Fan of creative technology, elearning, instructional design and a little geeky

Image Magic in InDesign (3)

Digitip 078 – Adobe InDesign, colourising and fake duotones

Greyscale and line art (Black & White) images placed in InDesign can be colourised. So how can we create cool colourisation that pretends to generate duotone effects?


Ok, so let’s start by bringing in a greyscale or black and white image and applying some colour to it. First of all when colouring the image, ensure you select just that… the image. Double click with the Selection Tool to access the image or else use the Direct Selection tool to select the image. To apply colour to the image click a colour in the Swatches panel or else assign colour through the Colour Panel.


To use an image as a background tint, reduce the Tint percentage in the Swatches panel.

The Fake Duotone

To create a fake duotone effect utilising a mixture of a spot (Pantone) colour and Black, first add the spot (Pantone) colour to the Swatches panel. Select New Colour Swatch from the Swatches Panel menu, then set the Colour Mode to the spot colour chart of your preference.


Click Add to add the selected colour to the Swatches panel.

Once you’ve got at least one spot colour added, you can use this colour to create the new mixed ink colour that will consist of spot and black colour inks. From the panel menu select New Mixed Ink Swatch.


The New Mixed Ink Swatched dialog pops up. We’re ready to set the ink-mix. The thing to remember is that a mixed ink swatch must always consist of at least one spot colour. (see also previous post for some fun stuff to do with Mixed Ink Swatches and Mixed Ink Groups)


I’m keepng things pretty basic here, by selecting a 50-100 mix of black and spot colour. Click Add to add the colour to the Swatches panel and Done when finished adding new swatches. (You can continue to create new mixes and press Add to add multiple swatches without the need to close the dialog box).


With the Fake Duo swatch added, we can colourise our graphic again. A look at the Separations Preview panel will display that indeed we’ve managed to mix a spot and black colour.


Similar posts
  • Adobe InDesign and XML: A Reference Guide The following is a reference guide I have compiled over time for those of you who are looking at doing a little more with XML in InDesign (originally published Feb. 2011, last updated Feb 2018). If you have any extra information you’d like to see added to this guide, feel free to message me. Mapping XML tags to InDesign [...]
  • How to change the colour of bullet points in InDesig... A few weeks ago I recorded a short quick tip tutorial. InDesign’s Control panel, gives users a quick and easy way to format text as a bulleted list. Highlight the text, and click the Bulleted List button in the Paragraph Formatting Controls mode for the Control panel. This applies a universal bullet character as the [...]
  • Creating a pop-up window in a PDF with Adobe InDesig... In the following YouTube tutorial, we’ll create an interactive PDF from Adobe InDesign, in which we click on a button, which in turn opens up a simple pop-up window containing a close-box. When the close-box is clicked the pop-up window disappears [...]
  • InDesign: Facing pages with odd-numbered left pages Back in 2004 I wrote a tip for InDesign CS on how you could have the first page of your document be a left page AND have it start with page number 1. It’s hard to believe this is almost a decade ago… But a recent question on Facebook, made me think I should really [...]
  • Negative Lookbehind – GREP for Designers This is the fourth and final blog-posts in a series of posts on lookaheads and lookbehinds in GREP, written after speaking at the Perth InDesign User Group. My speaker notes are also available: What is GREP? (PDF download) (2.4Mb). In the previous three posts I briefly introduced GREP, and we took a look at Positive [...]


  1. February 7, 2014    

    @Tight Designs:

    Visually if both objects were on a white (paper) background you wouldn’t see a difference, but when you move the objects over the top of other objects you will see a significant difference: Opacity creates transparency and tint does not.

    To test this out add a photo to a page, and place an object over the top that you fill with 100% tint of a colour. It should hide the photo completely.

    Then change the tint of that object to 50%: the photo below remains ‘hidden’.
    Change the tint back to 100% and change opacity of top object to 50%, now the photo below it becomes partially visible.

  2. February 5, 2014    

    I was shown a technique in Corel, where you would minimize the amount of a color’s % to produce less dots to be printed on the paper.

    I looked around InDesign and I THINK it’s the Tint option, but I’m not sure, because when I save as a PDF or in the InDesign workign file, I see a lower Opacity and not the dots of color.

    Can you tell me the difference between Tint and Opacity?

  3. Cari Jansen Cari Jansen
    September 13, 2009    

    @Barb:Are you absolutely sure the image is a Grayscale or Bitmap image? You can check this by opening the image in Photoshop and choosing Image > Mode.

    For instance if the Mode is set to RGB or CMYK, the swatches panel will indeed be greyed out.

    Also one other note: You can not colourise transparent greyscale images.

  4. September 11, 2009    

    Help! I’m doing everything step-by-step per your instructions, but it’s not working. I click on the greyscale .tif image and, when I open my swatch panel, all the swatches are “greyed” out and I can’t access them. What am I doing wrong??

  5. Cari Jansen Cari Jansen
    April 2, 2009    

    thank you for those kind words! You are most welcome!

  6. January 7, 2009    

    You are our hero! Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *