Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
In this exercise I'm going to introduce you to the best way to infuse color into a black-and-white photograph and that is the Gradient Map command. I'm looking once again at that big sky image, and so far I've show you one way to infuse color into a black-and-white image, but it's a very simplistic way. So I'll just show it to you again, because I want you to see how little is going on here. I'll select that black-and-white layer. That brings up the black-and-white options here in the Adjustments panel. Then I'll turn on Tint, and let's say, I click on this Color Swatch and I dial in these color values, some easy to remember ones.
35 degrees for the Hue, 35% for the Saturation value, and 100% for Brightness. Now, basically what's happening, when you change the Brightness value, you're really conspiring with the Saturation Value to change the intensity of the Tint color. Because after all, the actual brightness of any given pixel is determined by its luminance as defined by the other black-and-white settings. So anyway, I'll go and click OK, but remember these options, 35, 35, and 100. Click OK, and all that's going on there is you are now assigning one pair of Hue and Saturation values, that is a Hue of 35 degrees, a Saturation of 35% to each and every pixel inside this image.
The only variation to the image now is luminance and nothing more. And while that's very easy to apply, it's not the best solution. Anyway, let me show you just how not best it is. I want to show you what's going on there. I'm going to turn off the check box for a moment, so that we'd return to the underlying black-and-white image. And then, I'm going to go down to this black-white icon there, and I'm going to pressed the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac, and I'll choose from this menu, Solid Color, which creates a layer of solid color.
And I'll go ahead and call this one Orange, because that's what is going to be. Click OK and now I get that same Color Picker. I'm going to enter those exact same values, 35, 35, 100, the end, click OK. And now I will change the Blend mode from Normal to Color. And so, I'm assigning the Hue/Saturation values across the entire image. The only thing that's going to vary is the luminosity. So I'll go ahead and choose Color, and we get the exact same effect we had before, and if you have any doubt about that, let me go ahead and compare the two.
I'll turn off this orange layer for a moment, switch back to B&W. I will turn on that Tint check box and now notice whether I have the orange layer on or not, we have the exact same effect. So that's all that's going on. You're just assigning one hue, one saturation value, across the entire image. That's not a great solution especially compared with Gradient Map, which allows you to apply a pair of Hue and Saturation values at very specific luminance points inside of an image, so let's see how that works.
I'm going to go ahead and click on the orange layer there and I'm going to press the Backspace or Delete key to get rid of it. And let's also turn off the Tint check box, we don't need that guy. We're just going to stick with these black-and-white settings here. And I want to show you that the Gradient Map command is yet another color adjustment function. So if I click on the Background layer so that I have a Pixel layer selected and I go up to the Image menu and I choose Adjustments, you'll find it right there. It's the fourth command in the third group. So that's one way to apply it, but the better way of course, is to apply it as an Adjustment layer.
So I'll go and escape out of this menu, and then I'll click on B&W to make it active, because we want to put the Gradient Map layer at the top of the stack. And I'll click on this left point arrow head in the bottom left corner of the Adjustments panel to return to the big list here. And just as Gradient Map was the fourth command in the third group, the Gradient Map icon is the fourth icon in the third row. So I'll go ahead and Alt+Click or Option+Click on that icon to bring up the New layer Dialog Box, and I'll call this colorize, because that's essentially what we're doing, is colorizing the image.
We're just doing a much better job of it. And I'll click OK. And now let me explain what we have going here. We're seeing a Gradient, and that's it, and that's all you do with Gradient Map. You just create a Gradient and you let that Gradient inform the colors inside the image. How is the question? Well, black inside the image is going to change to the very first color in the Gradient on the left-hand side of this Gradient bar, whereas white is going to change to the last point in the gradient on the right-hand side of the bar, and all the other luminance levels are going to change to the colors in between.
Well right now, we're mapping a black to white image to a black to white gradient, so you would think that everything would stay exactly the same. However, if you turn this layer off for a moment, you'll notice that the image was lighter before, and then when you turn it back on, it gets darker. Actually, if you take a closer look, you'll notice that it was lower contrast before, because the highlights were also little darker. When I turn colorize back on, those highlights grow brighter. Well, the reason is, your everyday average gradient has just like a blur, it has got a Gaussian Distribution associated with it, which means that it ramps up slowly, so we've got a big area of dark colors.
And then it goes quickly through the mid-tones and then we have a big area of highlights as well. That way you don't see the colors ramp in and you don't see the colors ramp out, nearly as much as you would, if this were a Linear Gradient. It also helps you avoid banding and some other issues. Anyway, what that means is we've extended our shadow range and we've also extended our highlight range. We have fewer mid-tones, so that increases the contrast of the image. However, what we're more interested in doing is assigning color across the image, and you do that by clicking this down pointing arrow head and then choosing one of these other gradients.
Problem is, the default Gradient Set that ships along with Photoshop is not terribly conducive to the Gradient Map Function. They are not really great where colorization is concerned. You can try them out. For example, you can go ahead and click on Violet, Orange and you'll get this stunner of an effect here. Or you could try out the next one over, Blue, Red, Yellow and you'll achieve this effect. And then there's much worse effects like Chrome here, is going to go ahead and do this number to the image.
So again, not really the best bunch by default. The closest that there is here, is Copper. You could go ahead and try it out if you want to, and you'll probably look at that and say, that's a good effect, I don't think so, Deke. Well, try this. After you get done applying the Gradient Map Function here, then change the Blend mode from Normal to Color, so that you're excepting the original luminance levels inside the image, and you're just infusing them with the colors from this Gradient and you end up getting this effect here, which is pretty interesting.
However, between you and me, we can do better and I'm going to show you how to do better, and I'm going to show you how to load some gradients that I've created for you in advance in the next exercise.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
120 Video lessons · 63803 Viewers
119 Video lessons · 71349 Viewers
125 Video lessons · 32152 Viewers
84 Video lessons · 18727 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.