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Step-by-Step Tutorial: Using the PMS Color Chart Online for Print Projects
Print projects require precise color matching to ensure the desired outcome. One valuable tool for achieving accurate colors is the Pantone Matching System (PMS), which provides a standardized color language for the printing industry. To make the process even more convenient, there are online PMS color chart resources available. In this step-by-step tutorial, we will guide you through using a PMS color chart online to enhance your print projects.
Understanding the PMS Color Chart
Before we dive into using a PMS color chart online, let’s first understand what it is. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) is a standardized color system used in various industries, especially in printing and graphic design. It assigns unique numbers to specific colors, making it easier to communicate and reproduce consistent shades across different materials and platforms.
A PMS color chart displays these assigned numbers alongside corresponding swatches of each color. This enables designers, printers, and other professionals to choose colors accurately during the design process. With an online PMS color chart, you can access this valuable resource from anywhere with an internet connection.
Finding a Reliable Online PMS Color Chart
To begin using a PMS color chart online, you need to find a reliable resource that provides accurate and up-to-date information. There are several reputable websites that offer comprehensive online PMS color charts for free or at affordable prices.
When choosing an online PMS color chart resource, consider factors such as user reviews, ease of navigation, and whether it provides additional features like RGB or CMYK conversions. Ensure that the website you select is regularly updated to reflect any new additions or changes in the Pantone Matching System.
Exploring Colors and Their Codes
Once you have found a trustworthy online PMS color chart resource, it’s time to start exploring colors. Most online charts allow you to search for colors using their assigned PMS numbers or by browsing through various color families.
If you already have a specific PMS color in mind, simply enter its number into the search bar and let the online chart display the corresponding swatch. Alternatively, you can browse through different color families, such as blues, reds, or neutrals, to discover new shades that might inspire your print project.
As you explore the online PMS color chart, take note of the specific PMS codes for colors that catch your eye. These codes will be crucial when communicating with printers or designers during your project’s execution.
Integrating PMS Colors Into Your Print Projects
Now that you have familiarized yourself with the online PMS color chart and selected your desired colors, it’s time to integrate them into your print projects. Whether you are designing a brochure, packaging, or marketing materials, using accurate PMS colors ensures consistency and enhances visual appeal.
Most design software applications allow you to input PMS codes directly into your design files. Simply select the desired element in your design and assign it the appropriate PMS color code from your reference chart. If needed, consult with a professional designer or printer for guidance on integrating PMS colors effectively.
Remember to consider other factors such as printing techniques and paper types when working with PMS colors. Different printing methods may affect how certain shades appear on the final printed piece. Consulting with a professional printer can help ensure that your chosen PMS colors translate accurately onto physical materials.
In conclusion, using a reliable online PMS color chart is an essential step in achieving precise and consistent colors for print projects. By understanding how to navigate these charts effectively and integrating selected colors into your designs correctly, you can elevate the quality of your print materials significantly. Embrace the power of the Pantone Matching System and take advantage of online resources to enhance your next print project.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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Photoshop » Photo Editing » Editing Basics » How To Color Grade In Photoshop (5 Easy Ways)
How to color grade in photoshop (5 easy ways).
Color grading is a creative technique that alters the color and tones of an image, and there are various ways you can color grade in Photoshop. The goal of color grading is to add a certain feel to a photo, whether it’s a dark and moody feel with blue hues or a vibrant and light feel with yellow hues.
Here are my top 5 color grading methods, with each producing a slightly different result, so you should choose the technique you use based on how you want your image to look.
Table of Contents
Option 1: The Selective Color Adjustment Layer
The first method uses a Selective Color Adjustment Layer, which gives you a lot of control over the color grading result. This adjustment layer allows you to select a color channel or whites, neutrals, and blacks. You can then alter each channel to change colors selectively.
A potential downfall of this method is that it takes a bit longer than the other options. If you aren’t comfortable using color channels, this may be a bit confusing for you. However, you can precisely alter your photo’s colors with some practice.
Step 1: Add A Selective Color Adjustment Layer
First, add the Selective Color Adjustment Layer by clicking on the icon in the Adjustments Panel . The layer is added above your image in the Layers Panel .
The first thing to note in the Properties Panel is the two options at the bottom, where you can check off Relative or Absolute . Basically, Relative adds a subtle color adjustment, while Absolute adds a bolder color adjustment to the photo.
Step 2: Select The Color Channel You Want To Change
Next, select the color channel you want to affect by clicking the arrow next to Colors to open the drop-down menu. If you wish to adjust a specific color on your photo, choose that color channel. However, if you want to adjust the entire image, I suggest using the Whites, Neutrals, and Blacks channels.
For my example, I will start by adjusting the Neutrals . Once I select it, I can change the various sliders.
Step 3: Adjust The Color Sliders
Each slider represents two color channels, and sliding to the right increases a specific color in the image while sliding to the left increases the opposite color in the picture. However, the color isn’t simply added to your image. Instead, it mixes with the colors based on the selected color channel.
The sliders represent the following colors:
Slide right to add Cyan; slide left to add Red.
Slide right to add Magenta; slide left to add Green
Slide right to Yellow; slide left to add Blue
Slide right to add Black; slide left to add White
Remember that you are affecting the neutral areas within the image. So if I add Magenta , it looks like this.
If I add Blue , it will add blue to the neutral areas of the photo. As you can see, it is very easy to overdo the color grading.
Adjust the sliders slightly until you achieve the effect you are after. I want a moody feel, so my sliders look like this.
These slight changes darken my photo and add tints of Cyan, Blue, and Green.
Step 4: Change The Color Channel And Adjust The Color Sliders
Now, you can change the color channel and adjust the sliders for those areas. So use the Colors drop-down menu and select Whites . Then, adjust the sliders as needed.
Then, repeat the steps using the Blacks color channel and adjust the sliders.
You can go back and adjust any of the channels as needed. You have now color-graded the image to create a different feel, such as a moody vibe, in my case.
Option 2: The Color Balance Adjustment Layer
The next method uses the Color Balance Adjustment Layer and works similarly to the Selective Color method but is simplified. This method only gives you the option to adjust three tonal ranges: Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights.
This adjustment layer is primarily used to correct colors on an image, such as adding skin tones back in on photos taken using a flash. However, you can also use this adjustment to adjust the tone and mood of your image for a creative effect.
Step 1: Add A Color Balance Adjustment Layer
Select the Color Balance icon in the Adjustments Panel, and the layer is added above your image layer.
You can preserve the luminosity by ensuring the box is checked at the bottom of the panel. I recommend checking this option to not affect the image’s perceived brightness.
Step 2: Select A Tonal Range To Adjust
To color grade the image, choose a tonal range from the drop-down menu next to Tone .
Then, adjust the sliders to add a specific color to that tonal range. The color you add to the image is blended into the existing colors and not simply added over them. The sliders in this panel work opposite to the previous method; move the slider toward the color to add more of that color to the image.
- Right for Red; left for Cyan
- Right for Green; left for Magenta
- Right for Blue; left for Yellow
For example, moving the first slider to the right adds a red tint to the midtones in the photo.
Moving the same slider to the left adds a Cyan tint to the midtones.
Adjust the sliders as needed to alter the midtones to achieve the effect you are after.
Step 4: Change The Tonal Range And Adjust The Color Sliders
Change the tones to Highlights and adjust the sliders as you’d like.
Then, adjust the Shadows if needed. Remember to add slight adjustments to keep the image looking realistic and balance the colors and tones in the picture.
I’ve brightened the image slightly by adding warmer tones in my example.
Option 3: The Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer
You can use the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to adjust the hues, saturation, and lightness levels in the photo. This method is helpful if you want to target one color channel and adjust the hue (color), saturation (vibrancy), or lightness (brightness) of that one particular channel.
You can also adjust the entire image simultaneously, affecting all the color channels. This technique is a great way to change the color of clothes or other objects in a picture, but you can also use it to change the mood of a photo.
Step 1: Add A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer
Add the adjustment layer by clicking on the Hue/Saturation icon in the Adjustments Panel . The layer appears above the image in the Layers Panel .
Step 2: Add A Preset Adjustment (Optional)
You can add a preset adjustment to the image if you want a particular look. For instance, select Sepia from the Preset drop-down menu .
Your photo automatically takes on a sepia tone.
Step 3: Manually Adjust The Color Channels
You can also control the color changes by manually adjusting the sliders. First, select the color channel you want to modify (keep it at Master if you wish to adjust all the channels in the image).
In my example, I want to increase the vibrancy of the yellow leaves, so I chose Yellows from the drop-down list.
If you aren’t sure what channel the color you want to change falls into, you can select the color from your image. Click on the icon next to the color drop-down menu. Then, use the Eyedropper to select a color from the photo.
Step 4: Adjust The Hue, Saturation, And Lightness Sliders
Once your color is selected, move the sliders as needed. The Hue slider allows you to change the color.
Saturation increases the vibrancy of the selected color channel. Move it to the right to add vibrancy or to the left to decrease the vibrancy.
The Lightness slider affects the brightness of the selected color channel. Move it to the right to lighten the colors or to the left to darken them.
Step 5: Change The Color Channel And Adjust The Sliders
Switch between the color channels as needed and adjust the sliders to color grade the image. For my example, I adjusted the Yellows, Reds, and Greens to add vibrancy to the trees.
I now have a more vibrant image than before.
Option 4: Gradient Maps
The last adjustment layer option is to use Gradient Maps to alter the colors in your photo. When using gradient maps, the colors are adjusted on a gradient, meaning that the shadows are replaced by the darkest-colored pixels of the gradient map, the midtones are replaced by the middle colors, and the highlights are replaced by the brightest-colored pixels.
Using this technique creates a blended effect when color-grading your image. However, the result is usually too bold and needs a few additional steps to blend the adjustment into the image using Blend Modes and the Opacity slider.
Step 1: Add A Gradient Maps Adjustment Layer
To add the Gradient Maps adjustment , select the icon from the Adjustment Panel , and a new layer appears in the Layers Panel .
Step 2: Open The Gradient Editor
Once you have added the adjustment, the Properties Panel will open with a simple gradient editor bar. The last gradient you used is added to your image.
To color grade your photo, you need to edit the gradient. To do this, click on the gradient bar to open the Gradient Editor .
Step 3: Change The Gradient Colors
You can choose a preset gradient if the colors you want are there, but it’s easier to change the gradient colors manually for more control. To change the gradient colors, click on a gradient stop along the bar near the bottom. Then, click on the color block at the bottom to open the Color Picker .
Use the Color Picker to select the color you’d like for the darker areas of your image. Click OK when you’ve chosen the right color.
To add a color stop, click anywhere beneath the bar, and the stop is added in the spot you click. You can also drag the new stop to where you want it positioned.
Click the new stop, then the color block to change the color. Then, repeat these steps to add more colors or to change the white color stop at the end of the bar. You can get creative with the colors you add.
Click OK when you have the colors you want.
The colors are boldly added to the image, and your photo won’t look natural at this point.
Step 4: Change The Blend Mode Of The Adjustment Layer
To lighten the gradient colors and blend the adjustment into the image for a more subtle effect, you need to change the Blend Mode . Use the drop-down menu in the Layers Panel to select the best blending mode for your photo.
When using Gradient Maps, Overlay is usually an effective Blend Mode, but you can try others for different effects.
The colors should blend into the image much better at this stage, but they might still be too bold.
Step 5: Lower The Adjustment Layer’s Opacity (Optional)
To further blend the effect, adjust the layer’s Opacity using the slider in the Layers Panel .
After lowering the opacity to 40% , I achieved the look I wanted for the image.
Option 5: The Camera Raw Filter
The last color grading method uses the Camera Raw Filter. This technique offers three different ways to adjust the tones in the photo in the Camera Raw workspace. This method is a good option when working with RAW images or when you want a deeper level of control over the changes.
When using the Camera Raw Filter, you can either open a RAW file and automatically open it in the RAW workspace or use a non-RAW formatted image. In the case of a non-raw image, I recommend converting the image layer to a smart object , so you can easily adjust the edits later.
Step 1: Convert The Image Layer To A Smart Object
To convert the image layer, right-click or Control + click on the background layer and select Convert to Smart Object .
Step 2: Open The Camera Raw Workspace
Next, add the Camera Raw Filter by going to Filter > Camera Raw Filter . You can also press Shift + Control + A (Win) or Shift + Command + A (Mac) .
Your image opens in the Camera Raw workspace. This workspace offers a few options to color grade your image.
Method 1: Use The Color Mixer Tab
The first method is to use the Color Mixer. You can also find this option in Lightroom if that is your editing platform of choice and the two work the same. To access the Color Mixer, open the tab on the right.
The Color Mixer works similarly to the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer described above. However, you have more options here to customize the image. Switch between the Hue , Saturation , and Luminance tabs to adjust each setting. Then, use the color sliders to change the colors in the photo.
For example, if I adjust the Hues and Saturation levels as below, I can make the trees bolder, more orange, and more vibrant.
The trees have a strong orange tint, with more blue in the surrounding shadows.
Method 2: Use The Color Grading Tab
The second method of color grading in Camera Raw is by using the Color Grading tab. Open it in the righthand panel to adjust the image. This tab is very similar to the Color Balance Adjustment layer, as you can adjust the Shadows, Midtones , and Highlights similarly.
To adjust the colors in the image, move the circles in the color wheels to add a specific color and the saturation level of the color. You can choose only to adjust one or all three, depending on how you want to affect the Shadows, Midtones, and Highlights.
Use the sliders at the bottom to adjust the Luminance values for each tonal range.
This method is similar to the Color Grading Tool in Lightroom .
By adjusting the values, I added a Sepia tone to the image.
Method 3: Use The Calibration Tab
The last method uses the Calibration tab. Click on it in the righthand panel to open the settings.
You can use the sliders to adjust the Tint of the Shadows or change the Hue and Saturation levels of the Red, Green, and Blue color channels.
After adjusting the sliders, I added a bold green to the trees to give the photo a surreal effect.
Step 3: Click OK To Confirm The Changes
Once you’ve made the adjustments in Camera Raw, click OK to move the edited image into the Photoshop workspace.
A Smart Filter is added to your image layer, which you can double-click to open the Camera Raw workspace to adjust your edits. You can also delete this filter if you decide you don’t want it anymore.
Using these five ways to Color Grade your photo, you can produce some creative effects for your image. Like in the examples below.
Now that you know how to color grade your image, follow these 10 steps for editing images in Photoshop to complete your edits fully!
Hey, I'm Brendan ! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. You can view my photography portfolio here.
These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.
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A Complete Guide to Color Grading (in Lightroom & Photoshop)
Color grading is all about adjusting the colors and tones in your images. Lightroom and Photoshop recently updated the way color grading works, making it more user friendly and even more powerful than before. Color grading is perfect to add a little interest to your image, and make the light even better than it was before.
Color grading is important and useful in all types of photography . Landscape and portrait photographers especially will love the color grading features in Lightroom and Photoshop. The Color Grading module is the successor to Split Toning, so if you’re wondering where split toning went, it is now considered color grading.
Upon first glance, the color grading tool appears simple, but it has many advanced features and tricks to make your images look amazing. In this guide, you’ll learn all about how to utilize the Color Grading feature in Lightroom and Photoshop.
What is Color Grading?
Color grading is the process of manipulating the color tone of an image to create a certain mood. Color grading is done through a photo editor or video editor by adjusting the hue, saturation, highlights, and other elements. This is a common method used in both photography and film.
Accessing Color Grading
To access the Color Grading feature in Lightroom, choose the photo you wish to edit and access the develop module. Then, scroll down on the right side of the screen until you see the Color Grading dropdown. Select this to drop down three different color wheels.
You can find the same options in Photoshop under the Camera Raw Filter. Once you open a photo inside of the Camera Raw Filter, simply scroll down on the right side of the screen until you see Color Grading. In both Photoshop and Lightroom, color grading works the exact same way. For the sake of this blog post, I’ll be showing the example images in Lightroom.
Using Color Grading
The first thing you’ll notice is that there are three different color wheels that all appear the same. However, each color wheel has a different function:
- Midtones – top wheel
- Shadows – left wheel
- Highlights – right wheel
It’s important to note that you should balance the temperature and tint in your image before you get to the color grading step. Color grading is a way to enhance the colors in the image, not to balance the colors to make the image.
When you first start using the Color Grading feature, avoid using the midtones color wheel. Try adjusting just the highlights and shadows wheel first. In most photos, it looks very nice to add some warm colors in the highlights, and then add some cooler colors in the shadows. However, you can let your creativity run wild when using these sliders to produce some really amazing images!
Color Grading Example
In this particular example, I’ve added some yellow (warmth) to the highlights, and some blue (cool) to the shadows. This helps make the sunlight hitting my image very warm and inviting, and gives the shadows a colder, blue look.
Using the color wheels is actually quite simple. Simply click and drag anywhere inside the color wheel to choose a color. The further you go from the center of the circle, the stronger the color will be. There is an unmarked slider bar right under each circle. This adjusts the luminance value of the corresponding color wheel. This means that if you adjust the bar under the highlights color wheel, you will either brighten or darken the highlights. This is a nice feature to have to make last minute adjustments to the luminosity values in the highlights, shadows, or midtones.
The other two options that you can adjust are blending and balance. The blending slider allows you to change how well the color in the highlights, midtones, or shadows will blend with each other. Bringing the blending slider up will make the colors blend in more seamlessly. The balance slider allows you to adjust how much of the image is considered highlights, shadows, or midtones. For example, if I adjust the balance slider to the right, it will make the adjustment appear on less of the highlights. The adjustment will only appear on the brightest of the highlights.
Tips for Color Grading
Hold shift when increasing or decreasing the color on the color wheel.
When selecting the color you’d like to add to your image, grab the small circle on the outside of the color wheel. You can drag this around to adjust which color you’d like to add. Once you’ve roughly selected the color you’d like, you can press and hold shift to add more or less color to the image. When you hold shift, the adjustment will move in a straight line. This allows you to keep the same hue, but adjust the amount of color being added. Without holding shift, the color wheel can become difficult to adjust precisely.
Add warmth into the highlights, and cool down the shadows
My favorite combination is to add yellow or orange to the highlights, and blue to the shadows. This creates a very natural looking effect. The bright light in the image will be warm — like the sun — and the shadows will be cool. This is always a good place to start, but consider trying other things once you learn how to use the tools. Many professional portrait photographers can even utilize blues in the highlights to create very interesting, moody looking portraits.
Use complementary colors
Using complementary colors is a proven theory to make your images more pleasing to look at. The human eye loves to look at colors that complement each other. Complementary colors are colors that lie on the opposite side of the color wheel from each other. This is why the combination of orange or yellow in the highlights, and blue in the shadows works so well together. Consider trying other combinations of complementary colors as well.
Using color grading is a really nice way to add a finishing touch to your images. Professional photographers in all fields utilize this feature as a way to enhance their images and improve on the light in their image. Remember that there are many different combinations of colors that work well together, and consider trying multiple combinations before settling on a final edit.
Color Grading FAQs
Is color grading necessary.
The whole post-production process is centered around altering the color quality of an image. Color grading is necessary to communicate a certain mood to your audience, or to develop your personal photography or video style. It makes your content look more professional and helps to tell the story of your image.
What is the difference between color correction and grading?
Color correcting is the process of fixing the colors in your photo or video to match what you had originally captured. It is required to make your content look as natural as possible.
Color grading is the process of manipulating the colors of your photo or video to meet your stylistic vision.
Should you color correct before color grading?
Yes. You should always color correct before starting your color grading. This is to ensure you start with balanced, natural-looking colors.
Which is better for color grading Photoshop or Lightroom?
If you are new to color editing, Lightroom provide a quick and intuitive approach to color grading. Although, Photoshop provides more creative control if you are looking for a more refined look. Overall, it’s best to stick with the software that you are most familiar with, to keep your post-production process as easy as possible.
Austin James Jackson
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3 Simple Ways to Color Grading in Photoshop
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What is your social media follower count? Content creation is now a viable career, and you can make huge sums if you play your cards right. To do this, you need to create quality content that involves having the correct color grades for your photos. However, where do you start? And, how do you achieve these?
Below is information on Photoshop, a tool that some creators use for color grading and color correction. Additionally, you will discover three simple ways of photoshop color grading that you can use, regardless of your skill level. As such, you will also start releasing quality content and make some money out of it too, ready?
In this article
What is the difference between color grading and color correction.
Did you even know there was a difference? Well, the answer is yes, and here is how they differ.
Color grading photoshop refers to the final process of content creation. It involves subtle tweaks to your photos to make them more stylish. Some of your reasons may include:
- Adjusting contrast so that you do not hurt your viewers' eyes.
- Color balancing
- White balancing
- Black leveling
- Luminance adjustments
- Color saturation.
- Effects and so on
For example, tweaking your Instagram photo with a retro color scheme is color grading. You can achieve this by using photoshop cinematic color grading.
Color correction refers to the fixes you make when creating your content. It focuses on making changes relevant to your target audience. You can do this during production from the device. For example, you can adjust your camera’s exposure when shooting your stills. As such, they appear more natural and unprocessed.
Additionally, you can do this in post-production, as the first step of your color grading photoshop process.
Some of the fixes you can do for color correction include:
- Eliminating dark spots and red eyes.
- Changing the resolution to fit specific content. For example, you can adjust your photo to a 600 X 300 resolution to put it in a blog post.
- Alternatively, you can color correct photos from different cameras to maintain consistency. Typically, you do this is for related content.
- Finally, the vacation photos you want to share also include your ex. You can color correct them by cropping the section that has you and them.
Now that you know the difference, why should you do them for your photos?
Both processes are essential to creating quality content and vary among creators. Some of the reasons include:
- You want to create a unique style that will make your content instantly recognizable. For example, you will immediately recognize a Quentin Tarantino movie thanks to the emphasis on red in his action scenes. Another example is Tyler Perry. He prefers brighter than usual color schemes.
- Alternatively, you use color grading and color correction to create variation in scenes. For example, you can indicate a throwback photo by making it black and white.
- Additionally, color grading photoshop is an excellent way to elicit different moods. For example, a color scheme that features bright yellows, greens, or blues can indicate different excitement levels.
- Furthermore, you use color correction and color grading to indicate the importance of some scene sections. For example, news briefs are usually brighter than the rest of the shot, especially when displaying important messages, such as breaking news.
- Finally, you do photoshop cinematic color grading to ensure consistency in your photos. Weather is unpredictable and can cause your scenes to vary dramatically. For example, some sections of your location may not receive similar lighting. As such, you can make those sections brighter through color grading in photoshop.
Below are 3 simple ways to color grade in Photoshop.
1. Using Photo Filter
Photo filters allow you to quickly make changes to your content by using Photoshop’s presets. Some of the reasons for using it include:
- You want to remove color bounces on your image.
- Brighten the image.
- Add tints to your photo.
Here is how you do it:
1. Open the image
You can do this by using your Photoshop device or selecting it from the program's library.
2. Open the Photo Filter tool
You will find this in the Adjustments layer of your Photoshop program. Kindly open the menu and select the Photo Filter option. Usually, it is located on the bottom right section of your screen.
3. Increase the color density of different colors
Click the active color to open the color wheel. Additionally, you can preserve the brightness by leaving the maintain luminosity option checked. Please note some details will disappear depending on the density level.
4. Cycle between filters
Cycle between different filters by checking the filters option from the same menu. You will find all filter presents from the dropdown menu as per the photo.
4. Add Layers
You can add different layers to the image by clicking the New Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. You can make different adjustments by repeating the above process.
2. Using Hue and Saturation.
You can also perform color grading in photoshop by making changes using the Hue and Saturation sliders. Here is how you can access them.
- Open the photo you want to make edits on using your Photoshop program.
- On the bottom right corner of the program, you will see Adjustments.
- Then, click on the option to create a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
- A menu will open, where you select Hue/Saturation.
- Use the sliders to color grade and color correct your photo.
Here is how each adjustment affects your photo:
- Hue: Making changes to this slider affects the color of your picture. For example, sliding it right gives you a brighter color scheme, with purple being the maximum.
- Saturation: Changes here affect the density of the color you choose. For example, sliding it left makes the color less dense, giving you the most transparent shade.
- Lightness: The slider affects how bright the color you choose will appear. Sliding it extremely left will make it very dark.
3. Using Paint
Paint is another simple way to color correct and color grade in Photoshop. Additionally, it leaves feeling like an artist if you do it correctly. You can opt for this method if you want to:
• Remove color distortions
Sometimes your photo may contain color bounces. Paint allows you to even out things without the need to estimate the correct color values.
• Add fancy effects to your photos
How cool is it to have a blue sun in your landscape photo? You can do that with paint and get stunning results.
• Remove awkward features
You must have a profile picture where some of your facial features look alien. Instead of deleting it, try some color corrections with paint. The results may stun you, to the point you start looking for lost photo albums. Paint allows you to get rid of weird chins color combinations that leave your audiences questioning your health.
Here is how you can use paint to make your photos stunning:
I. Locate the brush tool from your version of photoshop. Usually, it is under the Tools menu of the layer screen. Alternatively, you can open it by pressing B on your keyboard.
II. Then, drag it to your photo to start painting. A menu box will appear where you can set your brush. You can customize the following items:
III. You can switch the colors by clicking the main color box to activate the color wheel.
IV. The paint tool offers you different brushes depending on the function. For example, you have a healing brush that repairs pixels and blends them seamlessly with the rest.
● As you can see photoshop color grading is a simple process that results in stunning pictures when you use it correctly. Additionally, you have tons of presets available to simplify your work. An important point to consider is to keep things minimal. Keep checking with us regularly for more insights on how to create quality content with different color correction software.
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Home > Photo Retouch > Color Grading with Gradient Maps
How to Color Grade Images in Photoshop with Gradient Maps
Give your photos a more cinematic look by learning how easy it is to color grade images in Photoshop using gradient maps. Watch the video or follow along with the written tutorial below it!
In this tutorial, I show you how to color grade an image in Photoshop using a gradient map image adjustment. You'll learn how gradient maps work, why they are perfect for color grading, and how to use a gradient map to give your image a more cinematic look by replacing the photo's original colors with colors from a gradient.
I also show you how to combine gradient maps with layer blend modes for different results, how to save your gradient colors as presets that can be quickly applied to other images, and even how to drag and drop gradient maps from one image to another!
We've got a lot to cover, so let's get started!
Which Photoshop version do I need?
For best results with this tutorial, you'll need Photoshop 2020 or later. That's because Adobe made changes to the gradients in 2020 and earlier versions will look quite different. I'm using Photoshop 2021 but everything is fully compatible up to 2023. You can get the latest version of Photoshop here .
What's the difference between color grading and color correction?
Color grading and color correction are two different things. Color correction is all about fixing problems with the image by adjusting the exposure, the contrast, white balance and more.
But color grading is more about creativity. Color grading is the process of replacing the photo's original colors with colors that are more artistic. And the goal with color grading is not to show reality but to set the mood or tone of the image, to convey a sense of atmosphere or fantasy, or to give the image a more cinematic look.
Color grading is not a replacement for color correction. Instead, color grading is usually an extra step after the color correction is done. This tutorial assumes you have already color corrected your image.
Why are gradient maps great for color grading images?
As we’ll see, gradient maps are perfect for color grading because they make it easy to change the colors in your image based on their brightness values. Each color in the image, from the darkest shadow to the brightest highlight, is mapped , or linked, to the same brightness value in a gradient. Simply choose colors for the gradient, and those colors instantly become the new colors in the image! Let’s see how it works.
How to follow along...
You can follow along with this tutorial by opening any image in Photoshop. I’ll use this image ( outdoor portrait photo from Adobe Stock):
In the Layers panel , the image opens on the Background layer, which is currently the only layer in the document:
See also: Watch the video for this tutorial on YouTube
Step 1: Add a Gradient Map adjustment layer
The best way to use a gradient map in Photoshop is to apply it as an adjustment layer . The adjustment layer will keep the gradient map separate from your original image, and will make it easy to edit the gradient and try out different colors.
Method 1: From the Layer menu
There are a few ways to add a Gradient Map adjustment layer. One is by going up to the Layer menu in the Menu Bar:
Choosing New Adjustment Layer :
And then choosing Gradient Map :
Choosing an adjustment layer from the Layer menu opens the New Layer dialog box where you can name the layer before adding it. But I’ll click Cancel so we can look at two faster ways to add one:
Method 2: From the Adjustments panel
A second way is to open the Adjustments panel and click the Gradient Map icon (the last icon on the right, bottom row):
Method 3: From the Layers panel
And the third way is from the Layers panel . Click the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom:
And choose Gradient Map from the list:
The gradient map’s default gradient
Whichever way you choose to add it, the Gradient Map adjustment layer appears above the image in the Layers panel:
And by default, the gradient map converts the image to black and white :
Where do I find the gradient map options?
The options for the Gradient Map adjustment layer appear in Photoshop’s Properties panel . And here we see that the reason the image is in black and white is because by default, gradient maps use a black to white gradient .
So the original colors in the shadows are being replaced with black or dark gray, the highlights are replaced with white or light gray, and the colors in the midtones have all turned to the various shades of the gray in the middle of the gradient. We’ll come back to this and learn more in a moment:
Related: Using the enhanced Properties panel in Photoshop
Why is my default gradient not black to white?
If your gradient colors are something other than black and white, that’s because the default gradient is actually based on your current Foreground and Background colors , which just happen to be black (for the Foreground color) and white (for the Background color) by default.
So if your colors were set to something else when you added the gradient map, those colors will appear in the gradient and your image will look very different. But don’t worry because I’ll show you how to choose Photoshop’s actual Black, White gradient (and why you’ll want to do so) next.
Step 2: Open the Gradient Editor
To choose different colors for your image, edit the gradient by clicking the gradient preview bar in the Properties panel:
This opens the Gradient Editor . And notice that the name of our current gradient is “Foreground to Background”, not “Black to White”:
How to reset the gradient to black and white
But when choosing colors for your image, it’s usually best to start with a black to white gradient. So if your initial colors are not black and white, or to reset the gradient to black and white at any time, go up to the Presets area at the top of the Gradient Editor, twirl open the Basics folder (new as of Photoshop 2020) and choose the Black, White gradient by clicking its thumbnail:
Related: Find the missing gradients in Photoshop!
How gradient maps work
Before we start choosing colors, let’s learn more about how gradient maps work. Gradient maps replace the original colors in your image with the colors in your gradient. The original colors are mapped to the gradient colors based on their brightness values. And whichever color in the gradient has the same brightness value as the original color becomes the new color in the image.
The left side of the gradient represents the shadows in the image. The right side is for the highlights. And the middle of the gradient is the midtones:
Shadows on the left, highlights on the right
But it’s important to know that no matter which colors you choose, the left side of the gradient is always the shadows and the right side is always the highlights.
So with our current black to white gradient, we’re setting the shadows to black and the highlights to white. But if we swap the colors by dragging the black color stop to the right and the white color stop to the left:
The left side of the gradient is still the shadows and the right side is still the highlights. So now we're setting the shadows to white and the highlights to black, creating this inverted look:
Reset the gradient to black on the left and white on the right by reselecting the Black, White gradient in the Presets area:
Step 3: Edit the gradient colors
To add colors to the image, all we need to do is choose new colors for the gradient. I’ll start by showing you how to create a simple monochromatic look by adding a single color to the midtones. And then we’ll learn how to add colors to the shadows, the highlights, and anywhere in between.
Option A: Adding a single color to the midtones
An easy but effective way to color grade an image is to leave the shadows black and the highlights white and add a single color to the midtones.
Step A.1: Add a new color stop
In the Gradient Editor, add a new color stop for the midtones by clicking in the empty space below the middle of the gradient bar:
Step A.2: Set the color stop’s location to 50 percent
Ideally, we want this new color stop to appear exactly halfway between black on the left and white on the right. So set the Location of the color stop to 50 percent :
Step A.3: Choose a color for the midtones
Then to change its color, click the color swatch :
And choose a new color from the Color Picker. I’ll choose a brown-orange by setting the Hue ( H ) value to 30 degrees and the Saturation ( S ) to 20 percent. And because we set the Location of this color to 50 percent in the gradient, I’ll set the Brightness ( B ) value to the same 50 percent. When you’re done, click OK to close the Color Picker:
And with just that single color in the middle of the gradient, I’ve added a nice sepia tone to the image:
To try a different color, click the color swatch again:
And then choose a new color from the Color Picker. I’ll leave the Saturation ( S ) at 20 percent and the Brightness ( B ) at 50 percent, but I’ll change the color from orange to blue by changing the Hue ( H ) value to 210 degrees. Click OK to close the Color Picker:
And now I’ve gone from a sepia tone to a colder bluish tone:
Step A.4: Close the Gradient Editor
When you’re happy with the color, click OK to close the Gradient Editor:
Step A.5: Lower the adjustment layer's opacity
Of course, color grading an image does not have to mean replacing the original colors completely. In fact, you’ll usually want to dial back the new color and blend it with the originals. And the simplest way to do that is by lowering the opacity of the Gradient Map adjustment layer.
The Opacity option is found in the upper right of the Layers panel. The more you lower the opacity below 100 percent, the more you’ll fade the gradient map’s color and allow the photo’s original colors to show through.
I’ll lower the adjustment layer’s opacity to 50 percent :
At 50 percent opacity, I’m blending 50 percent of the color from the gradient map with 50 percent of the photo’s original colors. And now instead of replacing the original colors, I’m simply adding a bluish tint to them. We’ll look at other ways to blend the gradient map with the original colors a bit later:
Comparing the gradient map effect with the original image
You can toggle the gradient map on and off to compare its effect with the original image by clicking the adjustment layer’s visibility icon in the Layers panel:
On the left is my original image. And on the right is the effect from the gradient map:
Option B: Add multiple colors to the gradient
So now that we know how to add a single color to the midtones, let’s look at how to add colors to the shadows and highlights.
First, in the Layers panel, I’ll reset the opacity of my Gradient Map adjustment layer back to 100 percent :
Step B.1: Open the Gradient Editor
In the Properties panel, reopen the Gradient Editor by clicking the gradient preview bar :
How to delete a color stop
We’ll start once again with a black to white gradient, which means we don’t need the color stop in the middle that we added previously. To delete a color stop, click on it to select it:
And then click the Delete button:
You could also revert the gradient back to black and white by selecting the Black, White gradient from the Presets area.
And now we’re back to gradient and our image in black and white:
Step B.2: Select the left color stop and change its color
To add a color to the shadows, click the black color stop on the left to select it:
And then to change its color, click the color swatch . Or you can double-click directly on the color stop itself:
Then choose a new color from the Color Picker. I’ll choose a color that’s easy to see, like red, by setting the Hue ( H ) value to 5 degrees. Since this color is being used for the shadows, you’ll want to choose a dark shade. So I’ll set the Brightness ( B ) to 20 percent. And since dark colors need more saturation to avoid looking gray, I’ll set the Saturation ( S ) value to 80 percent:
Click OK to close the Color Picker. And the shadows in the image have gone from black to dark red:
Step B.3: Select the right color stop and change its color
Next, add a color to the highlights by double-clicking on the white color stop on the right:
And then choosing a new color from the Color Picker. I’ll go with yellow for the highlights by setting the Hue ( H ) value to 40 . Since lighter colors don’t need as much saturation, I’ll set the Saturation ( S ) value to 30 percent. And since we want a bright color for the highlights, I’ll leave the Brightness ( B ) value at 100 percent:
Click OK to close the Color Picker. And now I’ve added yellow highlights to go with my red shadows:
Step B.4: Adjust the midpoint of the gradient (optional)
Notice the small diamond shape between the two color stops. If you can’t see it, click on either color stop to make it visible. This is the midpoint marker where the two colors blend together:
By default, the midpoint marker sits halfway between the two color stops. But you can drag the midpoint left or right to bring more of the highlight or shadow color into the midtones.
If I drag the midpoint to the left:
I brighten the midtones by pulling down more of the yellow highlight color and pushing the red color further into the shadows:
And if I drag the midpoint to the right:
Then I darken the midtones by pulling up more of the shadow color:
To reset the midpoint back to the middle, change its Location value to 50 percent :
Step B.5: Add a third color stop for the midtones
To gain even more control over the midtones, add a color stop below them, just like we did earlier.
Click in the empty space below the middle of the gradient to add a new color stop. Then make sure its Location is set to 50 percent :
Step B.6: Choose a color for the midtones
Double-click on the new stop to open the Color Picker:
And then choose a color. I’ll go with orange (halfway between the red shadows and yellow highlights) by setting the Hue ( H ) to 25 degrees and the Saturation ( S ) to 40 percent. And since this color stop’s location is at 50 percent, I’ll set the Brightness ( B ) value to 50 percent.
You don’t always need to match the brightness and location values exactly, but it helps to keep the location in mind so you don’t end up choosing colors that are too dark or too bright for that part of the image:
Click OK to close the Color Picker. And I now have three colors in my gradient; one for the shadows, one for the highlights, and one for the midtones. You can add more color stops to the gradient for even more control over your colors, but I’ll stick with three:
Step 4: Save your gradient as a new preset
At this point, we’re done editing the gradient. But if you want to use this same gradient again with other images, then before closing the Gradient Editor, save your gradient as a preset.
First, if you haven’t done this already, create a new group to hold your custom gradients. In the Presets area, scroll down to the last folder in the list. Then right-click (Win) / Control-click (Mac) on the folder and choose New Gradient Group from the menu:
Give the new group a name. I'll name mine My Gradients . Then click OK:
The new group appears below the others:
Then give your new gradient a name. I’ll name mine Red_orange_yellow . When you’re done, make sure your custom gradients folder is selected in the Presets area, and then click the New button to create the new preset:
The new preset appears as a thumbnail in the folder so you can quickly select it the next time you need it:
Step 5: Close the Gradient Editor
We’ve created our gradient and saved it as a new preset, which means we’re done with the Gradient Editor. So go ahead and close it by clicking OK:
Step 6: Change the gradient map’s blend mode
As I mentioned earlier, color grading an image does not usually mean replacing the photo’s original colors. More often, we want to blend the gradient map into them.
We’ve already seen that we can fade the gradient map into the image by lowering the adjustment layer’s Opacity value. Here’s my image with the opacity at the default 100 percent :
If I lower the opacity down to 40 percent :
Then instead of replacing the colors completely, I’m simply adding a red, orange and yellow tint to the original colors:
But a more powerful way to blend the gradient map and the image together is by using Photoshop’s blend modes. And there are three layer blend modes that tend to work best when color grading images; Normal , Color and Soft Light . We’ve already been using one of these blend modes whether we knew it or not. But let’s look at all three and compare them.
The Normal blend mode
The Blend Mode option is found in the upper left of the Layers panel, directly across from the Opacity option. And the default blend mode is Normal , which is what we’ve been using so far:
How the Normal blend mode works
Normal really just means off . There is no interaction at all between the active layer (the Gradient Map adjustment layer) and the image below it. And the advantage with using the Normal blend mode with a gradient map is also its disadvantage; the colorized version of the image has less contrast than the original.
I’ll increase the opacity of my gradient map back to 100% so we can better see what’s happening:
Normal = Less contrast than original image
On the left is my original image without the gradient map applied. On the right is with the gradient map set the Normal blend mode. And notice how much brighter the shadows are in the colorized version, and how much darker the highlights are:
The reason is that any color we choose for the shadows is naturally going to be brighter than black. And any color we choose for the highlights will be darker than white. So the lighter shadows and darker highlights result in an image with less overall contrast.
Whether you view the lower contrast as an advantage or a disadvantage depends on the look you want to achieve. Brighter shadows and darker highlights can be great for adding a more cinematic look to your photo. And you can always lower the opacity of the gradient map to bring back more of the original contrast:
The Color blend mode
But even at lower opacity values, the Normal blend mode still results in less contrast. So if you want to avoid lowering the contrast when color grading an image, then a better blend mode to try is Color :
How the Color blend mode works
The Color blend mode keeps the brightness values of the image below the adjustment layer and blends only the colors from the gradient map. The result is a colorized image with the same contrast as the original.
Color = Same contrast as original image
On the left is the original image, and on the right is with the gradient map set to Color. The overall contrast in both versions is the same. Only the colors have changed:
And here is a comparison between the Normal blend mode (left) and the Color blend mode (right):
Of course, you can still lower the Opacity value to bring back some of the original color. I’ll lower the opacity to 50 percent :
And here’s the result using the Color blend mode at 50 percent opacity:
The Soft Light blend mode
So the Normal blend mode results in less contrast than the original image, and the Color blend mode keeps the contrast the same. But what if you want a colorized version with even more contrast than the original? For that, you’ll want the Soft Light blend mode:
How the Soft Light blend mode works
Soft Light is one of several blend modes in Photoshop that boost contrast in the image. When used with a gradient map, Soft Light uses the shadow color in the gradient to further darken the shadows, and the highlight color to push the highlights even brighter. The result is a colorized version with higher contrast than the original.
Soft Light = Higher contrast than the original image
On the left is the original image, and on the right is with the gradient map set to Soft Light:
Here is a comparison of all three blend modes, with Normal on the left, Color in the middle and Soft Light on the right:
And just like we’ve seen with Normal and Color, you can always fade the effect of the Soft Light blend mode to dial back the contrast by lowering the gradient map’s opacity . On the left is the full effect with the gradient map’s opacity at 100 percent. And on the right is with the opacity lowered to 50 percent:
Step 7: Edit the gradient colors if needed
After changing the gradient map’s blend mode, the initial colors you chose for the gradient may need their brightness or saturation adjusted. So just click once again on the gradient preview bar in the Properties panel:
And then double-click on any of your color swatches to edit its color in the Color Picker:
How to try out different gradient maps with your image
Another advantage to adding gradient maps as adjustment layers is that we can add more than one to try out different colors. And we can easily switch between them to choose the one we like best.
Step 1: Turn off the original gradient map
In the Layers panel, turn off your original Gradient Map adjustment layer by clicking its visibility icon :
Step 2: Duplicate the adjustment layer
Then make a copy of it by dragging it down onto the New Layer icon (second icon from the right):
Step 3: Turn on the copy
The copy appears above the original. Turn on the copy by clicking its visibility icon :
Step 4: Set the layer blend mode
Notice that the copy is automatically set to the same blend mode as the original. In my case, it’s Soft Light. If you know the blend mode you’ll be using (Normal, Color, Soft Light), you can change it here before editing the gradient colors. I’ll leave mine at Soft Light:
Step 5: Open the Gradient Editor
In the Properties panel, the gradient preview bar shows that we’re currently using the same colors as before. Click the preview bar to open the Gradient Editor:
Step 6: Reset the gradient to black and white (optional)
If you find it easier to start with the black to white gradient, then in the Presets area of the Gradient Editor, select the Black, White gradient from the Basics folder:
Step 7: Choose new gradient colors
Then choose different colors for your gradient. This time I’ll choose teal for the shadows by setting the Hue ( H ) to 180 , the Saturation ( S ) to 80 and the Brightness ( B ) to 35 .
And for the highlights, I’ll choose orange by setting the Hue ( H ) to 25 , the Saturation ( S ) to 50 and the Brightness ( B ) to 95 .
Here’s the result, with the gradient map set to the Soft Light blend mode:
Step 8: Save your new colors as a preset
Just like we did before, you can save your new colors as a preset. In the Presets area, make sure your custom gradient folder is selected (mine is called “My Gradients”). Give your new preset a name. I’ll name mine “Teal_orange”. And then click the New button to save it.
Note, though, that saving your gradient as a preset only saves the colors. It does not save the blend mode you’re using in the Layers panel or the opacity value. So if choosing one of your presets gives you unexpected results, make sure the blend mode and opacity are set correctly:
Step 9: Close the Gradient Editor
Then click OK to close the Gradient Editor when you’re done:
Step 10: Switch between the Gradient Map adjustment layers
In the Layers panel, the gradient maps appear as separate adjustment layers above the image. You can toggle them on and off to choose the one you like best by clicking their visibility icons .
Be careful not to have both adjustment layers turned on at the same time, otherwise you will see the result of both gradient maps blending together (although that may also produce interesting results):
How to copy a gradient map to another image
Finally, once you’ve chosen your gradient colors in the Gradient Editor and you’ve set the blend mode and opacity for the adjustment layer in the Layers panel, it’s easy to copy the entire color grading effect over to a different image. We do that by copying the adjustment layer itself from one image to another.
Step 1: Open a second image
First, open a second image by going up to the File menu and choosing Open :
Then navigate to the folder than holds your image, click on the image thumbnail to select it, and click Open :
The second image opens in its own separate document:
Step 2: Switch to the original image document
Switch back to your original image (the one with the gradient map applied) by clicking its document tab :
Step 3: Drag the adjustment layer into the second image
In the Layers panel, click on the Gradient Map adjustment layer you want to copy over to the second image. In my case, I’ll copy the one on top with the teal and orange colors. Notice that its blend mode is set to Soft Light:
Drag the adjustment layer up and onto the tab for the second image document:
Keep your mouse cursor held down and over the tab until Photoshop switches to the second image. Then drag the adjustment layer down onto the second image:
Release your mouse button, and the color grading effect from the first image is instantly applied to the second image:
In the Layers panel, the Gradient Map adjustment layer appears above the image on the Background layer. And notice that its Soft Light blend mode was also copied over, so there’s no need to change it manually. Of course, you can still change the blend mode yourself or adjust the layer’s opacity if needed:
And there we have it! That’s everything you need to know to start color grading images using a Gradient Map adjustment layer in Photoshop!
Be sure to check out more of my Photoshop Basics or Photo Editing tutorials. And don't forget, all of my Photoshop tutorials are available to download as PDFs !