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How to use Gradient Map Adjustments in Photoshop Tutorial

gradient map adjustments photoshop panel

How to use Photoshop gradient maps and color effects and text effects in CC 2017 / 2015 CS6 CS4 CS3 adjustment tutorial. A guide to the Photoshop gradient map adjustment, the adjustment can be used to create amazing colorful designs using gradients as a source. The Photoshop gradient GRD presets can be used in the powerful Photoshop gradient map feature / filter found in

  1. 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)

  2. The map can be applied via the image menu and adjustments (destructive).

  3. Set gradient map from selection in presets picker

  4. Select dither (if required)

  5. Select reverse if you wish to have the reverse of the current gradient

  6. Click OK

Gradient Presets for the adjustment 'gradient map' in Photoshop

adjutsment menu photoshop gradient map

Gradients to purchase

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The gradient map adjustment 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


You can also quickly create your own gradients for use with the adjustment / gradient map (either in layer form as well as a straight adjustments)



Tones and Photoshop 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 are only a starting point, you can always add additional effects in Photoshop

color burn gradient map adjustment photoshop

Using the gradient map adjustment 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 right 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 (such as color burn used in the adjustment on the right and that was applied using the edit menu fade command as the image menu adjustment does not have a blending mode featured added) 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

  1. Iimage menu

  2. Adjustments

  3. Gradient map

  4. Select gradient

  5. Apply

  6. Edit menu

  7. Fade

  8. Select blending mode such as difference


The blending modes can be added much quicker if you use the Photoshop gradient map as an adjustment layer then you can use the blending mode of the layer. You can use the map once or 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 left. 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. You can achieve even more extreme imagery. 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).

  1. Go to the gradient map adjustment

  2. Display panel and click on the gradient

  3. Add more stops (say 10 or so, the best results seem to be with the gradient stops on the left)

  4. Click ok


The results can be quite metallic like or perhaps posterization in many cases but that depends on the image and if the image is slightly blurred then the results will create unusual surreal glows. The image can then be further modified by other adjustments such as HDR toning

Effects can be added to the gradient map in Photoshop such as oil paint effect as well as camera raw

oil effect and gradient maps adjustment photoshop

The images can also be further manipulated by tools such as the oil paint filter and camera raw filter as well as combining with two applications of the gradient map adjustments along with HDR toning.


  1. Image menu

  2. Adjustments

  3. Gradient map

  4. HDR toning

  5. Filter menu

  6. Oil paint filter

  7. Camera raw

Photoshop adjustments and gradient maps can be also applied to great effect with type / letters

mix blend camera raw adjustment map gradient photoshop

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 adjustment / gradient map 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.

  1. Create type

  2. Filter menu

  3. Gaussian blur

  4. Image menu

  5. Adjustments

  6. Gradient map ... Vary the number of stops from the basic two or three gradient stops)


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. You can use gaussian blur but the shape blur filter can also be used to create some really interesting gradient map adjustments with type


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 or three stops


Or blend them with additional effects such as oil paint filter as well as shape blur filter in Photoshop

They can also be used as amazing smart adjustments in Photoshop CC 2017 and changed in seconds

gradient map layer masks Photoshop

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.

You can use the Adjustment layers with video timelines and masks

gradient map default and adjustment layers

  1. Photoshop layer menu

  2. New adjustment layer

  3. Gradient map

  4. Select gradient

  5. Use blending modes etc

  6. Change properties via the properties panel


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 as 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.


You can also use gradient map adjustment layers with masks to apply the effect to one part of an image

  1. Go to the layer panel

  2. Select the gradient adjustment layer

  3. Select the mask on the right of the map layer

  4. Add or remove from the mask

You can also combine the gradient maps with layer effects in Photoshop

black and white adjustments and gradient maps

You can also add layer effects and plugin effects to the mask so the gradient adjustment layer can be modified in countless ways. You can also add other adjustments such as black and white adjustment


The gradient maps 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)

Other tutorials

1. how to mix the gradients creatively with channels such as RGB in Photoshop