Learn Photography

Photoshop Elements >

Simulating Curves with a Gradient Map >

2 - Use the Gradient

Eleven Points

With your gradient map, you've got eleven points at which you can modify the exposure.

There are the six color stops on the bottom of the gradient.

And, when you click on one of the stops, small Midpoint Color stops appear.

Be sure to ignore the opacity stops on the top of the gradient.

Making Adjustments

Be sure to check off as you go along.

1) Open a photograph.

2) Create a Gradient Map adjustment layer.

The Gradient Map panel will open.

3) Select Dither.

4) Change the blending mode of the Gradient Map adjustment layer from Normal to Luminosity.

Blending Mode?

At the top of the layers stack, look for the unlabeled Blending Mode box.

It's to the left of the Opacity box.


If you're new to blending modes, go to Blending Modes.

5) Make sure the Gradient Map adjustment layer is active (highlighted) when you make the change.

6) Double click the Gradient Map layer thumbnail in the Gradient Map adjustment layer.

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

8) Select the Curves Simulation Gradient.

9) Click any one of the color stops, hold, and slide it back-and-forth.

The exposure of a portion of your photograph will change—when you release the stop.

Unfortunately, you can't see the adjustment until you release the mouse button.

The color stops to the left change the shadows.

In the middle, they change the midtones.

To the right, the color stops change the highlights.

Move one, or several.

When you click a color stop, small diamonds appear on either side of the stop.

As mentioned, these are called midpoint color stops.

You can slide these diamonds back-and-forth, too.


If you move a stop too close to another stop, you may see banding (posterization).


If you want to reset the color stops to their original positions, do the following.

1) Press and hold Alt.

The Cancel button will change to Reset.

2) Click Reset.