Ever wanted to do a “cross-processed” or vintage film look easily in Photoshop? Using the Gradient Map adjustment tool isn’t only for converting colored images to black and white (well, in case you didn’t know you can convert color images to monochrome using Gradient Map before, now you know – a bonus!), this powerful adjustment tool can also do color toning effects with ease!
We’ll use this image for this lesson:
1) Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer by using Layer >> New Adjustment Layer >> Gradient Map.
2) You’ll now have a Gradient Map adjustment layer on top of your Background layer.
3) By default, the Gradient Map adjustment layer gives you a black-to-white gradient, which turns your image to a, naturally, black and white image.
4) We’ll need to set some color tones for our image, to do this, we need to edit the gradient. Double-click on the black-to-white gradient and the Gradient Editor window appears. You’ll see some presets on top, and the current gradient colors used at the bottom, in this case, black on the left, white on the right.
5) To change the color palette, we’ll need to change the black square at the bottom left, and the white square at the bottom right of the gradient. To add more “colors” in between, we can click on any point between the black and white squares to add another color hue. For this example, I want to my image to have a blue-to-yellow “expired, cross-processed film” look.
As you can see, I used a navy blue shade on the left (shadow side), then chose progressively lighter shades of blue, then added some green and light green-yellow for the highlight side. Remember that these are NOT absolute values, you can choose any color combinations you want, as I’ll demonstrate later.
After choosing the desired color gradient, we can click “OK” and close this window.
6) We’ll need to change this Gradient Map layer’s blend mode to “Color”.
7) We then reduce the opacity to 50% to reduce the saturation for a more realistic output.
After all that, we now have our final image!
By changing the gradient stop colors, you can easily change the look and feel of your image!
So there you have it. I hope this will add another trick up your Photoshop sleeve! Don’t forget to use effects like these sparingly if you’re applying them onto a set of photographs.
Last tip: If you are going to use this for portraits, it is advisable that you add a layer mask and reduce the effect further on all areas of skintone. In the example below, I added a red to green gradient adjustment, but used a soft brush at 50% opacity to mask off the skin areas.
A – Original (shot with color negative film)
B – Color Toning Applied (no mask)
C – Skin Areas Masked
Subtle, but essential to mask off the skin.
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