Tutorial: Creating Flexible HDR Toning

In my Photoshop Maximum Tour I show a technique that I borrowed from Matt Kloskowski. It has to do with the new Photoshop CS5 command, HDR Toning (not Merge to HDR Pro). Found under the Adjustments menu, this command lets you do single image HDR or what some people call Faux HDR.

There’s one problem with HDR Toning: if you try to either duplicate the Background layer or Convert to Smart Object to give yourself more flexibility, here’s what happens:

There’s no choice: if you want to run HDR Toning it has to be one the Background layer.

In my seminar I show a method Matt came up with that involves using an Action to deal with the situation.  Here’s another option, for you non-Action kinda folks.

Step one: Duplicate the background layer

Step two: Convert the top (duplicated) layer to a Smart Object

Step three: double-click on the Smart Object to edit its contents (this will open a second window)

Step four: Choose Image>Adjustments>HDR Toning. When asked, click OK to flatten the document.

Step five: Apply the HDR Toning setting that you want. Close and Save the document.

In the original document the top layer (the Smart Object) will be the photo with the HDR Toning settings applied, and you also have the original Background layer below.

Now you can experiment with different blend modes and opacity settings (here Multiply at 80%), or you can always delete the Smart Object, and start over at step one.

At this point there is no way to create an editable version of HDR Toning, but this method at least gives you an opportunity to change your mind and/or blend in the original.

[image courtesy of Veer]


  1. Gabriel Marigo

    November 26, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Transforming the top layer to a smart object seems like an unnecessary step, since you don’t have any extra flexibility with it.

    Greetings from Brazil

  2. Miriam

    November 26, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Great tip. I love HDR toning and this is a good work around the issue of flattening. Thanks!

  3. Troy Breidenbach

    November 26, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    You guys are sooo smart!

  4. Mary Wardell

    December 7, 2010 at 1:46 am

    I like this since you can use the HDR Toning and then blend it into the original. Thanks, Dave!

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