It’s All About Tone

What exactly is “tone” anyway?  I look it up on  There are 15 definitions.  The first 9 have to do with sound.  None of them include ring tones, in case you were wondering.

When I hear the word “tone,” I think first of “tone of voice.”  Like when Tisen ignores me and I say, “Neh, eh, eh” in a tone of voice that let’s him know he needs to pay attention now.  I’m convinced it’s the tone and not the “words” that makes him actually listen.

The second thing that comes up  (or, really, down) for me is “skin tone.”  To me, skin tone refers to a state of tautness, firmness, lack of sag.  Gravity and skin tone are waging a constant battle.  I hope this doesn’t ruin the ending for you, but gravity wins eventually.

Then there is muscle tone.  This is probably more closely related to skin tone than I would like to admit.  People often say things like “lift less weight and more reps to tone.”  I don’t really know what that means, but I guess they think they can build sleek but firm muscles instead of bulky ones.  Bigger muscles probably help more with skin tone than small, skinny muscles.  I don’t really know–I prefer to try to tone skin by keeping a nice layer of fat.

But what on earth is tone when it comes to color?

Apparently “tone” refers to how much gray you add to a pure “hue.”  Hue seems to boil down to the colors of the rainbow.  So, if you take blue and add white, you get a tint of blue.  If you take blue and add black, you get a shade of blue.  And, if you take blue and add gray, you get a tone of blue.  So, a tone visually refers to how much gray is mixed with a given hue.


So, sadly, when I am performing tone mapping, I am not working any muscles or tightening any skin.  I think what I’m doing is telling my computer to re-render an image with a whole bunch of tones mapped to a single tone of that color because not all tones can be displayed.

What I don’t get (besides why I can’t tone map my aging skin), is why taking many tones and mapping them to a single tone results in the images I get when I perform this function.  I also don’t get the relationship between tone mapping and the effects that are possible when performing this function.

I’ve selected several tone mapped images to share.  All have appeared in non-tone mapped form on my blog before, but I’ve re-processed them as an experiment as I continue to try to understand High Dynamic Range photography.  I’m starting to like the black and white renderings.  Can you have a tone of black and white?

As a side note, an unintended consequence of tone mapping is that I’m spending more time sitting at the big computer and less time on the couch, which does not make Tisen a happy dog.


4 responses to “It’s All About Tone

  1. Points to ponder. I love the colors even Tisen, but I love the sky! What would be great is if you could fix my skin flaws on your computer that would help my real skin :). That might be asking too much?

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