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Easily add color to your B&W images with the Gradient Map command

Added on Thursday 15th of July 2010 06:17 am EST

Adobe Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5
Operating Systems:
Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


When you create a duotone, you base it on a traditional printer’s technique that applies one spot color to the shadow and lower midtone areas of a black-and-white photo and another spot color to the upper midtone and highlight areas. It’s a great way to colorize a black-and-white photo; however, it’s only one of several ways to do so using Photoshop. Hand tinting and channel editing are two other ways. However, when you need a quick, simple method, try this technique, which uses the Gradient Map command.


The Gradient Map command explained


The Gradient Map command maps the grayscale range of an image to the colors of a specified gradient fill. For example, if you specify a two-color gradient fill, the shadows in the image map to one of the colors on the gradient fill, and the highlights map to the other color. The midtones map to the gradations in between. However, unlike a duotone, you aren’t limited to only two colors because you can use as many colors as you wish.

Let’s create an example to see how the command works. To follow along using our example, download the image from the URL listed at the beginning of this article and extract the file grass.tif. Then, follow these steps:


1. Open a black-and-white photo, such as ours shown in Figure A. Because you want to apply color to your photo, you must first convert it to a color mode. Select Image > Mode > RGB Color and you’re ready to start.



2. Copy the Background layer in the Layers panel and rename it Grass 1. If you don’t like the results, you can either delete it, or make another copy of your Background layer.



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