How to Create Duotones in Photoshop

April 4, 2024

Duotone is one of the most universal effects you can add to your photos. It works with almost any photo and looks great as backgrounds, headers, etc. It's also incredibly easy to achieve in Photoshop. You can create the duotone effect by adding one Gradient Map adjustment layer. In this tutorial, you'll learn how to achieve the duotone effect in Photoshop.

Step 1

Here's the photo that I'll be using. The duotone effect works best on photos with a simple background.

Step 2

Next, go into the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and click on the "New Adjustment Layer" button on the bottom of the panel. Select "Gradient Map".

Important: Make sure you are adding a Gradient Map and not a Gradient layer! It's the one near the bottom of the menu.

Step 3

In the Properties panel (Window > Properties), doubleclick on the gradient and it should bring up the Gradient Editor.

Before you begin, make sure that you see a black to white gradient. If not, go into the Presets section and select the black to white gradient.

Inside the Gradient Editor, double-click on the bottom-left point to change the color.

Pick any color you like. I'll be using cyan. You'll be able to change this color later if needed.

Step 4

Now we're going to select the second color. Double-click on the bottom-right point.

Pick the second color.

Here's how our image looks like so far - not so appealing right?

Step 5

In the Layers panel (Window > Layers), click on the blending mode dropdown menu and select "Multiply".

Instantly, your photo should look much better. You can also try other blending modes such as Color, but you should stick to the Multiply for this tutorial.

Step 6

Depending on the colors you use and how saturated your photo is, you might see colors leaking through which will affect the duotone look. To fix this, you'll need to desaturate your photo. In the Layers panel, click on the New Adjustment Layer button and add a Black and White adjustment layer.

Position this layer below your Gradient Map.

Step 7

Most of the time, it's hard to get the right look on the first try. So go back into the Gradient Editor and tweak the colors.

You can also drag the position of the points to change the balance. In this case, by moving the purple slider closer towards the center, we're bringing in more purple into the photo.

Step 7

Okay, what about saturation? If you've tried picking a duller color, it might not work the way you want it to. Instead, add a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

In the Properties panel, click on the the target tool (looks like a hand with two arrows).

Click anywhere in your image and drag left/right to desaturate/saturate the colors.

Other Color Combinations

We're done creating the duotone in Photoshop! It's extremely easy and a fun way to transform your photo. Try out some other color combinations! Here are some other color combinations I used.

You can also create subtle duotones by choosing colors close to each other.

Duotones in Lightroom

If you're like many people who use Lightroom more than you use Photoshop, then there's two ways to creating duotones. One is from a tutorial by Denny's Tips which you will learn how to create a red/blue effect using the tone curves (yes that's right - tone curves, not split toning). Split toning will not give you the saturated colors and looks flat overall.

The second way is to use Lightroom profiles. The website Photoshop Tutorials has 36 duotone profiles you can download for free. If you need more colors, there's a paid one you can upgrade to. Note that these are Lightroom profiles (not presets) so they will only work with Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic CC, and Photoshop CC through the Camera Raw filter.

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