Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Image Variations with Photoshop Gradient Maps

Originally posted at
Photoshop Nut : 
Michael Hoffman

GradientMap-01If you look in Photoshop’s Adjustments Panel, right at the very bottom, in the last position, there is the really technical sounding “Gradient Map.” If you haven’t seen this adjustment in action, or known what it can do, you’d be entirely likely to pass right over it – it sounds complicated. But, it isn't  Gradient Maps are one of the simplest ways of toning or tinting an image. In fact, if you like to tinker with your image, searching for a certain “look,” the Gradient Map can provide a seemingly endless train of color variations, all with a few clicks. Let’s see how it works.

 We’ll start with the image above, and very quickly, we can open the Adjustments Panel and click Gradient Map (Or, if you prefer menus, Image > Adjustments > Gradient Map… will get you there). The adjustment layer is added, and the Property Panel opens, showing the gradient picker and controls:


At this point, the default gradient is applied to your image, in a very predictable way. Looking at the gradient from left to right, the colors on the left are applied to the darkest tones in your image, and the colors on the right are applied to the lightest tones – with the tones in the gradient “mapped” to the highlights and shadows of the image. With the default black and white gradient, this gives us a black and white image, like so:


 Now, this in itself isn’t really amazing or surprising – after all, there are dozens of ways to get a grayscale image within Photoshop. No, the variations come as we change the gradient, which is mapped to the image tones. We can click the drop down arrow next to the gradient and pick a different gradient (such as Copper), which is mapped onto the image tones the same way:

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