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Learn Photography

Photoshop Elements >

Simulating Curves

With a Gradient Map >

1 - Make a Gradient

Most Photoshop Elements users should ignore this tutorial.

However, if you like to make Photoshop Elements behave like Photoshop, read on.

Photoshop has curves.

With curves, you can adjust exposure, contrast, and color, at 14 points.

Photoshop Elements has a weak version of curves.

Go to Enhance > Adjust Color > Adjust Color Curves.

By using a gradient map, you can have a more robust version of curves.

Be sure to check off as you go along.


1) Preserve your original file.

If you haven't already done so, go to Preserve Your Original File.

2) Create a Background copy layer.

If you haven't already done so, go to Create a Background Copy Layer.

Gradient Map Adjustment Layer

Let's make a gradient map to simulate curves.

Once made, you can save the gradient map and reuse it at any time.

2) Make sure the foreground color is black, and the background color is white.

If you haven't already, go to Foreground & Background Colors.

3) Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer.

Don't create a Gradient adjustment layer.

The Gradient Map window will open.

Your photograph will shift from color to B&W.

Select Dither.

4) Click the gradient in the middle of the window to open the Gradient editor window.

5) If it isn't already selected by default, select the Foreground to Background gradient.

The Foreground to Background gradient fades from black to gray to white.

On the top of the gradient, at the ends, are two square icons called opacity stops.

Ignore the opacity stops.

The square icons below the gradient, at the ends, are called color stops.

We'll create more color stops.

6) Click just below the gradient, about from the left end, to create a new color stop.

7) Click, hold, and drag the new color stop left or right to position it at the 20% location, as seen in the Location box.

8) Double click the new color stop to open the Color Picker window.

9) Enter 20 in the B box, in the HSB section.

10) Create three more color stops at the following locations, and change their B box values to the figures below.

Make sure you use the B box in the HSB section.



60% 80%

B Box Value


60% 80%

Save the Gradient

Do the following in the Gradient Editor window.

11) In the Name box, type in a new name for the gradient, such as Curves Simulation Gradient.

12) Click New.

13) Click Save.

A Save window will open.

Do the following in the Save window.

14) Click Save.

A window will appear asking you if you want to replace Untitled Gradients

15) Click OK.

Your gradient is now saved with the default gradients.