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Use Photoshop to create perfect duotones

Added on Wednesday 2nd of November 2011 05:10 am EST

by Renée Dustman and Jim Whitcomb
Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5
Operating Systems:
Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


While it seems like everyone’s cutting back on printing because of costs don’t assume you need to follow suit. Instead, harness the flexibility of duotones and you’ll add great visual interest to your print pieces at low cost.


To create great duotones in Photoshop, we’ll:

  • Show you how to change color modes to prep your image.
  • Select a spot color as the base color for the duotone.
  • Adjust highlights and shadows with the duotone curve command.


Sure, four-color printing is great but it might not be in your budget. Don’t let that dissuade you from printing entirely because there are ways to limit your inks and save money. Photoshop allows you to produce images in monotone, duotone, tritone, and quadtone, as shown in Figure A. Each mode provides you with a way to enhance the tonal range of a grayscale image. The mode you choose depends on the number of inks you’re printing with and the effect you want to achieve.



Open an image and change the color mode
Let’s now open an example and create a duotone image. Having an image of good exposure and contrast is a must for creating a good duotone image. Once you’ve selected such an image you’re ready to change the color mode. To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, and extract the file duotone.jpg. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)


To do so:

  1. Launch Photoshop and choose File > Open. When the Open dialog box displays, navigate to the duotone.jpg file and click Open to display the image shown in Figure B. You next must convert it to a grayscale image. 
  2. Choose Image > Mode > Grayscale. When the Adobe Photoshop message box opens with the question Discard Color Information?, click OK, and you change the color mode of your image, as shown in Figure C. Now you’re ready to create your duotone.




Select a duotone spot ink color
Regardless of whether you want to produce a duotone image, a tritone image, or a quadtone image,...


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