How to Make a Gradient Map to Create Duotone or Blended Images in Photoshop

Photoshop Lesson

A gradient map is a smooth blending from one color to another. The Gradient Map adjustment in Photoshop converts existing colors to a gradient based on whether the area is a dark, mid-tone, or light color. The dark color becomes the color to the left of the gradient map, the light color becomes the color to the right of the gradient map, and a mid-tone becomes a blend of the colors. By using gradient map, you can transform your picture into an attractive duotone image or a rainbow image that looks very wacky.

How to Make a Gradient Map in Photoshop

Pick Colors

  1. From the Tools panel, pick two colors for the gradient.
Pick a Foreground and Background Color
Pick a Foreground and Background Color
  • The foreground color swatch sets the dark colors. Pick a dark color such as dark blue or dark green.
  • The background color swatch sets the light colors. Pick a light color such as light blue or light green or white.
  • The mid-tones will become a blend of those two choices.
foreground and background colors
Be thoughtful when selecting the foreground and background colors.

View the Gradient Map

  1. From the Image menu, select Adjustments. Pick Gradient Map.
  2. The picture is now a duotone image:
    • To smooth the appearance of the fill, click the Dither checkbox.
    • To switch the order of the colors, click the Reverse checkbox.
Create a Duotone Image with Gradient Map
Create a duotone image.

Edit the Colors in the Gradient Map

  1. To adjust the color in the gradient map, click on the Gradient Used for Grayscale Mapping bar.
Adjust the colors in the gradient map.
Adjust the colors in the gradient map.
  1. From the Gradient Editor dialog box, click on a bottom stop.
  2. Click on the Color box. Make a selection from the spectrum. Click OK
adjust the color of a gradient map stop
Adjust the foreground or background color of the gradient map.
  1. Reduce the value in the Location box to adjust the position of the stop. This will increase the amount of the color in the image.
location stop
Set the location of the stop to increase the amount of color.
  1. Click OK to apply the changes and close the Gradient Editor dialog box.
duotone image and gradient map
Adjust the color and position of the stop to create a unique duotone image.

Apply a Preset Gradient Map

  1. To pick from a selection of preset gradients, click the arrow beside the color bar.
  2. Make a selection.
Pick a preset for the gradient map.
Pick a preset for the gradient map.
  1. Explore the options to create a unique artistic effect.
Apply a colorful gradient using the Preset options.
Apply a colorful gradient using the Preset options.
  1. Click OK to apply the changes.

Photoshop Activities

Are you interested in easy to follow Photoshop activities for middle and high school students? TechnoPhotoshop is a technology project with assignments that have students create a digital scrapbook. They learn how use the Adjustment commands, including Gradient Map to create artistic effects.

Christa Love

Christa Love, Curriculum Developer & Teacher ~ I am passionate about blending technology into curriculum. Whether it is programming, video production, graphic design, or digital citizenship, I am interested in how apps and tools can be used to enhance learning. Throughout the years I have designed many TechnoKids technology projects. My favorite part of curriculum development is field-testing the ideas to determine the activities that work best in real classrooms. I write about what I have learned that can save teachers time in their own curriculum planning.

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