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Applying a Gradient Map adjustment

From: Photoshop Creative Effects Workshop

Video: Applying a Gradient Map adjustment

I often teach photographers how to use the Gradient Map adjustment, to create a unique black and white interpretation of an image with tremendous flexibility and control. However, it's also possible to employ color within the Gradient Map adjustment, enabling you to produce a variety of creative looks for an image. In this lesson, I'll show you how it's done. The first step is to add a Gradient Map Adjustment. So at the bottom of the Layer's panel, I'll click on the Add Adjustment Layer button, and then choose Gradient Map from near the bottom of the list.

Applying a Gradient Map adjustment

I often teach photographers how to use the Gradient Map adjustment, to create a unique black and white interpretation of an image with tremendous flexibility and control. However, it's also possible to employ color within the Gradient Map adjustment, enabling you to produce a variety of creative looks for an image. In this lesson, I'll show you how it's done. The first step is to add a Gradient Map Adjustment. So at the bottom of the Layer's panel, I'll click on the Add Adjustment Layer button, and then choose Gradient Map from near the bottom of the list.

It's important to note that we're using the Gradient Map Adjustment, not the Gradient Adjustment found here near the top of the list. So I'll click on Gradient Map, and as you can see the default gradient gives me a gray scale image that transitions from black to white, but there are much more creative possibilities. If I click on the Pop Up for the gradient, you'll see that there are a variety of presets I can choose from. Here's copper for example, but we also have a red to green gradient, a purple to green to orange gradient, and a variety of others.

In addition, there are additional presets that I can load. If I click on the menu button at the top right of the pop-up, for example, I can choose from a variety of additional sets of presets for the gradient map adjustment. I'll go ahead and add the Metals option here, and click Append so that these Options are added to the existing list of presets. And for example, we can take a look at this particular gradient option. This is the Silver option, and it creates almost a three-dimensional diorama sort of look for the image. It actually looks quite nice for this particular image. The point is, there are a variety of additional presets available to you, to help you explore the creative possibilities.

In this case though we're going to create our own gradient map. I'll start off with a black to white gradient, and then click to Close the pop up, and we're ready to get started refining this particular gradient map. To create our own gradient, we'll need to use the Gradient Editor which is accessible by clicking on the Preview in the popup for the gradient map. I'll click in that Gradient, and the Gradient Editor appears. I'll move this out of the way so we can see more of the image. And the basic concept is that we use gradient stops. Here we have a block stop below the gradient, and a white stop below the gradient, the black at the far left and the white at the far right.

And that gives us a smooth transition from black into white. If I want to add a stop, I can simply click below the gradient. This will add an additional stop, which by default matches the existing stop in terms of color. To change the color for this stop, I can simply click the Color Swatch, and that will bring up the Color Picker. I'll choose a dark sort of sepia effect, maybe a little bit of a reddish brownish sort of color, maybe with a little bit of a yellow influence, somewhere in there looks to be a pretty good color, and I'll go ahead and click OK.

I like that color, but it's not producing a very good transition in the image. But to adjust that transition, all I need to do is drag this stop left or right. This will allow me to compress the transition or expand the transition. In this case I want to expand that transition so that I get a smoother gradation from black into this shade of brown, that I've added to my gradient. I can also adjust the transition between stops, in other words, where the center point falls for a particular stop, simply by dragging the diamond in between my gradient stops. I'll go ahead and add an additional gradient stop, in this case probably somewhere around the mid-tone value.

And again, this adds a gradient stop that matches the currently active stop, so the initial effect in the image may not be all that good. But we can change the color for that stop by clicking the Color Swatch and then choosing a new color value. I'll go ahead and find a relatively dark value here and one that's not too terribly saturated, and maybe shift it just a little bit closer toward yellow, and then click OK, and once again I can fine tune the position of this gradient stop in order to adjust the final effect in the image. I think I'll add one more stop here, I want to add just a little bit of color in the highlights.

And to accomplish this, I'll want a very bright color and one that's not very saturated, but I do want to shift that just a little bit more toward yellow, right around there looks to be pretty good. So I'll click OK, and I can adjust the position of that gradient stop as well. In this case, I want a little bit more contrast, so I'm going to drag it over to the left just a little bit. And this gives me that sort of muted, warm, sepia, almost more toward brownish gray type of effect. And I like this effect quite a lot, so I'm going to give it a name.

In this case, I'll call it well how about a gray sepia since it's sort of a sepia tone effect but with grayish sort of element added to it. And then I'll click New in order to add that gray sepia gradient map, to my presets. So now I'll go ahead and click OK to accept the changes I've made in the Gradient Editor, and you'll notice that in my gradient map pop up, I now have my saved gradient available to use for future images. As you've seen in this lesson, the gradient map is a very powerful tool for creating a unique interpretation of a photographic image.

Whether you're producing a subtle variation on a black and white image, or a completely new colorized interpretation of a photo, the process is relatively straightforward and very flexible.

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Photoshop Creative Effects Workshop

31 video lessons · 746 viewers

Tim Grey
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