Clive R. Haynes FRPS

As Photographers we're familiar with the range of aesthetically pleasing and appropriate tones that can imbue our pictures with subtle moods.

For reasons of archival stability (pure silver halide photos tend to fade) and for expressiveness, photographs have been toned since the beginnings of our art.

We're aware of sepia, selenium, copper, gold and blue toners and the beautiful effects of 'lith printing' to mention just a few of the time honoured wet chemical routes to achieving tonal changes in our prints. Weird and wonderful effects can also be brought about chemically by kits such as 'Colorvir'.

With the dawning of the digital age, a whole spectrum of toning opportunities is now presented. We can not only emulate the toning of yesteryear but also create a whole fresh palette of new toning ranges. Additionally, toning offers a useful platform for hand-tinting an image.

There are two principal methods of toning with Photoshop

  1. 'Colorizing'
  2. 'Duotones'


By choosing the 'Colorize' route, we can tone either colour or monochrome (black & white) images. For 'Colorizing' we need to work in RGB so if it's a colour file already, no problem. However if you wish to tone a monochrome image, you will need to either scan as RGB or change the mode from Grayscale to RGB. (Do this via Image > Mode > RGB Color).

Either all or part of the image may be Colorized (toned) in this way. To Colorize part of the image use either a selection to define the area or for the more advanced, go via the Adjustment Layer route.

It's often preferable to create copy of the original image onto a new layer as this will preserve the original (as a 'background') should you so wish and allow subtle blending between the two layers by layer masking or blending modes. But you don't have to.

To Colorize, choose this route, Image > Adjust > Hue/Saturation

Within the Hue/Saturation dialogue box, tick the 'Colorize' box.

Adjust the Hue and Saturation sliders to give the combination required then click 'OK'.

It's unlikely that you'll need to adjust the 'Lightness' slider so leave it alone.

A more advanced variation on the above is to achieve the same result by the 'Adjustment Layer' route (Layer > New > Adjustment Layer > Hue/Saturation). This has the virtue of creating another layer that can be accessed later to make further adjustments to the settings you have chosen.

Taking the first and simpler route will irrevocably alter pixel values, and later adjustments are therefore limited.


Duotone options are a superb way of making higher quality monochrome pictures as they use more than one ink for the image. Printing with only black ink is often far less satisfactory. There is also the slight advantage that Duotones produce smaller file sizes than their RGB 'Colorized' counterpart.

Duotones are available via Image > Mode > Duotones (from a Greyscale starting point).

NB To create a Duotone we need to begin with a Greyscale image. This could be an image scanned as Grayscale or one that's been converted to . To convert to Grayscale use this route, Image > Mode > Greyscale (if you have created 'layers' you'll be given an option to 'flatten' the image). Next go to Image > Mode > Duotone.

Three Routes - One each for V5, V5.5 and V6

The next task is to 'load' the duotones and two routes are open to us. We can open a range of pre-set duotones and explore these or create our own from scratch. Perhaps the easier method to begin with is by the pre-set route. As you will discover, these 'pre-set' tones may be altered to ones own requirements - more of which later.

For Photoshop 6 continue a few lines below

For Photoshop 5 & 5.5. To open the pre-set Duotones use the following route

Image > Mode > Duotone. This will probably result in a 'Monotone' box appearing upon the screen. No matter what Duotone box is presented, you'll need to load the type you require and this is the route you must follow.

Click 'Load', then in a mini version of the familiar 'Windows Explorer' structure go to your Adobe folder, then

For Photoshop 5, choose Photoshop > Goodies > Duotone Presets.

For Photoshop 5.5, choose Photoshop > Adobe Photoshop Only >Goodies > Duotone Presets.

For Photoshop 6 & 7 (this are the easy ones) Click on Image > Mode > Duotone.

For all versions (routes) continue from here

Next, select either Duotones, Tritones or Quadtones. Each of these presents yet more options so let's take a look at each one.

Duotone, this will use two inks for the image

Tritone, this will use three inks for the picture

Quadtone, this will use four inks for the picture

Each of the above types of 'Duotone' will give access to many pre-set tones, plus what at first appears to be a bewildering number of ways to make your own tones.

We'll begin with the pre-sets as they give an instant starting point.

Duotone Pre-sets

Upon opening Duotone Presets you'll find three more folders, those of Gray-Black, Pantone and Process Duotones.

To begin with choose Process Duotones or Pantone Duotones.

Open the folder and you'll find lots of pre-set tones to choose from, some have a descriptive name, others only a number. Click on one then click the 'Load button. The effect is immediately apparent in your image - that is providing you have the Preview box ticked! If you wish to choose another option then click 'Load' again and make another selection. Should you wish to return to the starting point, then in the Duotone Options dialogue box (not the Load dialogue box) hold down the Alt key and notice that the 'Cancel' button changes to 'Reset' - click on this and you have the opening image. Alternatively one can click 'cancel' - but this takes the process back a stage or two and you'll have to re-load via Image > Mode etc but via a shorter route this time.

All very fine but what about altering the preset to make it more perfectly meet your requirements? This can easily be done and the resulting change saved.

Open a preset Duotone. Now, click on the box to the left of Ink 1 (probably a black square). This reveals a graph - called a 'Curve' and presents opportunities for change. By the way, if you have worked with 'Curves' (via the Image > Adjust > Curves route), you'll have a pretty good understanding of what these curves are all about. As you work on the curve you can watch the changes in the image. Now adjust the other colour (Ink 2) and observe the changes. The curve can also be set by entering numeric values in the boxes presented in the 'Duotone Curve' box.

Saving Your Own Duotone Versions

You may save the particular tone you have made. Do not save in the 'Duotone Curve' box (you'll have trouble finding it again, honest!). Save the changes in the 'Duotones Options' box - don't forget to give your new tone a name - this new tone will then be added to the list and you'll see it there upon opening.

Other combinations and colour changes can be made by clicking on the colour square and not the mini curve box. Doing this reveals the 'Custom Colors' dialogue Box where there is whole spectrum of choice. The 'Book' box shows the astonishing range available - click on the down arrow to reveal the spectrum. Choose a tone by sliding the twin arrows on the bar and click OK. The effectiveness of the change depends upon the shape of the curve for the tone. As you know, you can change the shape of the curve.

Returning to the 'Customs Colours' box. To give subtle (or wild!) changes to the chosen tone selected in the bar scale, click the 'Picker' box, this reveals a familiar colour dialogue box. The cursor will be at the preset point for the colour chosen but you can move it to any other point to effect changes. Click 'OK' or return to 'Custom Colors' by clicking on the appropriate button.

Tritones & Quadtones

Having gained an understanding about how to select and modify a Duotone, try your hand at Tritones and Quadtones. They all work in similar ways but with more colour combinations to modify.

Don't ignore the so-called 'Gray Tritones' and Gray Quadtones', these can be most effective for producing high quality monochrome images.

We can combine duotone/tritone/quadtone images with one another, including variations that we have made, however this cannot be done in 'Duotone' Mode. Only one Duotone is allowed at a time. To combine Duotoned images in a multilayerered image each Duotone must be first changed back to RGB - then, after copying-in, the layers may be mixed and blended. (Change your Duotone back to RGB via, Image > Mode > RGB Color)

The 'Other' Method

Upon opening a Duotone (or Tritone or Quadtone) the 'Duotone Options' dialogue box appears. Here one can click on a 'Curve' box or open a 'Custom Color' box (by clicking on the square of colour) and plunge straight in to making a tone to suit the image. This, of course, can be saved for future use. The pre-set method was discussed first as it gave 'instantly useful' tones. Plunging straight in can result in some amazingly garish tones!

Mixing / adding your Duotone to a colour image

A reminder - as above - to do this, convert the Duotone back to RGB via Image > Mode > RGB

And Off You Go!

Now that you have discovered the New Universe of Duo, Tri and Quadtones, take time to explore and experiment for this paper has only opened the door - walk inside!

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