Is it possible to apply duotone through an adjustment layer?

Like this:

Adjustment layer: duotone
Adjustment layer: black and white
Ground layer: original color file (smart object)

I don't need this for printing, just saving the final result as a JPEG for screen display. I want the duotone to be adjustable in the same way as "Mode > greyscale > duotone" (choosing colors, setting curves).

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Do you mean duotone? I think 'duotone' means 'duplex' in German... \$\endgroup\$
    – BobT
    May 1, 2013 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BobT - from what I can gather, Duplex appears to be what Duotone is referred to as in some other languages. I'm not sure what language it was, but all the results I found were in a foreign language and looked like Duotone images. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Henderson
    May 1, 2013 at 19:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ If duotone, do you need a real duotone (an image prepared for duotone printing on an offset lithography press) or just an image that looks like a duotone (for screen display or inkjet/chromogenic/CMYK process printing)? The latter can be done with a gradient map in Color blend mode. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    May 2, 2013 at 0:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Than you for your help. Yes, duotone. "Duplex" is not a German word, so I assumed it was the international technical term and did not consult a dictionary. I edited my question to (hopefully) answer your return questions. @StanRogers Thank you for that answer. That is a way to do it, but it lacks a preview etc. and will be very hard to fine-tune. But it certainly is a possibility, if there is no other. \$\endgroup\$
    – user19253
    May 2, 2013 at 6:57
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ English is a silly language. Here in the US at least, outside of scientific use duplex almost exclusively means either a) a two-family house or b) printing on both sides of a sheet of paper. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    May 2, 2013 at 12:31

2 Answers 2


While the process is a bit of a pain in the butt to set up manually, fake duotone/tritone/quadtone images can be created using a "monochroming" layer¹ and a Gradient Map adjustment layer set to Color blend mode.

If you are using a Smart Object as your original image, though, you can create a conversion-and-preview template image that will speed up the process tremendously. Adobe guru Julianne Kost provides both the method and a template (using the CS6 gradient presets, but adaptable to other versions) on her Adobe blog. There is also a video tutorial available.

Setting up custom gradients will be a bit of a pain, but once they're done they're done, and you can use the templating technique to choose the best match for your image quickly. It won't be quite as handy as a good B&W conversion plugin with presets (like Nik Siver Efex Pro or Topaz Black & White Effects), but it'll take a lot of work out of future conversions.

¹ For the monochrome conversion layer, I'd suggest using a Curves adjustment layer rather than the more obvious Hue/Saturation; it will produce less tone shifting, especially when combined with contrast adjustment layers. Create a Curves layer, and drag the black point to the top. That will make the whole image white. Then set the layer blend mode to Saturation.


It's a color mode so the actual channels change, making the method you describe not possible. Duotone can only be achieved once the image mode is converted to Grayscale.


Consider maybe using Hue&Saturation or selective color or some other adjustment layer to change the duotone colors.


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