Split Toning's Older Brother: Gradient Maps

Looks complicated, but it's actually really easy

If you've gone through my other post about split toning then you know that split toning is a really awesome way to add to your images. Well there's is one more awesome way to color your images if you're looking for something a little be more advanced. Gradient mapping is what I call, split toning's older brother. The reason why I call it split toning's older brother is simply the fact that a user can control almost every aspect of the color toning that affects their images. Sound complicated? Allow me to show you. 

Gradient mapping is Photoshop’s very own glorified instagram filter

Granted what looks good through color toning with gradient maps are subjective, you can see what difference it can make. This technique can drastically change your image, so I recommend subtly. Here are a couple more examples: 

These examples are very subtle and that's the general idea. You don't want any colors overpowering your images to the extent that it looks over processed. Tasteful is the name of the game. In the image above you can see the gradient map and the different toning levels. On the left side of the gradient map are the shadows and on the right are the highlights. You are essentially in control of every aspect of color in your image.

 

Why would I use this over Split Toning?

Gradient mapping and split toning are actually very similar. However, if you consider how much more control you have when using gradient maps, there are obvious times to use it over split toning. Suppose you want the mid tones to remain untouched, or you want more than just a two tone in image, then gradient mapping is the way to go. If you're looking for the creative edge in color toning, the gradient maps is the way to go.

If you're post processing a lot of images, you can automate all of your images to have the same color tones. Having all your images with similar gradient maps helps with your branding as well. (Automation is another topic for another time). 

As a general rule of thumb, you have to be wise in what images work best with what color combinations. Gradient mapping works well with fashion photography. 

Split toning is easy while gradient mapping is tedious, both over great coloring solutions.

How does one gradient map?

As mentioned previously this is not really a tutorial website. There are a plethora of tutorials available online, but I'll give a brief rundown on where to find your gradient map in photoshop. 

 Image > Adjustments > Gradient Map

Image > Adjustments > Gradient Map

After you've pulled up the gradient map, you'll find another window pop up with the adjustment options. 

 If you click the gradient, an advanced options window will come up. 

If you click the gradient, an advanced options window will come up. 

 If you click on the gear you can load more gradient maps. Photoshop has some preinstalled maps in there (click append to add onto existing gradient choices). 

If you click on the gear you can load more gradient maps. Photoshop has some preinstalled maps in there (click append to add onto existing gradient choices). 

 What do we have here? You have to try them all. 

What do we have here? You have to try them all. 

That's basically it. After getting all these settings, it's a matter of clicking around and finding out what works best with your image. Lastly, I do one last thing for my images when I work with gradient maps: 

 Blending mode > Soft light and Opacity between 18 ~ 30 to soften the effect overall. **Note the blending mode drop down menu is directly to the left of the opacity slider**

Blending mode > Soft light and Opacity between 18 ~ 30 to soften the effect overall. **Note the blending mode drop down menu is directly to the left of the opacity slider**

Extras

If photoshop's extra gradients aren't enough for you, you can find some beautiful gradients online or just make your own. Here are a couple of places to find them. Random gradient generator: uigradients. This is another website with free downloadable gradients: Dribble.  If you're looking for a video tutorial for what I went through above, I found this one very helpful. 

Check out my split toning post here: 

'Into the Light'

If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below or contact me through email. If you liked this content, feel free to subscribe to get notifications when new content is posted. As always safe travels and best wishes on your next photographic adventure. 

Yours truly, 

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