Orange and Teal style has become increasingly popular on social media in the last couple of years – this colour palette has literally surged over Instagram.
But what is Oragne and Teal and what makes it so popular?
Orange and Teal is an extremely popular color combination, widely used in film and photography industry to mimic colors of sunrise and sunset, and bring portraits to life. It is generally achieved by pushing oranges into the highlights, and blues into the shadows, to maximize the contrast.
Creating contrast by using these complementary colours to add depth to your image.
This is easy to say but luckily even easier to do. Here’s how.
Why is Orange and Teal so Popular?
What makes Orange and Teal in particular so popular?
Why isn’t there another set of complementary colours, like red and green, or yellow and red, that would get just as much attention?
There are a few reasons why orange and teal combination works better than other combinations of complementary colours.
#1 Colour Theory
Complementary colours are pairs of colours which, when combined or mixed, cancel each other out by producing a grayscale – black and white.
When you put complementary colours together, they create the strongest contrast possible for these two colours.
In the traditional RYB colour model, where the primary colour are red, yellow, and blue, the complementary pairs are:
#2 Orange and teal have the highest contrast
On the colour wheel, orange and teal are opposite to one another. What is more, if you check the greyscale version of the colour wheel, you’ll notice that the contrast between their exposures is higher than any of the other complementary colour combinations.
This adds an additional depth to your shots, which helps your brain better recognize objects in photos that have the orange and teal colour palette.
#3 It Replicates Golden Hour
So-called Golden Hour is the hour right after the sunrise and right before sunset (preceded, and succeeded by the blue hour, respectively), when the Sun is still low on the horizon and the contrasts are low. These two hours of the day are worshipped amongst the (landscape) photographers.
Orange and teal colour palette mimics this effect to an extent, especially when combined with decreased contrast and faded blacks.
Related reading: Golden Hour tutorial
#4 Orange and Teal is flattering to human skin colour
By editing images in the orange and teal style highlights become orange and shadows become teal/blue.
Pushing teals into the shadows will make skin tones stand out from the rest of the image, and your model will be visually separated from the background. Combine this with a shallow depth of field and you’ll have an outstanding portrait shot.
Related reading: Depth of field
#5 It Conveys Emotions
Emotions play a crucial role in the way we perceive photos. If you manage to convey the right emotions through your images, they will speak to your viewers on the subconscious level, making you a more successful photographer.
Warm colours – red, orange, and yellow – are the colours of sunsets and sunrises, the autumn leaves, fires, and generally convey passion, energy, and positivity.
Orange, the warm colour of the orange and teal style, is a very vibrant and energetic colour, and because it is associated with changing seasons, it can represent change and movement. It is also associated with creativity.
Cool colours on the other end – green, blue, and purple – are the colours of night, water, nature, and are usually calming and relaxing.
Blue, the cool colour of the orange and teal style, is associated with sadness in the English language. Light blues (teals/cyans) can be refreshing and friendly, while dark blues are more spiritual and strong.
Orange and Teal in Lightroom (desktop)
Desktop version of Lightroom is my go-to tool when I want to apply orange and teal to my photos.
With its Calibration tool you can change hues for each of the three primary colours – red, green, and blue. It’s any extremely powerful tool that unlocks numerous editing options-
Some other photo editors such as Luminar 4 and ON1 have similar tools, but they are just not as good as Lightroom’s.
Alternatively, you can use orange and teal Lightroom Presets. To download orange and teal Lightroom Presets navigate to the homepage or click here and enter your email address.
Orange and teal in Lightroom summary:
- Import the photo: File > Import Photos and Videos > locate photo on your drive > “Check” it > Import
- Calibration panel
- Red Primary, Hue: 50, Saturation: -20
- Blue Primary, Hue: -100, Saturation: 20
- Split Toning panel
- Highlights, Hue: 35-45, Saturation: 20-40
- Shadows, Hue: 200-220, Saturation: 10-30
- Balance: (-5)-20
- HSL sliders: use these to correct any unnatural-looking colours
In the Calibration panel you can change the hue and saturation of the three primary colours, which are the basic unit of your image.
For the orange and teal look we will focus on red and blue primary; however, I encourage you to try moving green sliders as well, just so you can get a better understanding of what these sliders do.
- Blue primary: first you will focus on the blue primary hue slider, with which you will change blues to cyans, purples to blues, etc.
To visualize what’s happening when you do so: remember the colour wheel from the beginning of the article. By pushing the blue primary hue slider to the left (negative values), you move counter-clockwise on the wheel.
I always start by pushing the hue all the way to -100, and then bring it back up if needed. My settings are usually between -100 and -50.
- Red primary: for the red primary you will move the slider to the right – towards the positive hue values.
I usually set this value to around 50. Saturation values are entirely dependent on your style and the image you’re dealing with.
I tend to decrease red primary saturation and increase the blue primary in most cases.
2. Split Toning/Color Grading
In Split Toning (called Color Grading in Lightroom 10+) panel, you can individually set the hues of highlights and shadows (and midtones in Color Grading). This will be very helpful with orange and teal, because we want orange highlights and blue/teal shadows.
TIP: Click on the hue slider + press Alt key to temporarily increase the saturation of split tone to 100%. This will help you better determine the right hue value.
You may also use presets provided by Lightroom. When you’re in the Split Toning panel click on the rectangle in the top right corner. For the highlights I recommend choosing the second preset from the left, and for the shadows the second preset from the right.
To achieve the best results use custom values. I usually use these values:
- Highlights: Hue: 35-45, Saturation: 20-40
- Shadows: Hue: 200-200, Saturation: 10-30
- Balance: between -5 and 20
This is all you have to do for the orange and teal style in Lightroom. However, there are a few more tweaks I always go for.
3. Basic panel (optional)
You still use the basic panel to perform the basic edits such as fixing the contrast, saturation, white balance, setting white and black point. You can also press Auto in the right-most side of the panel.
- Temp: play around with the slider until oranges/yellow and blue/cyans balance themselves out. Do not use White Balance Selector tool in this case.
- Exposure: is most of the time fine as is.
- Contrast: decrease to get more detail in the darker parts. Orange and Teal works best with decreased contrast.
- Highlights: decrease to get more detail in the sky.
- Shadows: increase to get more detail in the shadows.
By decreasing the highlights and increasing the shadows we achieved a more HDR look.
- Whites: click on the slider + press Alt key and move the slider to the left/right until you start seeing red spots.
- Blacks: do the same as with whites, however, you will see blue spots in this case.
- Vibrance: increase.
- Saturation: decrease. Orange and Teal works best when desaturated.
4. Tone curve (optional)
Orange and Teal colour palette works very well with faded blacks, meaning that the darkest parts of the image are not black, but rather washed-out dark grey.
To do this, you will open the Tone Curve panel, disable region-editing mode by pressing the button on the bottom right of the panel, which says “Click to edit point curve”.
As you can see in the screenshot of the curve, I created a slight S-curve and brought the anchor points closer together.
5. HSL/Color (optional)
When you change hues in Calibration panel, you radically change colours in your image, which can create unwanted unnaturally looking hues.
In addition, when you’re going for an the orange and teal look, you want only these two tones in your image, which means that you have to desaturate or change other colours.
This is how I usually proceed with this process (note that this part is HIGHLY dependent on your image).
First, open the HSL/Color panel.
You must wonder what the numbers in this table even mean. What did you even do by copying these values?
You can use values in this table as a rough guideline to HSL panel. This way you can shifts the hues to create more natural-looking colours in your image.
6. Vignette (optional)
Vignette is also a great way to improve your orange and teal image. Its purpose is to lead the viewer’s eyes into the frame.
Go to the Effects panel. The settings I usually go for are:
- Amount: -40 to -10
- Midpoint: -30 to 0
- Roundness: -30 to 30 (depends on the shape of my central object)
- Feather: 50 to 70
- HIghlights: 0 to 10
7. Sharpening (optional)
Sharpening will improve the overall quality of your image. Go to Detail panel and move the Amount slider to around 100, but the actually value will depend on your image. To determine the best value of the Amount slider, zoom into your image and start moving it to the right until you see halo around the edges. That’s a sign to stop.
I usually leave Radius and Detail at the default settings, unless I have a reason to do otherwise. To properly mask, press Alt + click on the slider, so the whole image turns gray. Move the slider to the right until you see only the most important edges. This way, sharpening will only be applied to the main edges in the image and you won’t introduce a ton of noise.
Sharpening is another great addition to improving your image. Read more about it in my Sharpening in Lightroom tutorial.
Orange and Teal in Photoshop
Photoshop is another amazing tool to edit your images.
Because its Camera Raw filter works almost the same as Lightroom I won’t go into details on how to achieve Orange and Teal look in Photoshop.
- Import the image: File > Open > select your photo > Open
- Filter > Camera Raw Filter
- Do the steps 1 to 7 from Lightroom’s part
- Export the image: File > Save As
Orange and Teal in Lightroom (Mobile)
The Mobile version of Lightroom is one of the best photo editors available for your phone. It has almost all editing usability of the desktop version, and it is free!
Orange and teal in Lightroom (mobile) summary:
- Import the photo.
a) Gallery > Click on your photo > Share > Add to Lr
b) Open Lightroom app > in the bottom right corner click on an icon which looks like a photo and a plus > Select your photo > Add
- Effects > Split Tone
- Highlights: Choose an orange tone. My settings: H:29, S:34
- Shadows: Choose a blue tone. My settings: H:209, S:31
- Balance: My settings: 22
- Color. Increase Vibrance, decrease Saturation: My setting: 26/-6.
- Color > Mix
- Yellow, Green: shift hue slider to left
- Blue (optional): if you want orange and teal instead of blue, shift blue hue slider to left
- Light > Curve. Choose blue curves and increase shadows, decrease highlights. (photo below)
- Share > Save to device
There are at least 2 ways to import a photo.
- Gallery > Click on your photo > Share > Add to Lr
- Open Lightroom app > in the bottom right corner click on the icon, which looks like a photo and a plus > Select your photo > Add
2. Split toning
Go to the Color tab and click on SPLIT TONING.
With split toning, you can define the hue of your highlights and shadows.
You can copy my settings, which work for most photos, but I encourage you to experiment and see what works the best for you.
- Highlights: choose orange tones with saturation up to 50.
- Shadows: Choose blue tones with saturation up to 50.
- Balance: With balance slider you can shift more colour into highlights or shadows, I usually leave the slider at the default value of 0, or move it slightly to the right.
3. White balance, Vibrance, Saturation
You can try using Lightroom’s Auto white balance, but it usually makes images too yellow. Find the white balance value where you’ll see the same amount of blue and yellow tones in the image.
Usually, you will increase the Vibrance to make the weaker colour tones pop-up, to counteract this you will decrease Saturation. For this image, I used settings 26 and -6, respectively.
4. Colour Mixer
The aim of this part is to fine-tune the colours that are not quite what we want them to be.
We want to shift greens to yellows, yellows to oranges, and magentas to blues. In other words, we are creating an image with only two colours – ORANGE and TEAL.
Go to Color tab and click on MIX, and move the Hue sliders as described.
You should experiment with Luminance and Saturation as well, just to see what happens. It can be a good idea to increase the Luminance of orange tones and decrease the Luminance of blue tones.
Curves are a quite advanced tool and scare a lot of people, but they are actually quite simple to use.
If you’re unsure of how to use curves, I recommend you just copy my settings for now.
Go to Light tab and click on CURVES. You will be editing RGB curve (white dot) and Blue curve (blue dot). The RGB curve is optional, and is not required for orange and teal look.
The vast majority of Instagram users edit their photos with Instagram’s built-in editor – and it makes sense. After all, Orange and Teal is very popular on Instagram.
While it is a somewhat decent option, I would advise against that, especially if you’re using Instagram as your portfolio.
Anyway, here’s how you can achieve Orange and Teal with Instagram photo editor:
- Click the + icon on the bottom of the Instagram page and select the photo. Tap Next.
- In the Filter tab choose Aden.
- In the Edit tab tap on Fade and choose a value between 0 and 50.
- Scroll right to Vignette and choose a value between 0 and 70.
- Tap on the “sun” icon on the top a select the value that looks the best for you.
Orange and Teal on Android
The editing is performed on Huawei P30 Pro, EMUI version 10.0.0.
This is the easiest and the most convenient way to achieve Orange and Teal look but also yields the worst results, in my opinion.
- Open your image in your Gallery app
- Click Edit > Filter > Memory > and pick Memory filter
- Adjust filter intensity. I went with around 20% for this image.
- Go back to the primary editing menu
- Scroll to the right and choose Hue.
- Move the slider to the left or right, until blue and yellow/orange tones balance each other out. For this image, I shifted the slider to the left.
- Save the image
Although the final image turned out fine it’s far from what I would post on my IG feed, let alone put into my portfolio.
Android’s editor has virtually no tools; however, an update is promised for Huawei devices.
I highly recommend using at least Mobile Lightroom, which a a free version of Lightroom.
Luminar’s calibration tools are unfortunately less convenient than Lightroom’s.
To properly apply the Orange and Teal look, you will have to use LUT Mapping tool, but you’ll have to create LUTs first.
To make your life easier, I have already created orange and teal LUTs that you can use in Luminar 4 and ON1.
To download orange and teal Luminar 4 LUTs navigate to the homepage or click here and enter your email address.
Virtually any photo editor is capable of producing the sought after orange and teal style; however, the results heavily vary among them.
Photo editors differ in the amount of freedom they give you to fine-tune the image to your liking or style.
I also tried editing in Snapseed, but I couldn’t make it work. I spent way too much time browsing all menus and trying different settings, but none were able to give satisfactory result.
If you want me to write a tutorial for any other photo editor, let me know in the comments.
Matic is a photographer and avid teacher of photography from Slovenia. In 2020, he founded Photutorial.com, website/blog dedicated to teaching photography, writing honest and helpful reviews, and inspiring photographers.