How to Use Gradient Mapping For Creative Coloring in Photoshop

If you are thinking about correcting that unwanted color cast in your images or adding a lovely tone to them for creative purposes, gradient mapping in Photoshop could help you with that. With the help of gradient maps, you can not only change colors or tones in your colored image but also colorize a black and white image. Gradient maps let you apply various colors to your picture’s highlight, mid-tone, and shadow areas. You can color grade them as an overlay or replace any undesired color in them with multiple tones. By creating and using gradient maps in Photoshop, you can bring your creative vision to reality and level up the way you edit. In this blog, we show you how to use gradient mapping for creative coloring in Photoshop.

What Else Can Gradient Mapping Help You With

Infographic stating gradient maps can help create gradients between two colors

Gradient maps can help you create a gradient between two colors, and you can use this for some artistic editing on your images. Gradient mapping in Photoshop gives you more control over separating elements in your composition using color contrast, changing the mood of your image, and making your subject stand out from the background. It lets you harness the power of complementary and analogous colors, helping you create more attractive photos. With so many ways to use gradient maps, one might feel creating them in Photoshop could be a complex process, but the good news is – it isn’t!

Steps to Create a Gradient Map in Photoshop

1. Technique One

The first thing you’d need to do is to open your image in Photoshop. Then go to the toolbar and set the background color according to your choice. You can do so by clicking on the rear of the two squares and then selecting a color from the color picker panel. Once you’ve set your background color, this will be your highlight color. To get your shadow color, repeat the same process by clicking on the front square and setting the foreground color.

Changing Gradient Overlay Blend Mode to Overlay
Image Courtesy of ShootDotEdit Customer @hummelphoto

Now, create your gradient map adjustment layer by going to Layer and then New Adjustment Layer and choose the Gradient Map option. At this point, your photo might look flooded by color. Now, select Soft Light or the Overlay blending mode and adjust the Opacity to suit your preference. By the end of this step, your gradient map will be ready.

2. Technique Two

Another way of creating it is by opening your selected image in Photoshop and then making a gradient map adjustment layer. Next, you’ll have to set the blending mode to Soft Light or Overlay and then click on the Gradient option to open the gradient editor. After this, click on the square slider you see on the lower left (left color stop). Then, click in the color window. Here, you will be able to adjust the shadow color and see its effect on your image as you move the color picker around. Now, repeat the process with the right-hand highlight color stop, and you will have your gradient map ready for that image.

Suggested Read: Steps To Create Snowfall In Photoshop: With & Without Snow Overlay

Experiment With Blend Modes

Collage of two images showing before and after results
Image Courtesy of ShootDotEdit Customer @hummelphoto

For your gradient maps, you may choose your Blend Mode to be Normal (default), but if you want to get creative and give your photo a different look, there are other options you can choose from. If you prefer a natural look, the Soft Light blend mode option might work well for you. The Soft Light blend would only affect your image’s darker and lighter areas while keeping the mid-tones as they are. For a more radical look, you can try the Vivid Light blend mode.

If you still do not get your desired look, try altering the opacity of your gradient map. You can also stack them by duplicating your map layer and changing the blend mode to bring out a completely different effect. When you are duplicating your gradient map layer, you may either choose to change the color of both layers or make changes to the blend modes of both layers. If you click underneath your gradient map bar in the Gradient Editor, you will see new nodes. They will help you diversify the colors and tones in your maps. Sliding the nodes will determine the effect your map will have on your chosen image.

Once you are done, save your map for future editing. To do so, you will have to use the preset manager in Photoshop, or they will be lost when you close the program. In the Name dialogue area, type in whatever you want to call your map and then click on New. Your gradient map will be saved and added to the other available presets in the preset manager.

Play With Presets

Though learning to create gradient maps in Photoshop might encourage you to explore your creativity, you could also try editing your images with preset gradients. Go to the Image option from the top toolbar and choose Adjustments from there. Next, click on Gradient Map and access the available presets. If you want to add more presets, click on the small cog icon in the Gradient Map Editor and navigate to Photographic Toning. You will see a pop-up window appear. Click on OK. Now, you will be able to see other preset gradient options and use them to your desire.

Further Read: How To Add Presets To Lightroom CC

Infographic stating the creative possibilities are endless when you use gradient mapping on your wedding images

When you do gradient mapping in your images, the possibilities are endless. There are so many different looks you can create and impress your clients with. Just ensure you use a similar or the same gradient map for the images from a particular wedding or engagement for a cohesive look in your albums.

If you want more image editing tips, check out the complete Lightroom and Photoshop Tips section of our website. At ShootDotEdit, we love sharing tips to help you grow as a wedding photographer. We also strive to lessen your post-production workload by offering professional photo editing services that match your style. To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, you can take a look at our pricing plans.

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