Orange and Teal Photography & Lightroom Tutorial [+Free Presets]

By Matic Broz, editor-in-chief of Photutorial covering stock media, Adobe, and design. He founded Photutorial while finishing his PhD in computational biosciences.

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Orange and teal thumbnail

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, and for a good reason. Let’s see why…

But what is Orange and Teal and what makes it so popular?

Creating contrast by using complementary colours adds depth to your images, therefore better conveying the depth and 3D structure.

Here’s how you can do it.

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 four reasons why the orange and teal combination works better than any other combinations of complementary colours.

1. Orange and teal have the highest contrast

Complementary colours are pairs of colours which, when combined or mixed, cancel each other out by producing a grayscale – black and white.

In addition, 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 is red, yellow, and blue, the complementary pairs are:

  • Red-green,
  • Yellow-purple,
  • Teal-orange.
Orange and teal - colour wheel
Colour wheel. Representation of complementary colours, the basis of Orange and teal look

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 respective exposures is higher than any other combination of complementary colours.

This adds depth to your shots, which helps your brain better recognize objects in photos with the orange and teal colour palette.

2. It replicates golden hour

Orange and Teal Golden Hour
Orange and Teal example of Golden Hour (Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash)

The 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.

The orange and teal colour palette mimics this effect, especially when combined with decreased contrast and faded blacks.

3. It 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 create an outstanding portrait shot.

Orange and Teal Portrait
Orange and teal tones work great with portraits

4. 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

Lightroom is my favourite tool for orange and teal photography for two reasons:

  1. It’s super easy to use and create orange and teal photos.
  2. You can use Lightroom presets to apply all the right edits automatically.

If you don’t yet own it, learn how to get Lightroom by saving money.

For orange and teal in Lightroom, use calibration panel first, and shift the Blue Primary all the way to -100. Then, shift Red Primary to +50. Lastly, add orange to highlights and teal to shadows with the Color Grading tool, and make final touches with HSL sliders.

Now let’s get right into full guide:

1. Calibration

Calibration panel is where you start for the orange and teal look. It’s super quick and easy to do.

While in the Lightroom Develop module, open the Calibration panel:

  • Set the Blue Primary to -100.
  • Set the Red Primary to +50.
Orange and Teal Lightroom Calibration panel
Lightroom Calibration panel

However, it’s not always ideal to blindly set sliders to -100/+50 and call it a day. To always get the best results, play around with the sliders a little bit.

For example, if you want a weaker orange and teal look, set the Blue Primary between 0 and -100 and the Red Primary between 0 and +50.

Important: It’s crucial that you get this part right. Otherwise, you’ll have to do a lot more work later.

Orange and teal Example 1

2. Basic panel

Now that you have created the foundation for your orange and teal photo, it’s time to enhance with some basic edits. Adjust the exposure, highlights and shadows, whites and blacks in the Tone section of Lightroom.

The key to a good orange and teal photograph is paying special attention to the Presence section of the Basic panel. Use the Vibrance slider to fine-tune the saturation of the colours. The best strategy is to increase Vibrance to around +15 and reduce Saturation to around -5 or -10.

Here are example settings I used for one of my photos:

Orange and teal Basic panel in Lightroom
Basic panel settings for orange and teal in Lightroom

Lightroom is designed to improve your workflow, but there is no right or wrong way to edit photos. This is my preferred order of editing an orange and teal shot, but you may switch it up to your liking.

3. Color Grading (older versions: Split Toning)

Color Grading is a tool introduced with Lightroom 10 update that superseded Split Toning. And while it’s an extremely powerful tool, very few photographers utilise Color Grading.

Color Grading allows you to add certain hues to highlights, midtones, and shadows separately. For example, for the orange and teal look, you should add orange to highlights and teal or blue to shadows.

Here’s an example:

Orange and teal Color Grading in Lightroom
Color Grading settings for orange and teal in Lightroom

I also like to lower Blending, which gives my photos a higher contrast between highlights and shadows. And I shift the Balance towards the highlights because I like warmer pictures.

4. Tone curve

The orange and teal colour palette works very well with faded blacks. What does that even mean?

Faded blacks means that the darkest tones in your image are dark grey instead of black.

The simplest way to do this with the Tone Curve. 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 below, I bring the black point way up.

Orange and Teal - Lightroom Tone Curve panel
Lightroom Tone Curve panel

5. HSL/Color

When you change hues in the Calibration panel, you radically change colours in your image. In addition to creating the desired orange and teal effect, these can turn some colours into unnatural hues.

In addition, when you’re going for an 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.

HSL/Color panel settings

You must wonder what the numbers in this table even mean. You can use these 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

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
Orange and Teal - Lightroom Effects panel
Orange and Teal: Lightroom Effects asic panel

7. Sharpening

Sharpening will improve the overall quality of your image. First, go to the Detail panel and move the Amount slider to around 100, but the actual value will depend on your image. To determine the best value of the Amount slider, zoom into your photo and start moving it to the right until you see a halo around the edges.

I usually leave Radius and Detail at the default settings. To properly mask, press Alt + click on the slider, so the whole image turns grey. Then, 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.

Lightroom Detail panel
Orange and Teal: Lightroom Detail panel

Sharpening is another great addition to improving your image. Read more about it in my Sharpening in Lightroom tutorial.

Orange and teal Lightroom Presets

Lightroom presets are an excellent time-saver for photo editing. In addition, I use them to quickly test several different edits for a photo.

Here’s how you can get orange and teal Lightroom Presets:

  1. Create them yourself.
  2. Sign up for the Photutorial newsletter, and I’ll send them to you.
  3. Buy them from 123Presets.

By signing up, you receive all these presets instantly.

Orange and teal Photutorial presets
Lightroom presets you receive by signing up

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.

Here’s how to get orange and teal in Photoshop:

  1. Import the image: File > Open > select your photo > Open.
  2. Filter > Camera Raw Filter.
  3. Do steps 1 to 7 from the Lightroom chapter.
  4. Export the image: File > Save As

Orange and Teal in Mobile Lightroom

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!

1. Importing

There are at least 2 ways to import a photo to Mobile Lightroom:

  1. Gallery > Click on your photo > Share > Add to Lr.
  2. 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.
Lightroom mobile split tone Orange and Teal
Mobile Lightroom Split Tone panel

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.

5. Curves

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 the Light tab and click on CURVES. You will be editing the RGB curve (white dot) and Blue curve (blue dot). The RGB curve is optional and is not required for the orange and teal look.

Instagram Editor

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:

  1. Click the + icon on the bottom of the Instagram page and select the photo. Tap Next.
  2. In the Filter tab, choose Aden.
  3. In the Edit tab, tap on Fade and choose a value between 0 and 50.
  4. Scroll right to Vignette and choose a value between 0 and 70.
  5. 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.

  1. Open your image in your Gallery app
  2. Click Edit > FilterMemory  > and pick Memory filter
  3. Adjust filter intensity. I went with around 20% for this image.
  4. Go back to the primary editing menu
  5. Scroll to the right and choose Hue.
  6. 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.
  7. 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 4

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.

Lightroom is in my opinion the best tool to create Orange and Teal images, closely followed by Photoshop, Luminar 4, and ON1.

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.

Orange and teal is a basic photo editing technique. Learning all about it will help you edit photos like a pro.


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