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The Gradient Map Adjustment focuses on luminance in a photo, translating pixels to a particular tone or color based on the original luminance value. The new pixel values can be shades of grey, making this adjustment useful for black and white conversions. And because the pixel values can also be colored, you have quite a bit of flexibility in creating the final image. In this lesson, I'll show you just how powerful the Gradient Map Adjustment can really be. We'll use an Adjustment Layer, of course, and I want to point out that when you add a new adjustment layer, we're not looking for the Gradient Adjustment Layer, but rather the Gradient Map down at the bottom of the list. The Gradient Adjustment will simply place a gradient over your image, covering up the photograph.
The Gradient Map Adjustment allows us to redefine the pixel values in the image to create a new interpretation. So, I'll click Gradient Map to add my Gradient Map Adjustment. As you can see, the default in this case is a black to white gradient. So, the darkest pixels in the image appear black, the brightest pixels appear white, and all the other tonal values in between are remapped to shades of gray. And of course, this creates a basic black and white conversion. We can also use other presets to create a different look for the image. I'll click the popup for the preset and I can choose one of the other values. As you can see, many of these are colors that generally speaking won't work all that well for most photographic images.
They're interesting, but not exactly good interpretations for a photograph. Fortunately, we can define our own gradient. To do so, simply click on the gradient itself. Not on the pop-up, but on the Gradient Preview in the pop-up. This will bring up our Gradient Editor. Here, we can redefine the transition between tonal values and color values to determine what the image will actually look like. I'll start off with a basic black to white adjustment. The gradient is defined by gradient stops.
In this case, a simple black stop at one end and a white stop at the other end. I can change the value of these stops if I'd like to though. So for example, I'll click on my black stop at the left here. And then, I'll click on the color swatch, to bring up the color picker. I'll just choose a dark shade of blue. Maybe something like this. And click OK. Then I'll click on my white gradient stop and click the color swatch once again. And perhaps, I'll use a shade of yellow for this one. Clicking OK to apply that. You can see that I now have a blue to yellow gradient. And the tonal values within the image have updated accordingly. Based on the luminance of a pixel, it will be mapped to a particular color along this gradient.
And of course, I can change the behavior of that gradient by shifting the distribution of these gradient stops. So, if I drag my yellow gradient stop inward, for example, you'll see that I'm redistributing the values within the image. In this case, that would cause some clipping of the highlights because I've specified that much of the image is going to be the exact same shade of yellow. The point is that I can change the position of these gradient stops and I can also change the transition between gradient stops. By dragging the diamond that falls between the two stops, I can adjust where the midpoint for that transition is. So, in this case, for example, I can have more yellow within the image or more blue within the image.
In this case, I would probably want to keep it at about the center point. Of course, in this case, I don't really like the colors or what they're doing to the image. So, let's take a look at a more realistic example. We'll, create a sepia tone version of the image. I'm going to start off with my black to white gradient. And in most cases, that's exactly what I want to do because I want the darkest pixel values to be black and the brightest to be white, in most cases. It's everything in between that I might assign a different color to. I'll go ahead and click below the gradient in order to add an additional gradient stop. I'll then, click on the color swatch to bring up the color picker and I'll go find a nice dark shade that's something along a copper color. I need something fairly dark, since we're working on the shadow areas of the image, but I want to make sure there's at least a little bit of color to it. That's looking reasonably good.
So, I'll go ahead and click OK. I'll then, click below the gradient, further up toward the white end to add one more gradient stop. I'll then, click the color swatch to bring up the color picker and go find a lighter shade that will work for this particular image. I think I'd like the light areas to be just a little bit warmer, so I'll shift my hue down toward a little bit more orange and maybe find something in that region. right about there looks okay. So, I'll click okay. Of course, in this case, I've got a little bit of a flattened, lifeless appearance to the image. But I can fine tune that by shifting the position of my gradient stops. Simply dragging left to right as needed to change the overall appearance of the image.
In this case, making the image appear with a little bit more contrast is going to be key. At any time, I can change the color value for a given gradient stop by clicking on that gradient stop, and then clicking on the color swatch, to bring up the color picker. I can also change the location, either by dragging or by changing the percentage for location. And of course, if I add an extra gradient stop by mistake or I decide that it's just not working, I can click on that anchor point, and then click the Delete button. When you're happy with the gradient you've created, you can save it for future use. So, let's call this copper, since this has something of a copper appearance to it, and then I'll click the New button.
That will add that gradient as a preset on the list. And in fact, I can then, use that preset directly within the Adjustments panel. I'll go ahead and click okay here. And then, I'll delete my Gradient Map Adjustment Layer and add a New Gradient Map Adjustment Layer, just to demonstrate this concept. Here's my default gradient, but as you can see the gradient I just created is one of the presets that's available. So, I could use this preset with any image just be adding a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer. As you can see, the gradient map adjustment blends a focus on luminance, which is perfect for creating a black and white image, with the ability to add color, which is wonderful from a creative perspective.
The result, is a remarkably powerful way to interpret your photographic images, with flexibility and creativity.
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