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Goodbye, Split Toning — full Color Grading is coming to Lightroom

Lightroom Sneak Peak: Advanced Color Grading

Adobe Lightroom’s split toning tool will soon be gone — the tool for adjusting the color tones of the highlights and shadows will instead be replaced by an advanced color grading tool with even more options. On Monday, September 28, Adobe released a preview of Advanced Color Grading, a tool for adding cinematic color edits to still photos that will soon be available in Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic, and Adobe Camera RAW.

Advanced Color Grading replaces the software’s current Split Toning tool, which allows photo editors to add color to the highlights and shadows in order to mimic film, emphasize golden light, or alter the mood of the image. The new tool has more in common with Premiere Pro’s Lumetri Color panel than the current split toning panel in Lightroom, changing from simple sliders and color swatches to a multitude of color wheels.

With the update, photo editors will no longer be limited to applying tones to the shadows and highlights. The tool will also include a color wheel for the midtones, as well as a global color wheel.


Instead of sliders and swatches, editors select points on the color wheel to choose both a color or hue and the saturation to apply. A control outside the color wheel adjusts the hue, while the control inside the color wheel slides around for adjusting the saturation and the hue. Locking the color wheel to only adjust saturation with the inner control will also be an option by tapping the center of the circle.

Sliders aren’t entirely gone with the update, however. Each color wheel will also have a luminance slider. Blending sliders are designed for “more nuanced adjustments,” Adobe’s Pei Ketron says.

At the top of the upcoming Color Grading panel, clicking on a color wheel shows a larger view, or photo editors can choose to see shadows, midtones, and highlights at once.

The update aims to offer more controls and options for color grading still photos than current tools. The idea of more options is often associated with more complex tools, but selecting a color that you can physically see on the wheel could prove to be simpler for beginners than the current swatch and sliders. The tool also appears to be a bit faster to apply, though perhaps less precise, than color grading in Premiere Pro.

Adobe says the upgrade is “coming soon,” but a launch during next month’s Adobe Max conference is a good guess. The creativity conference, which usually includes the launch of the latest version of Creative Cloud software, is scheduled for October 20-22 and is both virtual and free this year.

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