A common trend I'm seeing a lot of is to put a strong color gradient over a photograph to create an attractive background. I'm not talking about slight color tweaks that instagram does, but instead something like this, where strong colors are used all over the image.

Is there a name for this effect? How can I describe it and look for similar images?

Bonus question: This video uses a similar but noticeably different effect. Could you describe this?

Apologies for my lack of clarity, I'm kinda of a newby at this stuff.

  • \$\begingroup\$ your own "Artistic license" ? I would just use the term "transparent gradient overlay". \$\endgroup\$
    – Max
    Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 17:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could then simply colorize the pictures... Compared to colorizing B&W pictures, you now have the original colors as a guide, but otherwise you are free to do whatever you like... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 3, 2014 at 17:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ So there seems to be a lot of advice on the technique but no definitive answer for your naming question, at least not a useful one you could plug into google and find more results. Looking at your source material it seems like they are more graphic design orientated, less photographic in the formal sense. Perhaps if you were to seek an answer here (graphicdesign.stackexchange.com) you might get a more useful response. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2014 at 1:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are several different effects. The images with a single color and black are simulating doutone printing. \$\endgroup\$
    – user50888
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 3:47

1 Answer 1


Gradient color wash/gradient color overlay/gradient tint

The video appears to be a combination of applying a tint to the video, a little blurring and some time remapping, possibly using a plugin like Twixtor. Filming at 60fps or higher would help facilitate the slow motion/time remapping. Similar speed effects could be accomplished natively in a lot of video editing software without paying for Twixtor.

AdobeTV has an instructional video titled Using a gradient fill to add a color wash that will teach you how to pull off the effect.

Photoshop's "Duotone" color mode can produce results like a lot of these simpler examples, but you could also get results that look the same by converting to grayscale and then using the "Hue/Saturation" image adjustment.

An image search for "duotone photo" might get you some of the results you're looking for.

The more complicated examples, like the first one, Red Collar, seem to be a combination of gradient and painted-on color washes.

This page has a few Photoshop actions that accomplish similar effects. Check out the FREEBIE V and Rainbow Haze ones in particular.

To accomplish an effect like you see in the Red Collar example, here a slightly different technique than the one in the AdobeTV video:

  1. Image>Mode>Grayscale (must convert to grayscale before duotone)
  2. Image>Adjustments>Hue/Saturation
  3. Check the "Colorize" box
  4. Adjust Saturation, Hue, Lightness for one of the colors you want to use
  5. Duplicate the layer and repeat steps 2-4 for each additional color you want
  6. Select the top layer
  7. Layer>Layer Mask>Hide All (or reveal all)
  8. Apply gradient or paint on areas in layer mask to show parts of the layer
  9. Repeat on other layers as desired

Here's a quick example I created using this process: image with gradient and painted on color overlay

Additionally, it seems like some of the color schemes in those examples are inspired by lens flares and washed out lomography photos. Here's a search for "lens flare lomography".


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