#CreativeFriday – Using Gradient Maps to Create an Alternative Printing look

Photoshop CS6 was released with additional gradients for Photographers, these gradients have been designed to simulate an alternative look for your images. For example, i enjoy the Platinum & Palladium alternative printing process, the Platinum process was developed in the 19 century and involves manually coating paper with a light sensitive material, then exposing the negative and coated paper using a contact printing technique using an ultra violet light source. The exposed print is then immersed into a wet process to fully develop the image. I know this sounds very challenging and complex, and it is and takes an immense amount of time to get right. This is made even more complex in the digital world, because the negative needs to be manually create using Photoshop. But trust me, it’s good fun. To find out more about Platinum Printing head over to this video to see some incredible work by salto in Belgium and a good friend William Ingram (Master Platinum Printer). Then head over to get inspired by Albert Watson in a Master of Photography video.

To achieve a similar look in the digital world without going through the hard work of learning an alternate process (Platinum is one, Cyanotype, Ziatype, Vandyke Brown or others (see the unblinking eye for more processes), is quite challenging, as the way that an image reacts to chemicals is very different for each process, and then different to the way that pixels work on the screen or in a print.

The new Photographic toning gradients in Photoshop CS6 help to create this old style look with ease and will enable you to be more creative with your final images. The new Photographic toning gradients can be found under the gradients panel within Photoshop, the Gradient panel entires are highlighted in red in the image below.



By default Photoshop CS6 will not have Gradients displayed in the list, to add/append them,  select the Photographic Toning from the fly out menu (small cog in the top right hand side of the Gradient panel) and Photoshop will ask to replace or append to the current list, I would recommend that you append them to the list (and keep the original ones as well). Once they have been added, your list should look similar to the screen shot below.


The next screen shot shows an image that I would like to have an effect applied to (a shot that i took using a Leica M-E recently at the Maha Kumbh Mela in India).


To apply the Photographic Toning, you will need to create a new Gradient Map adjustment layer. There are multiple ways to achieve this (either from the menu Layer / New Adjustment Layer / Gradient Map), or within the layers palette, using the Adjustment Layer button function (highlighted in red below)


Once Gradient Map has been chosen, you will see this configuration screen


By clicking on the right hand side of the current gradient will show the Photographic Toning gradients


You are able to try different options in realtime by selecting them from the list, and watching the changes being applied to the image.

As these effects are based around Black and White toning, you will get more control if you also add a Black and White Adjustment layer between the image and the Gradient Map layer,



The ability to change the colour channels in the Black and White layer while the Gradient Map is applied can greatly enhance the effect of the Gradient Map. See the final image here.

Making a new Gradient Map.

If you would like complete control and create your own Gradient Maps you can. To edit/modify an existing Gradient Map right click on anywhere that displays the Gradients (i.e. on the Gradient at the top of the screen, or in the Gradient on the Gradient Map panel, see below).


From this panel you are able to create or edit your gradient. The new button will create a new Gradient Map, and by modifying the gradient settings will update the current gradient.

The Gradient Map displayed in the panel can be worked with in real time on the image enabling you to get the best effect possible.



When making changes to the Gradient Map think of the how the mappings will affect all tones of the whole image (as in Curves and Levels Adjustment Layers). The Left of the Gradient Map will impact the shadows, the far right will impact the highlights and the mid point will map to 50% gray/mid tones. You are able to create your own colour tones by changing the colour defined at the points of the large arrows on the Gradient Map with your own colour tones (the actual colour used is selected in the stops area of the panel for each large arrow on the map, the point at which it will impact on the image (is specified by the location parameter). In the above example the colour change with be very light brown colour will have an effect at 98% (in the top range of the highlights of the image. The small triangle on the Gradient Map is the mid point within the two colours and where the blend of colours will happen, if you select and move this control point, it’s physical relative percentage (between the two colours) will be reflected in Location parameter under the stops area of the panel. Try changing the position and see the value change, you will also see the colour blend from one colour tone to the other change.

There are other options to explore in this panel, but hopefully this post will get you up and running into the world of Gradient Maps.






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