Facebook Pixel Working with Gradient Maps: Photoshop Creative

Working with Gradient Maps: Photoshop Creative

The Gradient Maps tool has a serious side in creating custom black and white conversions and a more frivolous one in adding color to an image. I’ll show you how to use it for both purposes.

Before we start a word about how the Gradient Map works. It is an adjustment so you can find it on the Adjustment menu and you can also apply it using an Adjustment Layer. It applies a gradient of color to your image depending on the tones in the image. So, where the image is darker the tones at the left of the gradient are applied and where the image is lighter the tones at the right of the gradient are applied. The midtones are colored with the color in the middle of the gradient. If you want the effect reversed, you can reverse the gradient and the colors are applied in reverse.

The serious side of the Gradient Map tool is its black and white gradient. You can use this to convert an image to black and white. By changing the gradient, you can affect what parts of the image go to black and which parts go to white.

Step 1

gradient maps step1.jpg

To see this at work, open an image and add a Gradient Map adjustment layer by choosing Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map. From the Gradient list choose the Black, White gradient and click Ok. The image now shows as black and white.

Step 2

gradient maps step2.jpg

To adjust the way the gradient is applied, double click the adjustment layer and double click the gradient to open the Gradient editing dialog. You can now add stops below the gradient bar to adjust how the colors are applied. For example, if you add a second black stop to the right of the first one, you can set all the tones that are mapped to this area of the gradient to black rather than them ranging from black to a dark grey.

Step 3

gradient maps step3.jpg

By adjusting the midpoint marker between two stops you can control how the gradient transitions from one color to the next. If you drag it to the left you steepen the transition from the left most color to a color that is half way between the colors in the stops either side of the midpoint marker. Of course, here we’re talking about black, grey and white as colors, but in a minute the stops will be applying colors to the image and they work the same way.

Step 4

gradient maps step4.jpg

To apply a color gradient to an image to give it a more creative look, repeat step 1 to open an image and to add a Gradient Map adjustment layer to it. This time choose one of the colored gradients. If the gradients aren’t to your liking, click the flyout menu on the Gradient tab and load a second gradient set and use one of those.

Step 5

gradient maps step5.jpg

These gradients, like the Black, White gradient can be edited so you can tweak the colors or add new ones until you get exactly the effect you want.

Step 6

gradient maps step6.jpg

Like any adjustment layer, you can achieve further creative possibilities by setting the blend mode of the adjustment layer to something other than Normal. You can also reveal some of the underlying color from the image if you reduce the layer opacity.

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Helen Bradley
Helen Bradley

is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

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