How to Create a Duotone Effect in Photoshop?

Duotone Effect

Back when the practice of photography was still new, reproducing images in color was considered too expensive. The only option then was to print in monotone, but this lacked the richness and contrast needed to make the image pop. Because of this, the duotone effect was created to brighten up pictures and allow the image to pop out without breaking the bank.

However, as technology advanced, full-color images became the norm, and the practice became more of an artistic choice than a necessity. Nevertheless, the use of duotone has become far more versatile, often being used to emphasize certain elements of a design or image.

Nowadays, Photoshop is the software of choice for those who want to recreate the effect. With that said, this article will show you how to create a duotone effect in Photoshop.

Duotone Effect: What Is It?

The duotone effect is defined as the process of using two contrasting colors to create a more dramatic and richer effect for images. As mentioned, it used to be a common practice to produce more visually pleasing and brighter photos without going for the more expensive full-color option.

Nowadays, it’s an artistic choice that’s used in almost any kind of design — from infographics to book cover designs.

Creating Duotone in Photoshop

With the help of image processing programs like Photoshop, it’s now easier to create the effect and do so for any digital image. To learn how to create a duotone Photoshop, check out the steps below.

Method 1: Using the Default Duotone Option

  • Convert the colored image to 8-bit grayscale.

You first need to convert any colored image to 8-bit grayscale if you want to use Photoshop to create a duotone effect. This can be done by going to the Image menu and selecting Grayscale from the Mode menu.

Make sure that the option for 8-bits/Channel is selected as only 8-bit grayscale images can be used for duotone Photoshop. This will prompt a couple of notifications to pop out such as asking you if you want to flatten the image and discard the color information.

For the latter, click Discard as you need to do so to use Photoshop’s duotone option.

  • Convert the now-grayscale image to a duotone.

After its conversion to grayscale, you can now convert it into a duotone using Photoshop. To do this, go to Image and select the Mode menu. Under this, you’ll find the Duotone option. It’s usually underneath the option for Grayscale.

  • Select your chosen colors.

In duotone mode, Photoshop will prompt you to select your colors. If the Preview option is checked, the image itself will update with the colors you select. You can play around with the settings until you achieve your desired effect.

Method 2: Using a Gradient Map

  • Apply a Gradient Map to your chosen image.

For this method, you don’t need to convert the image to grayscale before you can create a duotone effect. All you need to do is go to the Image menu, choose Adjustments, and select Gradient Map.

  • Choose your gradient colors.

Upon choosing Gradient Map from the options, this will open up the Gradient Editor where you can choose from several presets. In this menu, you can also adjust how the gradient appears on your image, so you can tinker with the settings until you get your desired effect.

For example, you can invert the colors by checking the Reverse option. You can also add several other Color Stops to the gradient map by clicking on the gradient, and you can edit them until you’re satisfied with the result.

Tips for Effectively Using the Duotone Effect

Regardless of what you’re going to use it for, learning how to create a duotone effect is something that can come in handy. However, you need to consider several aspects when using the effect as your image may come out less striking than you intended it to be.

  • Use complementing colors.

Since duotone only uses two colors, make sure you use hues that complement one another. Combining your chosen colors should make the image pop out, not make it appear flat. You can take inspiration from color theories to make your image stand out.

  • Experiment with your color combinations.

Although it’s better to use complementary colors, you shouldn’t limit yourself. Feel free to experiment and mix and match colors to achieve your desired effect. Consider the message you want your image to convey and use the colors to achieve that.

  • Use grayscale.

Converting your image to grayscale will not only allow you to use Photoshop’s default duotone option, but the grayscale mode will also allow you to view your image’s color contrast. This can give you a clearer idea of how you can use the duotone effect to your advantage.

Final Thoughts

Although it started as a workaround to make pictures brighter and more dynamic while on a strict budget, the use of duotone has greatly evolved over the years. In the digital age, it now serves as a way to make certain elements of a design to pop and catch the attention of viewers.

Even if it’s not your preferred artistic style, learning how to use the duotone effect can come in handy, especially when working in the creative industry.

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