How to Create Duotones and Split Tones in Lightroom


Before we go anywhere, we should discuss exactly what a duotone is. It has its genesis in the printing world where, to save on color printing costs, some editors would print an image that was a mixture of black and white with a single color added in. A Split Tone generally starts from a color image and changes the color tint of both the highlights and shadows. The Duotone was born. Although not so important in the publishing world these days, Duotones and Split Tones remain striking and interesting images and thanks to modern software, they are also easy to create. Today we will look at creating one in Lightroom.

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Our starting image

Creating a Duotone

As we said, Duotones are generally best created from a black and white image so let’s do that first. There are a few ways to do this in Lightroom, the easiest probably being to click the Black and White tab in the Basic section of the Develop Module. If you want a little more control, you can use one of the Black and White presets found on the left side of the Develop module.

Be sure to pick an image that works well in black and white and once converted, make the usual exposure and clarity adjustments to give it some punch. When you are happy, it's time to go Duotone.

To do this scroll, down the right hand screen in the Develop Module until you see Split Toning. Open this window by clicking on the triangle top right.

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The Split Tone window in the Develop Module

You will now see four sliders, Hue and Saturation for both highlights and shadows. What we are going to do is move the highlight saturation slider to the midpoint. You will now see color being introduced into the picture. The color will be red/pink as this is where our Hue slider is currently sitting.

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Move the highlight saturation slider to about halfway

Now, if we look under each of the Hue sliders we will see a color swatch. Slide the highlights Hue slider to a suitable color. In this example I am going for a blueish Duotone so I have set the highlights slider to a hue of blue. The key is to find a subtle balance between the hue and saturation to give a hint of color in a black and white image. Using Lightroom’s Virtual Copies, (Right Click – Create Virtual Copy) you can experiment with many different styles of Duotone

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The final blue Duotone image

Creating a Split Tone

Split Tones are done in a similar way only this time we can start from a color or black and white image. In a split tone, we add or change the color in both the highlight and shadow areas. For this example we will use a similar shot, but this time in color. Returning to the Split Tone module we repeat what we did for the Duotone, except we move both the highlight and shadow saturation sliders to the middle. We now move the highlights hue slider to the color that we want our highlights to be. In this case I want the sky to be a more intense blue so I have moved the hue into the blue range. For the shadows I have tried to enhance the green glass of the building by doing for a green/yellow hue.

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Creating a Split Tone

Once happy with the coloring, we again make subtle adjustments using all the sliders to obtain the image that we desire. There is, however, one further slider that we can use on the Split Tone and that is the Balance slider in the middle. Sliding this to the left we prioritise the effect to the shadow regions whilst sliding it to the right enhances the highlight areas. This is an excellent tool for fine honing your shots.

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Our final split tone, with blue highlights and green shadows

Duotones and Spilt Tones are a remarkably easy and effective way of creating interesting and dynamic black and white images as well as enhancing and adding saturation to color shots. Choose you images will and you can soon be making creative Duotones and colorful Split Tones.

About Author

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here.

Thank you again for posting tutorials I can print. For me, it makes it so much easier than toggling back and forth between my work and a video. THANKS!

Sorry about the previous post. I was trying to avoid effort if the posting failed.

I wonder why people post who are only saying ‘Thanks’. It is exceedingly boring. I wish posting was only done by someone with something to contribute beyond that. Even this post is in the useless ‘Thanks’ category. Apologies again. However, I have read many of Jason’s articles and find them useful and enlightening. Keep up the good work and I will only bother you again when I have something real to contribute. Perhaps a simple Thanks or Thumbs Up Button attached to the article would deal with this.

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