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    2 Methods for making duotones in Photoshop


    The method 2 for making duotones in Photoshop first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Glenn Harper.

    This article looks at two methods for making duotones in Photoshop. But first, what is a duotone?

    Think of a duotone and you will imagine an image that consists of two different shades. Simple so far. But a typical duotone printing press uses black ink and a different color, the result is a photograph that is monochrome according to the definition of many people. No black appears in the final image unless the original image is cropped in shades of gray, which photographers usually try to avoid.

    Two methods for creating Duotones in Photoshop

    This photo uses two different blue-cyan shades that are superimposed on the original black (with an gradient map), but it would be considered monochrome in most circles.

    A sepia image often comes from a duotone process, but many people regard sepia photos as monochrome.

    Indeed, they are ultimately black and white, but try to produce a sepia effect in Photoshop with a single brown color. You will notice that it often looks flat. You can adjust some wild curves, but you really need black or dark gray to get contrast.

    sepia monochrome aand duotone

    Use the duotone mode to take two sepia photos. The upper half is duotone with a mixture of dark gray (almost black) and dark brown. The lower half is what you get with only dark brown – monotonous.

    For our purposes

    We will look briefly at the classic black + one color method for making duotones, not least because that blend tends to create more tasteful results. But I will also show you how you can produce two-color images in Photoshop CC in two ways: duotone mode and gradient maps.

    Method 1: duotone mode

    To access Photoshop CC's duotone mode, you first need an 8-bit grayscale image. But before you convert to grayscale, you may want to perform a normal black-and-white conversion. That way you can use the color sliders to get the best starting point before ejecting data.

    The process of creating a classic duotone in this way is well described in another article. Choose one of the many available presets in Photoshop or choose your own color combination. Then adjust the contrast in the two "inks" as desired using the built-in curve adjustments. Technically, this produces a duotone, even if it is monochromatic due to some definitions.

    Create duotones in Photoshop

    A two-tone duotone photo that nevertheless looks monochrome. Only by cutting the original image in shades of gray can you get real black in the photo.

    Tip: to ensure that your second color (or "ink") is the one that imbues the image, the first "color" must be neutral (that is, the standard black or dark gray). Otherwise mix the two colors. To achieve two different colors, there is more to do.

    Two different colors in Duotone mode

    It is possible to create a two-color image in the duo tone mode of Photoshop. Suppose you have selected two colors (for example, black and orange) and you want to make shadows blue. This is what you would do next:

    • Click on "Print Colors" to open a dialog.
    • Click in the color box next to ' 1 + 2 ' to open the color picker.
    • Move the dialer around and choose a blue, observing its effect on the image in real time.
    • Close the "Color picker" and "Overprint colors" boxes.
    • You are done! Convert back to RGB for conventional internet or use of printing.
    Two methods for creating Duotones in Photoshop

    By clicking on "overprint colors" in duotone mode, you can create a second distinctive hue over your dark tones. In this case I chose dark green.

    Method 2: gradient maps

    Just like the duotone mode in Photoshop CC, there are many gradient map presets that you can try out. Some use a single hue or multiple hues, so in some cases they can be monochrome, triton or quadtone. But a classic two-color gradient card gives you a duo tone result with discreet colors.

    Duotones in Photoshop CC.

    If you use a normal blending mode with a gradient map, you get an image in two colors without black. There is a clear lack of contrast, although this varies depending on the colors chosen.

    The method for making a duotone using gradient maps is here:

    • Open a black and white adjustment layer (do not use it yet).
    • Open an adjustment layer for the gradient map and set a "contrast" blending mode (for example, overlay, soft light, hard light, etc.).
    • Click on the gradient to edit the colors.
    • Double-click the sliders on the bottom left and right to open the color picker and select your shadow and highlight colors. A single click on either slider produces a slider in the center that you can move if you want to change the transition point between colors.
    • Adjust the color sliders on the black and white layer if you want to selectively darken or illuminate parts of the image.
    • Adjust the opacity on the layer with gradient cards as desired.
    • Flatten layers.
    Create duotones with gradient cards.

    To reduce the contrast of the original image, select an overlay, soft light, hard light, or color blending mode.

    If you are looking for a subtle duotone with off-black and off-white colors, you can skip the black and white layer. Just use a gradient card layer with a normal blend mode. Note, however, that this excludes the possibility of reducing the coverage (which reduces the colors) or selectively adjusting different tones. The extra B&W layer adds versatility.

    The normal blend mode also looks pop arty if you choose bold colors, so it's good for creating graphic posters or flyer images. In this mode, it is worth keeping in mind when choosing colors that gives a low-down and one-high color on the voter's graph more contrast. The closer the two shades are in terms of "height of the picker", the less contrast there is in terms of brightness. Other blending modes add contrast, so this only applies to ' normal & # 39 ;.

    Blue and orange duotone.

    Another duotone with a gradient map that uses a "normal" blending mode. Blue and orange are complementary colors (approximately). Photo: Pixabay

    Of course, if your shadows and highlights are so close to black and white that their shades are difficult to detect, you are effectively back in creating monochromes. The semantics does not matter on the condition that you do not visit a duotone photo competition with photos that look mono.

    Compress the tonal range

    When you use the color picker to select your shadow and highlight colors, each hue compresses above the base level or below the top of the graph the tonal range (or dynamic range) of the photo. That is at least the case if you perform a separate operation or use an adjustment layer with a normal blending mode.

    If you are looking for a graphic image with two striking colors, the tonal range is almost immaterial. You can drop it wherever possible. But with mono images and subtle duotones, dynamic range is more important. We have always learned to aim for a full tonal range in our photos so that the data ends in a histogram from start to finish, but in reality compressed data sometimes looks good. It gives online photos a feeling of printing in the absence of deep shadows and blinding highlights. Try it!

    Understand the color picker in Photoshop.

    The hard left side of the color picker goes from pure black to white, from bottom to top. The same principle applies to colors. They go from pure black to fully saturated. In this case, I have compressed the tonal range of a black and white photo with 5%, slightly eliminated shadows, and highlighted highlights.

    Just as you can compress the tonal range of an image using curves or levels, so you can use gradient maps and the color picker. You can do the same in duotone mode by adjusting the end points of the built-in curves so that the curve is less steep. Conversely, curling lines increases the contrast and ultimately shadows and highlights are cut.

    compress the tonal range of photos

    What I did with the color picker in the image above is the same as doing this in turns. If you select two duotone colors with a normal blending mode, you also compress the tonal range unless you choose the most saturated hue and black. (The baseline of the color picker is always pure black.)

    Choose colors

    If you are looking for colors that go well together, try using the Adobe Color Themes extension in Photoshop CC. You don't need to have an image open to experiment with it. Set your background and foreground colors via the extension in the toolbox and they will automatically switch to a gradient map when you open one. Complementary colors are perfect for duotones.

    Create duotones in Photoshop CC

    With this photo I have set complementary foreground and background colors in Photoshop CC using the Adobe Color Themes extension. Then I opened a gradient card that automatically applies the two colors.

    There are several websites dedicated to finding colors that work well together, including Adobe Color. These usually contain the hex numbers, which you can copy and paste into the Photoshop color picker to reproduce exactly the same hues.

    Last thought

    In the past, a duotone was used as a cheaper alternative to color halftone printing. Today you could consider it figuratively as a more expensive alternative to black and white. I would not suggest that it is better (of course it is not), but it is another way to convey a state of mind. Sometimes you can give a hint to the color in the original photo. Or you can just create a number of remote pop art. There are many possibilities.


    The method 2 for making duotones in Photoshop first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Glenn Harper.

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