I have a product photo from a client to include in their flyer. I'm trying to get it so that it blends in with the green background (which is a Pantone)

Here you can see how the doc looks in InDesign

enter image description here

I think the greens don't really match too well. However, if I enable Overprint Preview in InDesign, then they match a little better:

enter image description here

Which one do I 'trust' so to speak? Should I focus on getting them to match when Overprint Preview is enabled or disabled?

Also I have just tried setting the image to grayscale and colouring it in InDesign using the Pantone and the colour black... it blends in nicely to the background but looks a little dull?

enter image description here

  • 3
    None! You only should trust your Pantone guide book ^^
    – Vinny
    Jan 31, 2017 at 11:07

4 Answers 4


The last example is on the right track, but looks a little dull because multiplying or coloring the image in InDesign removes the white color. To maintain the white you could try this:


A duotone image (aka. duplex) is a two-color image. It is in reality a grayscale image which contains the information needed to print it in two colors. Each of the colors have an old-school curve controlling how they are distributed.

It is often used with process black and a Pantone color or two Pantone colors. You could also use it to make two black channels - a pale one for the light tones and a more contrasty one for the darkest areas.

Anyway, let's try it out with your image (I just used the low res image from your post).

First of all i have converted the image to grayscale. I used Black & White and Curves to make sure that the whitest point was 0% black, the darkest point 100% black and that the part of the image which has neither shadow or highlight was about 50% (this almost matches the background). Knowing that duotone images tend to look a little bit flat i also added a little bit of contrast in the process.


Make sure the image is grayscale and flattened and open Image/Mode/Duotone. Set Type to Duotone. Click the color swatches to select two colors. I have selected black and Pantone 333 (a guess).

duotone dialogue

We can see that the two colors both have a flat curve. Where there is X% black in the original grayscale image there is X% of each color. This setting doesn't look too good in most cases.

default duotone

Let's fiddle with the curves. We enter the curve for the black color by clicking it.

black curve

We will keep it simple (you can experiment on your own) and just enter 0 in the 50 field. This way we make all the light tones in the image contain no black color. First when we get above 50% the black color enters the image and it is present in all the darkest part of the image. Earlier we made the grayscale image with around 50% black in the parts we wanted to give the clean Pantone color. Now we have made sure that there is no black polluting that clean Pantone color.

Next, the Pantone curve.

Pantone curve

Here we set the Pantone color to cover (be at 100% tint) from 50% and up in the original grayscale image. It just mixes with the black in the dark areas making them extra black (with a slight grennish tint). In my experience it creates strange-looking transitions in the colors if you knock out the black. I added the slight correction at 10% because I wanted a little more white highlight.

The result looks like this:

custom duotone

I might have been to generous with the contrast or maybe the duotone curves needs more fine tuning, but in the end it's all a matter of taste. There is no right way to do a two-color image. It is non-standard. We are leaving color profiles behind.

The duotone image must be saved as psd. Be sure to name the colors to match your inks in InDesign. Notice that you can enter Image/Mode/Duotone and refine the curves and choose different colors as many times as you want.

Regarding previewing

In your first example (with and without Overprint Preview) you are trying to match the color of an RGB/CMYK image to match the Pantone, right? That is hard and maybe, with that color, impossible.

You cannot trust the screen to show the exact Pantone colors, but it gives you a good idea. I have made a few things were I mixed Pantone colors and I was surprised how good the preview was. But you have to combine it with looking at samples and using your common sense. See it more as constructing an image than painting one. If you know there is 100% of the Pantone color then you have to imagine it to match the physical sample.

Even the guide books vary quite a lot from book to book. Furthermore, when you choose a Pantone color you just choose which color to apply. There is no guarantee that the actual print will look that way. That depends on the material.

  • I minor clarification: "name the color the same in indesign". Does this mean that the color will be used from the inDesign swatch and is not stored as color information in the PSD? (i.e. we won't need to worry about Photoshop's colors being (not) color matched to inDesign's colors)
    – Yorik
    Feb 1, 2017 at 21:17
  • No sadly not. You have to name it the same so you don't end up doing your duotone in "Pantone 333 C" and your InDesign objects in "Pantone 333 U" for example. When you have placed an image containing spot colors the spot colors cannot be deleted from the swatches palette or edited (before you remove the image again). I dream about that function too. But you could make the two alpha masks manually (it's just curves i guess) and color and layer them in InDesign. Then you could dynamically change the colors in all images at once.
    – Wolff
    Feb 1, 2017 at 22:28
  • Yeah, in the way back past, I used to occasionally make the art in the alpha channel with a black (etc) image and then use the mask and a tint to get some object. This works better for simple items of course.
    – Yorik
    Feb 1, 2017 at 22:48

Remember that Pantone can be opaque AND that It can be printed as a first color or last and it won't mix with others the way you want.
What I would propose is to use the product photo in bitmap. So it have only one color. Black.
That way you will have only blackness from the photo printed over the Pantone. Then you can cut out from the pantone layer everything you want to be only white or only black.

Overprint Preview works as a simulation of overprinting. But what is overprinting what when you have two paints that are opaque?


If you take the art and convert it to greyscale, then save it as a tiff (for example), you can place it in inDesign, and then set the foreground and background colors of the image to any swatch.

So select the greyscale image using the content tool, the set the color swatch to the Pantone swatch.


Apply colors to grayscale images

You can add color to a placed grayscale image in InDesign.

Make sure that the image is saved as a grayscale or bitmap image and that it’s saved in PSD, TIFF, BMP, or JPG format.

In Photoshop, you can choose Image > Mode > Bitmap or Image > Mode > Grayscale.

Click the Content Grabber, or use the Direct Selection tool to select the image.

Select a color from the Swatches panel or Color panel.

An image in PSD format can contain multiple layers, but the bottom layer must be opaque. You cannot apply color to a PSD image with a transparent background in InDesign. In addition, the grayscale image cannot contain alpha or spot channels.


My (British) design training suggests that you dont try and do this - if you cannot match a colour, its best to make a contrast / complimentary / neutral or it will look like a mistake i.e. you tried and missed. CMYK and Pantone dont match each other(although some colours can be close). Take the pressure off yourself with a different approach.

enter image description here

  • thanks for your input, but the colours are more a request of the client rather than my own choice!
    – user23891
    Feb 3, 2017 at 13:56
  • That is a good point, @Applefanboy. In my job I am often confronted with questions from customers (designers/artists) about problems I never get in my own work - simply because I avoid them. But technical minded people sometimes need to be challenged by stubborn artitsts - and the other way around too!
    – Wolff
    Feb 3, 2017 at 17:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.