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Duotones Made Easy

by D'Lynn Waldron, PhD

Who uses Duotones?

Duotones have become very popular for illustrations in glossy magazines, and in advertising, but until now they have not been easy to create. At one time Duotones were just a way to give some color toning and or a wider range of gradients to a grayscale image. Now, color photos are being turned into grayscale just so they can be made into Duotones.

What is a "Duotone"?

Fanbook Duotone is the generic name for multitone printing, which can be done with two, three or four inks. This process requires that the press be set up with special inks, usually Pantone-designated colors, instead of the standard CMYK inks used for process color printing. True multitones use spot color plates, rather than dithered CMYK, but a good emulation can be done using the much cheaper and more available CMYK printing process.

Creating Duotones in Photoshop

Computer imaginging makes the creation of multitones much easier. With Adobe Photoshop, you have infinite control and previewing of what various curves and colors will look like. Photoshop will then create an EPS file with your multitone plates for the image setter. You can also use Photoshop to convert your multitone to RGB for monitor viewing, or CMYK for standard process color printing.

Two ways to create multitones in Photoshop

1) You can use the Photoshop Duotone facility, in which case you will not have access to the individual plates should you wish to do some hand painting or erasing to selected areas.

2) You can also create your own real or simulated multitones using Layers in Photoshop and designating them with Pantone Color names, in which case you can paint and erase individually on the different layers that will be printed with the different colors. This is very useful for adding emphasis to some element in the image by intensifying the color in a selected area.

The Multitone Presets Provided in Photoshop

Photoshop comes with small selection of "Duotone" presets for duo, tri and quadratones. These presets have preselected colors and preset curves, both of which you can adjust in the Photoshop Duotone facility. However, with countless other possible color and curve combinations, it is hard to visualize what will look best with a particular image, and difficult to achieve it.

PANTONE Color Fun Books

Now there is a marvelous new way to select and create the multitone that will look best with your image. PANTONE has brought two products that each have a pair of fan book guides (one for coated and one for uncoated stock). The fan book guides show what a wide variety of multitone effects will look like when printed.

best choice Pantone Color Answers Book - Effects begin with black dominating the image, with color used to increase tonal range. The effects progress from this to a greater and greater color influence, with the black providing detail and contrast. Pickerbook has created a color weight index with special curves for inks fthat are Extra Light, Light, Medium, Dark and Extra Dark. The accompanying Mac/Win CDs provide preset curves and colors to be opened in Photoshop. This results in fast, accurate and dependable multitones.

Pantone References

Be sure to see our article on "Duotones" and our article on creating Sepiatones

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