Photoshop Tutorial: Quick Way to Correct Color in Photoshop

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I learned there are multiple ways to change color in Photoshop. Most of the times I used a combination of multiple options in the Adjustment Layer i.e the Selection Color, Hue/Saturation, Levels, and Curves to find colors that matches with the concept of a photo.

When it comes to photo editing for environmental portraiture, I found a new way that is more effective and easy for color correction. What is it?

It is the Gradient Map adjustment layer. The best thing of this tool is it can change color of highlight and shadow in one shot while retaining skin tone of the model. This is quicker and more effective compared to the other ways where you have to create 2 layers (each layer for shadow and highlight) with its masking to achieve the same result.

These 2 photos below showing my statement above. I set the layer blending mode to Hue on the adjustment layer of each photos. You can see the colors shift on the skin tone and lips on the first photo which apparently did not happen on the photo with the Gradient Map.

Color Correction with Hue/Saturation

Color Correction with Gradient Map

What is The Gradient Map Layer Adjustment?

The Gradient Map is actually coloring a photo with pre-defined colors for the shadow, midtone and highlight area in just one layer. Normally I have to create 2 layers for the same purpose with the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.

To define colors in the Gradient Editor, you can simple select the available presets or you can create new Gradient Map by clicking the left slide for shadow and the right slide for highlight. You can also click somewhere in the middle gradient color bar to set mid-tone color. It will pop up the color picker once you clicked the sliders.

Case Study

I will explain a little bit of my philosophy in correcting colors of a photo. In my subjective opinion, color selections on your photo will determine the mood that you want to create and emphasize your message/idea. Thus the colors of your subject should be in the same mood with its environmental colors or vice versa.

For this particular photo, I found the colors of the subject creates dark and gothic look while the surrounding colors look in the reverse direction. To harmonise this different moods, I selected the Violet-Orange preset of Gradient Map to change the environment colors closer to the subject’s colors.

After I applied the gradient map adjustment, I simply change the layer blending mode to Hue and bring down the Opacity rate to 60%. You can see now the photo look more dramatic while retaining the skin tone color of the model.

If necessary, you can add multiple Gradient Map adjustment layers for more creative colors combination. I believe you will surprise with the result.

Credit Photo: Andre

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Hi, I'm Hong Kong based photographer who loves shooting street and portrait photography. You can license my photographs on Getty Images.

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