How to use image modes and Photoshop gradients tutorial

Photoshop gradients and use with image modes such as RGB LAB CMYK etc tutorial in Photoshop CC 2018 2017 2015 2014 CS6 CS5 etc and can be used to create super interesting effects in 16bit as well as 32bit mode as well

Image modes and Photoshop gradients

how to use image color modes and Photoshop gradients tutorial
  1. Image menu

  2. Mode

  3. CMYK color mode

  4. Go to the gradient tool in the Photoshop toolbar

  5. Select a gradient from a dropdown

  6. Apply the gradient

  7. Goto the blending mode dropdown and set to difference etc

  8. Apply another gradient

The gradients in different color image modes in Photoshop can be edited via the gradients editor. You can also use the gradients in different image modes 8bits and 16bits and 32bits per channel. You can use the Photoshop gradients in 32bits per channel to create truly amazing color designs and effects with super smooth blends. You can also combine the gradients in different image modes in Photoshop.

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You can also return the gradient to 8bits per channel via HDR toning to create many variant gradients by simply using the large number of settings in the HDR toning. This tutorial shows how to use the Photoshop gradients in different image modes and how to convert back to 8bit RGB.


Image / color modes and Photoshop Gradients


Photoshop gradients can be used with different image modes in Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 2017 2015 2014 CS6 etc, use them in CMYK as well as RGB and LAB etc as well as 32bits per channel etc. The key thing is whether you add them before or after the conversion to the different color / image mode. You set the mode via the

  1. Image menu

  2. Mode

  3. CMYK etc though which ones are active depends on which one you are currently in.


In the same menu you will also see a selection of 8bits / channel 16bits and 32bits. If you are in RGB then you will see the options to convert to Grayscale as well as LAB as well as CMYK. If you are in CMYK then you will see the option to convert to RGB or LAB etc. You can edit the preset in RGB / CMYK etc and will see a slightly different color picker (stop color) when you select a stop and go to the color picker.

Image modes - convert back to RGB etc

hdr toning panel for gradients

If you use the 32bit or 16bit then converting back generally brings up a dialog for the HDR contrast and you can then modify the settings to achieve either a surreal result or something very similar Visually anyway) to 8bits.


You can see some of the controls for the HDR toning to the left


With the conversion of CMYK etc to RGB the gradient will change and you may have to use the adjustment controls or layers to tweak the colors to return them to much the same as in the color mode (Visually anyway) though, of course, that is not always possible if you are converting from wildly different color modes and profiles (not going into the profiles side of things as that is a vastly complex area and probably not of much interest if you are just using the different modes to create unusual color imagery for the web etc)

  1. Image menu

  2. Mode

  3. RGB 32bits per channel

  4. Select gradient tool

  5. Select gradient

  6. Apply

  7. Repeat

  8. Go to the image menu

  9. Mode

  10. RGB / 8bits per channel

  11. Set HDR toning settings

Grayscale gradients and Photoshop image modes

original image mode to grayscale from rgb in Photoshop gradients

Image on the right, the grayscale form of the previous RGB via the image and mode and grayscale


Perhaps it is better to use the adjustment and the black and white adjustment to change the color and then do the conversion to grayscale. Left you can see the same but done via the adjustment, really depends on what you want.

  1. Image menu

  2. Adjustments

  3. Black and white

  4. Tweak in adjustment

  5. Go to the image menu

  6. Mode

  7. Grayscale

Duotone / tritone for the Photoshop gradient

tritone image color mode Photoshop

From the grayscale to a red duotone image / color mode in Photoshop

  1. RGB (perhaps with an adjustment via the black and white)

  2. Image and mode to grayscale

  3. Image and mode to duotone

  4. Set the names and colors

  5. OK

If you wish to create the color effects in duotone or tritone then you will have to first set the image into grayscale. I would suggest if you have created the color effects beforehand that you use the adjustment filter and black and white to convert the item into a grayscale before changing the mode to grayscale.


The key thing with the duotone is that you have to enter a name for the inks etc (which I must admit I find slightly annoying as I wish it would just add the names duotone channel 1 and 2 or something). It would be even quicker if Photoshop just did the grayscale conversion for you. Once you have converted the mode then you will find that many of the effects and the blending modes are not available. The gradient tool, however, is available and you can add multiple applications of the tool either to the background layer or perhaps other layers (which does mean you can modify the blending modes and opacity as well as remove or recolor the layer at a later point).


Much the same with tritone as well and the others (as on the right) which is done via the image mode and duotone (just to be confusing) but just select the type to tritone etc (you would think the panel then would rename itself but it does not). There are some presets to choose from and that makes it a whole lot quicker for the conversion of the gradient.

CMYK color / image mode

CMYK Image color modes in Photoshop with gradients

You can get quite a color shift from changing the Photoshop image / color mode from RGB to CMYK.

  1. Image menu

  2. Mode

  3. CMYK

  4. Select the gradient tool

  5. Go to the gradients presets picker

  6. Select a gradient

  7. Apply a gradient

  8. Use available blending modes (such as difference)

  9. Apply another gradient etc

You can, of course, reverse back to RGB (if you wish) and continue to use the gradients in that image mode via the image menu commands in Photoshop.

RGB 32bits per channel

32bit and color mode conversion RGB
  1. Image

  2. Mode

  3. RGB

  4. 32bits / channel


Well, to be honest, there is no change or conversion but the big difference is that you can create some really wow Photoshop gradients in the 32bits mode without banding etc. Not so many blending modes exist for the photoshop gradients but some really interesting color effects can be created


You can go from 8bits to 32bits per channel very quickly, going back to 8bit (and to use the save to the web) you have to use the HDR toning dialog and you can use that to get a very similar result or you can use the dialog to create some truly extreme color effects as well as creating some very unique color imagery


Some truly wonderful and unusual color effects can be created. The HDR toning dialog does give a vast range of features to restore the gradient to RGB color space.


The image on the right was created by using the same gradient before and applied a few times with a difference blending mode and then converted back to standard 8bit via the HDR toning. The image on the left was much the same except there was a slight changing in the hue / saturation in 32bits per channel

Freebie gradients

1. Selection of freebie gradients to use in any image mode in Photoshop

Other Tutorials

1. how to use gradients with layer effects / overlays tutorial


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