Create a Non-Destructive Sepia Tone Effect with GIMP

Here’s a quick and easy way to give your photo a sepia tone effect with the free GIMP photo editor. Best of all, it’s absolutely non-destructive, so if you change your mind, you can easily go back to your edited photo.

This tutorial uses GIMP 2.6. This should work in later versions, but there may be differences with older versions.

  1. Choosing a color for sepia tone
  2. Add a new sepia color layer
  3. Change the blending mode to Color
  4. Initial results may need to be adjusted
  5. Apply Hue Saturation Adjustment
  6. Disable the sepia effect

Choosing a color for sepia tone

Open the image you want to work with in GIMP.

Go to the “Color Picker” section at the bottom of the toolbar, click color sample in the foreground and choose a reddish-brown color.

The exact color is not important – we’ll show you how to set it later.

Add a new sepia color layer

Go to the layers palette and click on the button New layer † In the New Layer dialog box, set the layer’s fill type to Foreground Color and click Okay † A new brown layer will cover the photo.

Change the blending mode to Color

In the layers palette, click the menu arrow next to “ Mode: normal ” and select Colour as the new layer mode.

Initial results may need to be adjusted

The result may not be the sepia tone effect you want, but it’s easy to fix. The original photo is unaffected in the layer below because we only applied color as the layer’s blending mode.

Apply Hue Saturation Adjustment

Make sure the brown fill layer remains the selected layer in the layer palette and then go to Tools > Color Tools > Hue Saturation

Move the Hue and Saturation sliders until you’re happy with the sepia tone. As you can see, by making big adjustments to the Hue slider, you can create tonal effects other than sepia tones.

Disable the sepia effect

To return to the original photo, simply disable the eye icon in the layers palette next to the color fill layer.

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