Collecting my attempts to improve at tech, art, and life

Duotone Panel

Tags: drawing procreate celtic zentangle craft


Last month I read an article about duotone illustrations and decided to try a version of the technique myself someday. Today was that day.

Duotone uses two colors — usually black and a color such as blue or red — to make an image. It was popular for a while in 20th Century illustration because it cost less than full color printing. Skilled duotone illustrators like Mead Schaeffer produced visually arresting images.

“Red” by Mead Schaeffer

Illustration by Mead Schaeffer via Muddy Colors

I wanted to manually create duotone images in sketch apps like Procreate. Time to describe what I came up with.

This post isn’t a tutorial, but the information may be useful to you. For that matter it may be useful to me. That’s really what this whole site is about, after all: making life easier for future me, and hopefully maybe you too.

I had a couple of self-imposed limitations while making this. I deliberately chose to only use flat color for this experiment — no shading to speak of. I also used a smaller canvas than usual. It wasn’t a technical limitation, but it did limit the detail I could put into the image.

In retrospect, that’s probably a good thing for this experiment. I ended up with about 50 layers the way I put things together, and this might have slowed my iPad down with a large image.


The first finished step is a solid black and white image. It started out as a knotwork panel demonstration, but somewhere along the way I decided the panel needed extras. Most of those extras came from Tangles of Kells.



Then I put the values in, working from a grayscale palette. Nothing fancy going on here. The background is darker, the foreground is lighter, with a couple small variations along the way.

I set the drop shadow layers to “Soft Light” so they wouldn’t obscure whatever was beneath them.



For color, I created a new layer under the value layers, which I set to “Multiply.”

Here’s what that looked like, with everything else but linework cut out.


I had an initial stage where all the shadows were hatched lines. Duotone didn’t occur to me until near the end of linework. I’ll try value-based shading for everything in some future sketches.

In order to have value mix nicely with color, I put each color layer beneath its value layer and set the value layer’s mode to “Multiply.”


And that’s how I ended up with this.

Final image

What now?

That was fun.

I want to explore duotone more, trying some specific ideas.

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Added to vault 2024-01-15. Updated on 2024-05-01