How to use Gradient Map Adjustments in Photoshop Tutorial

How to use Photoshop gradient maps and color effects and text effects in CC 2017 / 2015 CS6 CS4 CS3 adjustment tutorial

GRD Presets added via image adjustments and Gradient Maps

The GRD presets can be used in the powerful Photoshop gradient map feature / filter found in the adjustment layers (use it as a non-destructive effect and as a layer which can be moved at any point in the creative process or flattened to retain the adjustment) or the map can be applied via the image menu and adjustments (destructive). You can find our 32,000 gradients (and gradient maps) from graphicxtras here and they can be used with our brushes / shapes such as grid brushes and gear shapes via the gradient map functionality as well as just a s straight gradient



The map filter uses the source presets and these can be any of the presets supplied with the Adobe ® Photoshop ® as well as presets created by yourself or perhaps ones you have purchased from third party sites such as the ones on this site (you can see the link at the top of the page).


basic map


Tones and Gradient Maps

The tool maps the tones of the image to the presets. The darkest parts of the image will be mapped to the far end of the stops; the lightest parts of the image will be mapped to the other end of the preset stops. Of course, the preset can have more than just two stops and you can use this to create truly surreal effects.


Gradient Maps / Adjustment as a start point

Using the map tool is often only a starting point. You can create far more interesting effects by using multiple layers and other effects and then combining those. Anyway, the presets / maps often results in some very interesting color effects that can be further enhanced by additional modifications such as changing the end result to sepia via HDR toning etc. The image below has been modified in a basic way using a map and using one of the default presets. The tool itself has no additional features to manipulate things but you can always add it and use blending modes to modify the end result a little more such as if you use it as a straight adjustment you can use the edit menu fade command and if you use it as an adjustment layer then you can use the blending mode of the layer. The one below it uses the color burn via the edit menu fade command.


color burn


You can use the map once or perhaps multiple times. You don't have to use the same preset either. You can create some interesting and surreal effects just by adding the map twice using the same preset as below but you don't have to use the same one and you can also intermix it with other filters and adjustments as well as using the blending modes as mentioned




You can also add effects to the image before you add any of the color effects via the adjustments. Effects such as blurs and shape blurs work very well with the adjustments but many others are just as effective such as blurred image below with the same effect added to the item as the first image on this page




Different applied presets will result in a totally different image so any of the default presets can result in some very interesting colors. Or just use the same preset and use the reverse feature but all that does is swap the stops in the preset


reversed intense orange


You can achieve even more extreme imagery with even more stops added. All the ones above have been created using just two stops but if you want you can add loads more stops and many of the presets from the graphicxtras site include many more stops than just two (you can also just use a preset with one stop). The results can be quite metallic like or perhaps posterization.




and the results can be combined with other effects as mentioned so you can then perhaps add an oil filter effect




Gradient Maps / Photoshop Adjustments and text

The map feature is useful for creating interesting text effects such as distress and inner glow and sharpening effects in Adobe ® Photoshop ®. The start point (for me) is often applying some text and then blurring the text (a little or a lot) and then applying a map. The filter does not use the transparency information, it is purely a color feature. It can be made up two or more of colors to create stunning color effects as well as distress effects. You can use the map adjustment to. With a little bit of blurring a very basic couple of stops preset you can create some interesting outlines or perhaps glows if you mix back the original source image


outline combined outline


You can add the map / adjustment with the same preset and different presets multiple times and interweave with effects as well as perhaps black and white adjustment and more. All kinds of super text effects can be achieved using combinations of multiple map applications as well as combining them with filter effects such as the superb camera raw filter or perhaps using presets with a lot more stops and complexity than the basic two stops used by the above


spotlight mix blend


Or blend them with additional effects such as oil paint filter


oil type

Smart adjustments

With the latest version of PS in the CC 2017 / 2015, you can now use the adjustments with the smart objects and use the presets as a filter effect that can be disabled and changed or deleted at any point without any destructive effect on any type and the good thing is that the type can still be live beneath the smart filters and presets and can be changed from one text to some new text.


Adjustment layers

If you add the adjustment as a layer and as such, you can apply layer effects etc to the item. You can also use the video timeline and the layers containing the adjustments. Display the video timeline panel and create a timeline and then select that layer and select the style option - set the small stopwatch option on and you can then modify any attached layer effects to that layer over time (adding keyframes). You can also duplicate that layer as well as well as combine multiple other adjustment layers below or above. Also a layer, you can use them with the normal blending mode but you can also use them with opacity (reduce) as well as difference / multiply etc blending modes which all result in some interesting color effects added to any image or text. They can also be used in other color modes such as 16bit color though sadly not 32bit mode (which is pretty odd but I guess all the effects etc are still being slowly moved for use in 32bit as well as 16bit mode)


Related items

You may find the 32,000 set of Photoshop gradients of use and interest, the set includes a vast range of different GRD color effects for use with the preset tool in PS and PS Elements


You can find additional gradient tutorials such as how to mix the gradients creatively with channels in Photoshop and how to combine multiple gradients in Photoshop and how to use gradients to create contours in Photoshop tutorial and how to use them with layer effects and overlays