Gradient map

In this lesson we will learn how to quickly and easily using Gradient Cards (Gradient Map) to make a photo of the sunset more spectacular.

In the photo with the sunset you want to see soft and warm shades of red, orange, yellow. See how the sunset rays go beyond the horizon into the water or hide behind the mountains. But it is not always possible to catch and capture the beauty of the sunset. Often, pictures instead of rich golden light are filled with cool hues. Such a photo does not look alive and interesting.

Here is what was filmed on one summer evening on the shore:

Gradient map

The colors in the photo are muffled and dull.
But what will happen after a quick and easy processing using Gradient Cards:

Gradient map

Step 1. As you probably already know, every work in Photoshop begins with a duplication of the background layer. Working with a copy of the layer, we do not affect the original pixels of the image. In the same tutorial, we will use one of the adjustment layers, so it is not necessary to create a copy of the background layer.
One of the advantages of the adjustment layers is that they do not destroy the original pixels of the background layer. In other words, when working on an image, we do not really touch it.

Photoshop gives us a full preview of what we are doing and how our image will look like after applying settings in adjustment layers, be it Levels (Levels) or Curves (Curves) to improve image contrast, adjustment layer Hue / Saturation (Hue / Saturation) to toned photo, or adjustment layer Isogelium [Threshold] to define light and dark areas of the image. All work is done in the correction layer, therefore, there is no need to make a copy of the background layer.

In order to add a new adjustment layer, click on the icon of the adjustment layer in the layers palette:

Gradient map

From the drop-down menu, select “Gradient Map” [Gradient Map]:

Gradient map

Step 2. A dialog box for editing the gradient appears:

Gradient map

The Gradient Map is named so for a reason. “MapBecause it can, for example, distinguish colors in the tonal range of an image. You can use CG to “repaint” all the dark areas of the image in one color, and all light – in another. The average tone will be the third color. For example, dark areas are blue, light are red, and midtones are green.
This is, of course, an arbitrary example. In fact, you can divide the tonal range of the image into all the colors of the rainbow, and since we are working with a gradient (that’s why “Gradient Map”!), Photoshop will create smooth transitions between colors. When the Gradient Map dialog box appears, the gradient is most likely to be set to transition from foreground to background.
Such a transition can be seen in the screenshot above, where black on the left goes to white on the right (of course, it is assumed that the main and background colors are set by default).
If you apply this gradient, the image is converted to black and white. You can see the transformations in the document window, if you tick the preview in the Gradient Map window:

Gradient map

Of course, this option is not what we want to get in the end. We need to add red, orange and yellow shades of the sunset, and not to convert the image to b / w. Therefore, the first thing to do is edit the gradient. To do this, click directly in the gradient preview window:

Gradient map

A gradient editing window will appear in which we will work further.

Step 3. When the gradient editor appears, you will see a new preview area in the bottom half of the dialog box. We’re going to change the colors of the gradient, starting with black on the left. Double-click in the black colored square, which is located to the lower left of the gradient preview area:

Gradient map

A Photoshop color palette will appear. Select the red color for the dark areas of the image (ef0d0d is selected here):

Gradient map

In the document window, you will see that all the dark areas of the image turn red:

Gradient map

Click OK to exit the color palette. From the gradient editor until we leave, because we need to change the light areas of the image.

Step 4. Now we will change the light areas of the image. To do this, double click in the white color square below the right of the gradient preview area:

Gradient map

The color palette appears again. This time, select a bright yellow color for light areas (f4db0a is selected here):

Gradient map

Click OK to exit the color palette after you have selected your color. Now, if you look at the gradient preview area in the gradient editor, you can see how the gradient has changed from black and white to red and yellow, and when mixed in medium colors, red and yellow will give us a warm orange.

Gradient map

Click OK to exit the gradient editor and OK again to exit the dialog box. Gradient Cards. This is what our image looks like after editing a gradient:

Gradient map

The photo looks unnatural, the colors “cover” the image, and not “mix” with the original ones. Fix it.

Step 5. We added a gradient map adjustment layer and successfully edited the colors with which our sunset should shine. The only problem is that the colors “cover” the image. With the following steps we will fix this.
To begin, change the blend mode of the Gradient Map adjustment layer. In the layers palette you can see two layers – the background layer, which contains our photo, and the correction above the background one. Make sure you have the Gradient Map layer selected, and change its blending mode (upper left corner in the layers palette) from “Normal” (Normal) to “Overlap“(Overlay).

Gradient map

The blend mode “Overlap” refers to the so-called group of contrast blending modes. One of the primary goals when using this blend mode is to increase the image contrast. Now, if you look at our image, you can see that with increasing contrast, red, yellow and orange “mixed” with the background image. But the colors still look too intense:

Gradient map

Step 6. In order to reduce the intensity of the colors, so that the photo depicts a sunset, and not a nuclear explosion, it is necessary lower opacity Gradient Map layer. The Opacity option is located at the top right of the layers palette.
Here opacity layer reduced to 40%. You can choose your values, it all depends on your image and the result you want to get.

Gradient map

Now compare the original:

Gradient map

With the result of processing:

Gradient map

Golden sunsets to you! With and without Photoshop!

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