Gradient Maps are a versatile tool for color grading, especially when you want to change the color temperature of the skin. This video tutorial by Prince Meyson demonstrates how to make skin tones look rich and vibrant by using Gradient Maps, and the often under-utilized Blend If Sliders.
With your portrait image open in Photoshop, the first step is to add an Adjustment Layer, which will be a Gradient Map. The default Color Harmonies that tend to be displayed are very saturated, so you’ll want to go to the gear at the corner of the Gradient Editor, and select Photographic Toning.
Once there, click on the gradient that gives you the range of hues that you want, typically in the neutral mid-tone range of colors, and click OK.
With the Gradient Map applied, it’s time to change the blending mode. The tutorial recommends using Soft Light, followed by lowering the opacity of the Gradient Map. However, the colors can still appear a little too saturated, bringing us to one of the secret weapons of Layer Styles: the Blend If sliders.
Found within the Blending Options of Layer Styles (or you can double-click on the layer), the Blend-If Sliders allow you to blend your layer to specific tones in the current or underlying layer, minimizing artifacting while resulting in a more natural, aesthetically pleasing result.
For the current purposes, Blending If “Gray” is typically a safe place to be, but you’ll want to see how the colors are affected by the RGB channels as well. This is particularly useful if you’re trying to lessen the appearance of flushed, red skin.
While the technique of using Gradient Maps is wonderful for targeting skin tones to give them a warm, healthy glow, this method is also very effective for general color grading. Give it a whirl and see how you can incorporate this new trick into your editing workflow.
RELATED: Color Grade Video Course