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Gradient Maps in Photoshop for Black & White Images

Lesson 22 from: From Capture to Print

Rocco Ancora

Gradient Maps in Photoshop for Black & White Images

Lesson 22 from: From Capture to Print

Rocco Ancora

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Lesson Info

22. Gradient Maps in Photoshop for Black & White Images


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


Advantages & Pitfalls of Printing


Demystifying Color Management


Understanding Bit Depth


Best Color Space to Work In


Importance of Image Capture


Live Shoot: Natural Light


Live Shoot: Studio Lights


Lesson Info

Gradient Maps in Photoshop for Black & White Images

Okay, so, another great technique to tone images and, especially black and white, is with gradient maps. So, if I launched gradient maps here in, Photoshop and I come across here we have standard set of gradients that are in there, but there's a little hidden gem over here. Photoshop has already given you Photographic Toning. Isn't that beautiful? See, if I click onto Photographic Toning and I hit Okay, I've got all these beautiful gradients that corresponds to the traditional black and white toning that we used to do in the dark room, in fact if I just use a list, and the names, there they are, I've got platinum, platinum 1, selenium, etc. etc. So, if I wanted a platinum print, you know, there it is. Okay, so, it's giving me that, that warm kind of mid-tone, clean highlights and deep shadows, you know. Selenium is the same, selenium different degrees of selenium. Going on to sepia and different degrees of sepia. And so on and so on. You know, some of the ones down here with the, the ...

copper are pretty cool, a bit too pink for me, but sepia cyan, sepia blue and so on and so on. The idea with these, I mean my favorite ones are these ones the platinums, selenium, selenium 2, okay, not a huge fan of the sepia ones, but the beautiful thing with these is that, you know, is that you can actually adjust them and make them your own if you wish because here it tells you how the tones across here have been distributed. So the way gradient map works is very simple. We have our shadows and right through to our highlights we have our gradient if you like. So here its telling you the colors that its laying down in that particular region of tones. So, we've got our warmer kind of colors here, its a warm gray that's being laid down, and then that is a lighter version of that same color through to our mid-tones and then that's being extended through to still the same tone but a lighter version of that tone, if you like, and right through to our specular highlights which are going to be clean, nice and white and that is a pure white and just before that the transition into those specular highlights is going to be slightly tone and not quite at 255, so its not quite light. Okay, so, you know, something like selenium is beautiful, okay, and we can leave it as is in normal or we can change that blending mode to something like color which preserves our luminance values of what we've already adjusted and all its really doing is applying the color information of that gradient across. And its really, really a lot of fun to do this. If this was a color image, okay, full color image, and I wanted to introduce some really nice tones, gradient map, okay, so lets go back into here and, um, lets double click onto that and here we go into something like, um, lets create a new gradient. Lets, um, pull one apart, I should say. So, lets do, say, this one and what I'm going to do is, we're going to leave our shadows here into blues, we're going to introduce the blues, okay, and then we're going to get rid of that middle tone, we're going to get rid of that tone, and we're going to blend that tone across, but with a really, really warm kind of orangy color which would be somewhere about there I think is good. And just bring that back a little bit more. Okay, I'm going to blend this with color, so I'm not really fussed too much on how that's going to look, um, bring more of a bluer blue into the navies. There it is and just a darker version of that blue. Okay, you can see the top of the fix we're trying to achieve. Okay, I'm going to introduce a new color there. A bit lighter in blue. There it is, okay, and if I was laying this over a color image I'd click onto Ok there color Okay, and then what I will do is I'll drop the opacity back and start to bring it in very, very slowly, you know 'til I'm just getting the image to just starting to tone in the direction that I want to tone. Okay? As I said earlier, for me where this image sits is right here, okay, as a selenium, vintage. That's the kind of vibe where we're going for and um, I think we're going to have a lot of fun in printing this little bit later on. Um, so Rodell asks, 'For frequency separation when working on the blur layer, when do you decide to use the mixer brush versus the lasso and blur filter?' Okay, well, the mixer brush, um, it's really useful when we're talking about evening out transition of tones. So when you have highlights going through the midtone, go through the shadows, and sometimes, obviously because of the unevenness of the skin, the shadow isn't quite, you know, straight. The same thing, the thing we had with nose, if I just zoom in to the nose, again, here, okay, what we had here in the nose was you know, we had a little divot there, so, the mixer brush, you know, helped us just move that in a create that straight line for the nose itself, okay? If its a large area like this where there's blotchiness like we had in the arms, what we would do then is use the lasso tool because its a large area and we don't want to create problems by going with the mixer brush and trying to blend color because then we just don't know where the color is going to go. Okay? So small incremental changes to transitions here, I could have done the mixer brush as well to even out that, that thing, that shadow if you like, um, and its also mixer brush is really, really handy when with fixing up mistakes that the make up artist hasn't quite blended in well, because then we, we become the make up artist and we blend in the way we want to blend. Okay? Perfect. Rob asks, 'Is using a 50% gray layer set to soft light and using a black and white brush as effective as the two curve layers? If it was as good, it would save time swapping between curve layers', but would it Yeah, the problem the problem with that is that everything is on one layer, okay? Oh. So, once, if I lighten an area up and I think it looks okay and then, because it's all relative as far how bright and how dark we are. I can make something bright and it look really really bright if its right next to a dark tone. The minute I lighten a dark tone that doesn't look so bright, you know what I mean? Then I need to go back and recrease or decrease that. So, its really a one way street because you can sit there and once you've done it you've got to paint with gray again to rub out that area and then go lighter or go darker. Also with that is that your highlights and shadows burning in and out is done on one layer whereas this is the two layers, once you've set it up, you know, you're consciously making a decision of what's, what's going to be the highlight areas and the shadow areas and then of course opacity, you can bring that in and out and you can adjust the two and if you make a mistake you just, um, you know, get your layer mask and fill it with black and start again. So, I think there, for me, personally, I think there's more flexibility doing it this way with the dodge and burn down here as opposed to just doing that one layer.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Rocco's Photoshop Actions
Rocco's Printer Evaluation Files
Color & Luminosity Seperation Action

Ratings and Reviews

Roberto Valenzuela

I honestly consider many courses to be great, but optional. However, this course by Rocco Ancora is a MUST! It helps the photographer complete the circle of being a photographic artist. Our job doesn't end at the edit, it ends with the print. When your clients can hold and enjoy your creative vision physically, that is when the magic of being a photographer happens. I have been so fortunate to travel the world teaching and meeting some of the best photographers in the world. That being said, I can say with confidence that nobody can teach this combination of Photoshop retouching / fine-art printing better than Rocco Ancora. I believe in this class so much, I traveled to Seattle to attend this course to be part of the live studio audience. I have never done that before. But that's how important I consider this material to be. I am so happy I took the time to go and learn from the man himself. Now, I will get this course to watch it, dissect it, study it, and practice it. Very excited to see how the knowledge in this course will propel my career further. --Roberto Valenzuela

a Creativelive Student

I was fortunate enough to attend this class in person and got to experience Rocco's prints in person. The quality is absolutely breathtaking and a game changer, Learning these skills will really help my business in a number of ways. In the past, I have had a difficult time convincing clients to purchase typical lab prints through my studio, as opposed to buying them through Walmart or Costco where the quality was "close enough." Rocco's method that he shared in this class creates three dimensional images of unmatched quality and images that just jump off the page. The knowledge from this course will empower me to help run a sustainable business and thrive as a photographer. You would be foolish to not learn these methods and incorporate them into your business. Highly Recommend!!

April S.

I have invested time into learning Lightroom and Photoshop, my own gear, and my particular photographic style, but the one thing I am really lacking is a solid understanding about preparing an image for print, and the various print options (e.g., paper types). When I saw this course come up on the CL schedule it caught my eye immediately so I RSVP'd for the live broadcast. I was at work when it started and couldn't watch at that time. I do listen in from work sometimes, but after 2 minutes of listening to this course I realized it was one I really needed to watch closely and focus on. So, I stopped the stream after a couple minutes and bought the course. I have never done that before. I always wait and watch as much as I can in the initial broadcast (or rebroadcast) to decide if a course is one that I really should spend for. I knew right away though that Rocco was presenting the very information I was lacking and needed, and I wanted it! In addition, it was clear to me after looking him up online that he's a consummate professional with lots of experience and his delivery style even in just the couple of minutes that I listened reflected that. I already have X-rite ColorMunki Display and Colorchecker, a good monitor, and I have a photo printer (Canon Pixma Pro-100) but I'm lacking that technical understanding of color and know I'm not using my resources to their fullest. I use my Canon Pixma to test-print images before uploading to the print service I use. My method isn't ideal since the service uses different printers and ink, and paper depending on what I choose, but at least I have a much better idea of what my image file will give me in print form. After Rocco's course I believe I will be much better equipped to prepare my images and choose the options best suited to each image. I'll still test print if only because it's fun to see something on paper, but I expect the results I get from the print service to be much better once I really know how to put this knowledge to work for me.

Student Work