In this quick tutorial I’ll show you how to create a duotone effect on your images using Adobe Photoshop.
Duotone is a halftone process that converts an image to just two colors. This popular style is an interesting way to add cohesion to a set of photos that all look different; you’ll notice Spotify has adopted it as their signature look for marketing and platform visuals.
What You’ll Need
As well as access to Adobe Photoshop, you’ll need an image or selection of images that will suit the duotone style. Images with pale or white backgrounds and heavy contrast look great as duotones. The photos I’ve used in this tutorial are:
Open up your image in Photoshop.
In the Layers panel choose Black & White from the New Adjustment Layer menu.
Switching the image to black and white will make your duotone color choice look more vibrant.
Head back into the adjustment menu and this time choose Gradient Map.
In the Gradient Map window, double-click on the gradient color bar. This will open up the Gradient Editor window.
Double-click on the stop at the far-left side of the slider under the Gradient Type section.
This opens the Stop Color window. Here you can add the first color of your duotone gradient. I’m going for a deep pink tone for this first stop, R=180 G=48 B=147. Once you’re happy with your color choice, click OK.
Click on the right-hand stop to open the Stop Color window for your second color tone. Finding a color to complement your first choice can take a bit of experimenting.
Here I’ve gone for a baby blue, R=245 G=210 B=231. Click OK once you’re happy.
You can adjust the strength of the duotone gradient by tweaking the position of the two stops.
I moved the pink slider to the right to make that color selection stronger. Aim for a balance of contrast and brightness in your image. You want to see all the details of your photo without saturating them too much, but you also want bold colors.
And you’re done! Read on to discover more tips for finding the right color combinations and enhancing individual elements in your duotone images.
PRO TIP: Duotone-Friendly Color Combinations
You can find color combinations that look great as duotone overlays with a color wheel tool like Adobe Color. Click on the Complementary option in the Color Rule menu to discover colors that always match well.
PRO TIP: Enhancing the strength of individual elements in your duotone images
Make elements of your image stand out against the duotone effect.
For this image of a smiling woman, I’ve set teal (R=0 G=112 B=160) and green (R=32 G=205 B=78) duotone gradient. I want to bring out the deep color of her lipstick in an even darker tone to make her smile the focal point of the image.
To do this, use the Lasso Tool (L) to trace the edges of the area you want to darken. Then click on the Refine Edge button at the top of the workspace. In the window that opens, check Smart Radius, and adjust the other sliders until you’re happy with the accuracy of the selection. Click OK to exit the window.
In the Layers panel, ensure the original image layer is selected, then choose Levels from the adjustment layer menu.
Pull the black and grey sliders to the right until you’ve darkened the selected area, creating a deeper, richer color.