Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a gradient map preset, part of Photoshop: Creative Effects and Filters (2012).
I often like to convert color photographs to a black and white interpretation. And in many cases when I create black and white version of a photo, I'll add a color tint such as a Sepia tone effect. But if I really want to get creative in terms of how I interpret a photo converting it from a four color image to a monochromatic version, such as black and white or Sepia tone. Or even a variation on the color photo that's something like a monochromatic image, but something like a color image as well. Let me show you what I mean. I'm talking about the Gradient Map adjustment in Photoshop, and that adjustment includes a variety of presets that you can use but its also possible to create your own presets.
To create your own method of interpreting the luminance information in your photos and translating it into color information. Let's get started by adding a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer. I'll go to the bottom of Layers panel and click on the Add Adjustment Layer button that's the half black, half white circle icon. And when I click that option I will choose Gradient Map from the bottom of the list, not the Gradient Adjustment Option at the top of the list, but the Gradient Map Adjustment down toward the bottom of the list. When I Choose that Option, I'll get the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer added on the Layers panel. And of course, the Properties panel will reflect the available controls, which are, obviously, not all that many.
You might typically assume that you would simply choose one of the available presets, and that's certainly an option. There are some very basic presets such as this black to white preset, as well as some very well wild presets such as this rainbow preset, and a variety of others in between, but we can also define our own preset. When I'm creating my own preset with the Gradient Map Adjustment, I'll generally start with a very simple black to white gradient. And that's because I want the darkest value in the image to be black, and the brightest value to be white, but I might want to change a lot about what happens in between. Let's take a look at how we can go through that process. Once I've selected a starting point for my Gradient Map Adjustment, I can simply click on the Preview in the popup here in order to bring up the Gradient Editor. You can see here that I have a black to white gradient. I'm starting off with black as the darkest value, and white as the brightest value, but I can also add additional intermediate gradient stops in between, to define a gradation of both tone and color.
Let's get started by adding a little bit of a warm tone to some of the shadow areas. I'll go ahead and click underneath the Gradient, in an area that I think might represent the best tonal value that I want to remap to something different. And that will add a duplicate of the existing gradient stop. So, in this case the black gradient stop was active, and so I have another black gradient stop. But that's just that default, I can change the color for this gradient stop simply by clicking on the Color Swatch associated with the the Color Label here. That will bring up the Color Picker, and for example I could just choose some shade of red.
Now when I'm adjusting the color for a new gradient stop, I want to try to match tonality as much as possible. But bare in mind, I can always fine tune the position of that gradient stop as we'll see shortly. I think in this case, a little bit of a red maybe slightly orangeish color might work well for the shadows. But I do need to keep it rather dark, so I'll start off with the Hue slider. You can see that I have the H in HSB selected, so that the vertical gradient here is the hue gradient. So, I'll choose the color, the hue that I think is the best starting point, and then in the larger gradient, I'm able to select based on saturation on a horizontal access and brightness on a vertical access.
And so I'll go over to a less saturated color and perhaps a darker color. I'm not looking to introduce a huge amount of color into the shadows, I just want the shadows to start off with a little bit of a reddish warm sort of tone. So, perhaps somewhere around there looks to be reasonably good. I'll go ahead and click OK in the Color Picker to accept that change. You can see now, the gradient that I've created thus far, but I can also move this gradient stop. I can for example, have middle grey be mapped to this new dark and slightly reddish value that I've defined.
But in this case, of course, I want to map it to a darker value. So, I can drag that slider over towards the left, and try to find the best position for that particular color. Of course, along the way there will lots of opportunity for fine tuning. Let's go ahead and add another gradient stop, this one for a brighter value, maybe just a little bit brighter than midtone. I'll go ahead and click underneath the gradient in that position. Things look a little crazy at the moment, because that existing gradient stop has simply been duplicated, but I'll click on the Color Swatch to bring up the Color Picker.
And I'll maybe shift that hue toward a little more slightly yellowish orange type of a tone, I think, in this case. And then find a brighter value, of course, and again probably not very saturated. I don't want to have too much vibrant color in this case. Although I certainly could, depending upon the image, but in this case, I think it's better not to have too much saturation. This is looking pretty good, I'm getting that antique sort of a look that I think works well with this subject. I'll go ahead and click OK, and then fine tune the position for this gradient stop. And I think I'm going to need to move it a little to the left, so that the bright values in the image stay relatively bright.
But at this point, I think that the darker value that I add, that the slightly reddish tone is not quite red enough or maybe it could be a little bit more magenta. I think that might work well for the shadows in this case. So I'll click on that gradient stop to make it active and then click on the Color Swatch once again. And I'll maybe drag that hue value around, maybe take that up toward a slightly more magenta value. Now you might be thinking pink is not exactly a color that will work well with this type of an image. But I'm actually just trying to infuse a very subtle amount of magenta.
And actually, I find that for big heavy equipment, that magenta in the deep shadows actually does work quite well. I do want it to be a relatively dark tone, and I don't want it to be too saturated. I just a little hint of magenta, in those shadows perhaps something right around like that. I'll go ahead and click OK, and once again I can fine tune the position of that gradient stop in order to adjust the overall distribution of tonal values within the image. I can also adjust the distribution of the colors in between gradient stops.
You'll notice that I have a small diamond in between these two gradient stops for example. I can click and drag that diamond in order to change the distribution. In other words having a relatively abrupt transition from that slightly reddish magenta dark tone, into that more creamy sort of color. Or I can shift it in the other direction, having more of those shadow values present in the image. Ultimately I can decide exactly how I want to transition from one color to another. So, I can change the position of the individual gradient stops, which obviously affects the overall transition for the gradient.
But I can also fine tune the transition in between each individual gradient stop. I think this is looking pretty good though. I think I'll save this as a gradient that I can apply to other images in the future. I'll go ahead and click into the name field, and I'll just type a value here. We can call this Magenta Shadows Cream Highlights, because that seems to describe reasonably well the effect that we're getting here. And then I'll click the New button, and that will create a new gradient. And you can see that at the bottom of the list of presets, I'll go ahead a click OK.
And now you'll find on that pop up, I do have that new gradient that I created along with all of the others that were already available to me. So, you can see defining your own preset for the Gradient Map Adjustment is reasonably straight forward. And if you spend some time to find just the right colors for just the right tonal values within the photo, you can produce some very interesting results.
- Working with the Filter Gallery
- Creating a black-and-white effect
- Applying a vignette
- Adding motion blur
- Creating a painterly effect with Find Edges
- Smearing with Liquify
- Mapping the image with Trace Contour