Did You Know: Sepia Toning is Named After the Common Cuttlefish

Here’s your interesting photo fact of the day: did you know that sepia toning (when B&W photos are given that distinctive warm tone) is named after the Common Cuttlefish? The scientific name of the species is Sepia officinalis, and the ink produced by the cuttlefish was used for sepia toning when the technique first emerged in the 1880s.

Sepia is a dark brown-grey color, named after the rich brown pigment derived from the ink sac of the common cuttlefish Sepia. The word sepia is the Latinized form of the Greek σηπία, sēpía, cuttlefish. [#]

Nowadays, sepia ink is generally replaced with other dyes or pigments that produce the same hue.

Photographic print toning (via Reddit)

  • Philip Smith

    This is one of those “Woah” moments.

  • Alzir Lima

    cool :)

  • Anonymous

    This is a really old QI fact. Still interesting to those that don’t know. QI is the source of all information though!

  • Guest

    Like how they used to grind up mummies for brown paint?

  • ZD

    Very interesting!!

  • Joseph Campanella

    I’m pretty sure the reason they used the ink was because it helped preserve the photos….

  • Michele

    Well, sice I’m Italian, and cuttlefish in Italy is called “seppia” I knew that it was somewhat involved. Now I know how, thank you!

  • Kenny

    cuttelfish are not fish, though

  • Timoby2k

    who said they were fish?

  • Michael Zhang

    Thanks for pointing that out — we’ve updated the post