Creative Coloring with Gradient Maps in Photoshop

Have you ever wanted to take your digital coloring skills to the next level? Look no further! In this blog, we’ll dive into the fascinating world of creative coloring with gradient maps in Photoshop. Gradient maps are powerful tools that allow you to apply a wide range of colors to your artwork effortlessly. Whether you’re a digital artist or an aspiring illustrator, this technique will undoubtedly enhance the overall look and feel of your artwork. Join us as we explore various ways to use gradient maps to create eye-catching and vibrant illustrations that will make your work truly stand out.

Creating Creative Coloring with Gradient Maps in Photoshop

Today, we’re going to explore an exciting technique in Photoshop called gradient maps, which allow you to add creative coloring to your photos. Gradient maps offer precise control over the shadows, midtones, and highlights, making them incredibly easy to use for color grading. To make this tutorial more accessible, we have included five custom gradient maps for you to download.

The Challenge of Skin Tone

One common challenge in color grading is maintaining natural-looking skin tones. You don’t want your subjects to look strange or overly edited. However, we have a unique technique to address this concern and preserve skin tones while color grading your photos. Join us as we dive into the wonderful world of gradient maps in Photoshop!

Note: Before we begin, you can download the custom gradient maps by following the link below.

Getting Started in Photoshop

1. Open Photoshop and navigate to the Layer menu.

2. Select New Adjustment Layer and choose Gradient Map.

Applying Gradient Maps

1. After adding the gradient map adjustment layer, the image will turn black and white. However, we can change this by selecting the reverse option.

2. To access the gradient editor, click on the gradient map thumbnail.

3. In the Gradient Editor, you can choose from the included gradients or experiment by clicking on different options to see how they affect your image.

4. For more control, we recommend creating your own gradient. Start with the Foreground to Background preset.

5. Adjust the sliders on the left and right sides of the gradient editor to map the dark and light parts of your image respectively. Ensure that the dark parts are mapped as black and the light parts as white.

6. To add more colors to the gradient, click in the middle of the gradient editor. This will add another stop.

7. Select the color for the new stop. Experiment with different colors to achieve the desired effect.

Refining the Gradient Map

1. Once you have added colors to the gradient, you can further adjust their placement and intensity.

2. Moving a color stop to the right will affect the lighter areas of the image, while moving it to the left will affect the darker areas.

3. If you are unhappy with a color choice, you can easily modify it by clicking on its stop and selecting a different color from the color picker.

4. Adjust the saturation and brightness of the colors to achieve a balanced and pleasing gradient.

5. Once you are satisfied with your gradient map, you can give it a name and save it for future use.

Loading Phlearn Gradient Maps

1. To import our custom gradient maps, go to the Layer menu and select New Adjustment Layer followed by Gradient Map.

2. Click on the gradient map thumbnail and choose Import.

3. Navigate to the downloaded Phlearn gradient maps (.grd) and select the desired gradient. The maps will be added to the bottom of the list.

4. Choose the gradient map that fits your image best. Remember, subtle coloring effects often produce the most visually appealing results.

5. Lower the opacity of the gradient map adjustment layer to refine the coloring. Use the move tool (shortcut ‘V’) and adjust the opacity using the number keys 1 to 0.

Enjoy the power and creativity of gradient maps in Photoshop, and don’t hesitate to experiment and explore different combinations to achieve unique and stunning results. Get playful with your photography and discover new ways to breathe life into your images!


Frequently Asked Questions: Creative Coloring with Gradient Maps in Photoshop

1. What is a gradient map in Photoshop?

A gradient map in Photoshop is a feature that allows you to apply a gradient to an image, where colors from the gradient are mapped to corresponding tonal values in the image. This technique is commonly used to achieve unique and creative color effects.

2. How do I apply a gradient map in Photoshop?

To apply a gradient map in Photoshop, follow these steps:

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. Go to the “Layers” panel and click on the Adjustment Layer button (half black and half white circle).
  3. Select “Gradient Map” from the drop-down menu.
  4. A gradient map adjustment layer will be added above your image layer.
  5. To choose a gradient, click on the gradient preview box in the properties panel.
  6. Adjust the gradient stops and colors to achieve the desired effect.
  7. Experiment with blending modes and opacity settings to fine-tune the result.

3. Can I create my own custom gradient for a gradient map?

Absolutely! Photoshop allows you to create and save your own custom gradients for use with gradient maps. To create a custom gradient:

  1. Select the Gradient Tool (shortcut: G) from the toolbar.
  2. Click on the gradient preview box in the options bar.
  3. In the gradient editor dialog, you can add, remove, and adjust the color stops to create your desired gradient.
  4. Once your custom gradient is ready, click the “New” button to save it for future use.

4. Can I apply multiple gradient maps to an image?

Yes, you can apply multiple gradient maps to an image by creating additional gradient map adjustment layers. Each adjustment layer will apply a different gradient, allowing you to stack effects and create complex color combinations.

5. Are there any resources available to learn more about creative coloring with gradient maps in Photoshop?

Yes, there are many online tutorials, articles, and video courses available that dive deeper into the topic of creative coloring with gradient maps in Photoshop. You can search for specific tutorials on platforms like YouTube, Udemy, or even explore Adobe’s official Photoshop user guides and forums.


I hope you find useful my article Creative Coloring with Gradient Maps in Photoshop, I also recommend you to read my other posts in my blog at this link.

If you need help with anything join the community or do not hesitate to contact me.

Best of luck! and follow your passion.

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