you can run this even with a full color image)

First, if you don’t already know where your scripts go, you’re going to need to find that out by opening up Gimp. Once it’s open, go to Edit –> Preferences and scroll down to Folders –> Scripts. You’ll probably have more than one folder listed here and you need to save your script files to one of these locations. I’m going to save mine in my own user folder (because Vista is stupid and I don’t have access to save it in the “all users” folder even though I’m the only user on this computer, and I’m too lazy to fix that), which is the first one you see listed here:

Find the Plug-in Folder

So, now on the Split Tone Plug-in page, right under the sample photos, you’ll see an Attachments section, right-click on split-tone.scm and “Save Link As” (I’m in Firefox, is the wording different for other browsers? I can’t remember, just download it somehow!) and save it into the folder that you found already:

Save the Script

Back in Gimp, go to Filters –> Script-Fu –> Refresh Scripts:

Refresh Scripts

It looks like nothing happens, but look! You have an extra menu bar at the top now! Script-Fu! And under that you have Colours –> Split-Tone!

Alright. Now let’s check it out. Here’s the photo I’m going to use for this example. It’s a very recent photo I took of an old, peeling window sill:

Old Peeling Window Sill

Once I have it loaded in Gimp, I run the script using the menu show above and the following dialog box pops up:

Default Settings

For the first time running the script, I’m going to use the default values and so I click ok. The script runs relatively fast and I end up with this:

Split-tone default settings

If you take a look at the layers dock, you’ll see that it created some new layers for you – one for the Highlights and one for the Shadows (you can also see that it desaturated the orginal layer)

Remember how it asked me in the original dialog box what I wanted the opacity of the Highlights and Shadows to be? Well, I can change that after the fact. Here I switched the opacity of the Highlights Layer to about 70%:

Highlight Layer to 70%

And now the photo looks like this:

Split-tone Highlight Opacity 70%

Now let’s try the script one more time, but this time with some different colors. You change the colors by clicking on the color boxes. I decided to go with brown and bright green (similar to the colors you find on this website, actually) (one day my look and feel will completely change and someone will read that sentence and go… WHAT?):

changing the colors

After it ran, I changed the Highlights layer to about 50% and my photo looks like this now:

Split-tone Brown and Green


Overall Review

I like this script a lot. I like the feel of Split-tone

I also like that the script is simple enough to use (there’s not so many decisions to make on the dialog box that I get overwhelmed), but I still have just the right amount of control (the colors and the opacity). It also runs very quickly compared to other scripts I’ve tried running (I realize that means it just doesn’t do as much, but I’m ok with that, I still like that it runs fast).

Overall, I have nothing bad to say about this script, and I’ll probably use it when editing some of my photos from now on!

Something to note, however: This script includes the desaturation of the image, which, of course, it has to, however, remember as I discussed in the Converting to Black and White entry, I prefer not to use the default desaturation. If you’d like, you can always convert your image to black and white however you like first, and then run the script, you might like the results even more!

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  • I sorta like the unedited image the best. The plugin doesn't seem to have improved the shot by much or any for that matter.

  • Heather/crysalis

    I love that windowsill shot.

    Does Gimp do layer masking and clipping masks and all that jazz? I'm thinking of trying it out, but I don't want to waste time downloading it if it doesn't...

  • Ok, I have to admit that I don't know what clipping masks are, so my first instinct was to say "no" for that, but doing a google search I found a number of tutorials in order to do it, it just sounds like it's not something provided out of the box.

    Layer masking, though? Yes.

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