Jun 09, 2016

How to Color Tone Using Gradient Maps

How to Color Tone Using Gradient Maps

Quickly color tone your images using gradient maps. Create your own custom gradients or choose from many pre-loaded options!

How do Gradient Maps Work?

A gradient map matches light levels to different colors. It analyzes the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows in your image and maps them to different colors.

The original colors in a photo will be replaced with the colors in the gradient map.

How to Adjust Gradients

To adjust a gradient map, double-click on the layer thumbnail and then click on the gradient. You can choose from pre-defined gradients or create your own. To edit an existing gradient, click on the color swatches below the gradient, which will bring up another color box. Click on that color box and use the color editor to choose a new color. You can also move the color swatches by clicking and dragging them from left to right.

To add a new color swatch, click right below the gradient in the location you would like to add a new color.

How to Load More Gradient Maps

Photoshop comes pre-loaded with a few gradients. To add more gradients, click on the gear icon in the gradient editor. You can choose to load gradients from your computer or add them from a list at the bottom. Click on the list you would like to add, then choose ‘append’ to add them to the list of available gradients.

In this episode we use ‘Color Harmonies 1’ and ‘Photographic Toning’.


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  • user image

    Great tip! So much easier than using Topaz Restyle, which can overwhelm you with choices, and not as simple to customize! Thanks Aaron!

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    Sybille Sterk

    This is also great for photo manipulations as it helps to blend the different elements. I use it a lot.

  • user image

    Thanks Aaron really great, tried it alone sometime before, but now I know how to do it the right way

  • user image

    Dear Mr Nace

    I have followed many of your tutorials on You Tube for several years and found them very helpful. Could you consider putting together a complete PS program, perhaps in three parts: Ps Beginners; PS Intermediate: PS Advanced techniques. Obviously these would be paid for tutorials of several hours each but would be extremely useful for all levels of photography.

    I am an elderly keen amateur – not a pro photographer and I am sure that there are many more like me out there who do not do weddings, portraits etc but who simply enjoy photography in many genres and who wish to perfect their images.

    Best wishes


  • Dan Lane

    Awesome….what a about building a gradient from scratch…..where to start….

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    Gary Wahl

    I always wanted to understand these and now I have a good foundation. Thanks! I like that the lesson was short and sweet!

  • user image

    You are a HUGE resource. Hit all the right notes. Right pace, attitude, great info.

  • user image

    This looks fantastic. I can see lots of applications. creating a style, adding colour to blown out highlights. even changing a specific colour on an image. Thanks Arron!

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    Rich Rahalla

    maybe time dictated this but how about changing the gradient layer to different blend modes; and using the gradient fill adj layer effects

  • user image

    Very awesome tut! I have always loved following your tuts because you’re very precise but make it simple and clear. Please keep them going.

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    Jean-Marie Cote

    This is not related to this topic but one that you may have already covered or not but that’s one that I cannot figure it out. When using Blend if mode, how to prevent that the dark or highlight to affect your subject. See example attached. I have a flower that the surrounding is black and want to use the blend if to remove it but I have black in my flower too. Cannot figure out how to use mask to prevent the effect on my subject.

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    Denis Galipeau

    Hello Aaron,
    Your Phamazing method of teaching is taking me to a higher skill level and creativity. Your Phlessons are effective and very practical, especially to photographers. Your Phpassion for the Adobe Photoshop software is Phcontagious. I’m very happy to have discovered your Website.

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    Mario Mifsud

    Thanks for your support towards those who want to improve there photography. Also I like the way you explain.

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    Taryn Elliott

    WOW. This was a great TUT. Totally exactly what I needed for some branding on book covers. THANK YOU!!

  • palleg

    I love your tutorials … Great idea to end each tut with a short recap of the functions used. Thumbs up all the way from Denmark.

  • user image

    A lovely tutorial. I would only add that changing the blending mode of the gradient layer could be helpful.

  • user image

    I can see some use for this in my flower photography. Thank you. A future episode could be on b/w banding and it’s causes and cures.

  • user image

    I miss the beard. It suits you. Otherwise, great stuff as always. Thanks!

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    Unmesh Gite

    Hello Sir,
    I have provided a manipulated photo made by me. Please give me suggestions..

  • user image

    Thank you so much for all this! Phlearn is my new learning crush. I was wondering if there was a tutorial about high key treatment, I really enjoy the results but find it hard to obtain! Any suggestions?

    Thanks again for this website.

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    José Parcerisa V

    My friend some time without watching your excellent tutorials, congratulations and thank you very much for teaching us. Your paid tutorials are also the best……

  • user image

    hey guys.. in search of some info / how to. If you happen to have seen something called LUD3d creator…in part of the video it shows how you can easily change many hue tones in an image to one…basically by dragging point of hues to whatever you want to change them to…i thought about using the above method, but seem likie there may be too much room for error since you have to make decisions based on luminosity and not color. HELP!! if you guys have time, do a search for the LUT 3d creator and check out the video…way to complex for me to figure out what every chart and graph does….but looks powerful. thanks – Jared

  • user image

    Really enjoyed this and have been having a lot of fun with it. Great job as always, Aaron! Could you do an episode on doing something like this using a color theme from Adobe Capture?

  • Jonathan Solis

    Can you do episode hat helps when we over use a flash light.