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The Hidden Photographic Toning Presets In Photoshop CS6

Written by Steve Patterson. Photoshop CS6 is packed with great new features, but not all of them are as immediately obvious, or as easy to find, as others. Some are practically hidden, like the new Photographic Toning presets for the Gradient Map image adjustment which let us choose from a collection of professional quality tinting and split-toning effects for our photos, all based on real-world chemical processes. These new presets aren’t even loaded into Photoshop CS6 by default, so in this tutorial, we’ll learn where to find them, how to load them, and how to use them to add great looking toning effects to our images quickly and easily.

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Here’s the photo I have open on my screen:

A photo of an old wooden house. Image licensed from Fotolia by Photoshop Essentials.com
The original photo.

Step 1: Add A Gradient Map Adjustment Layer

The new Photographic Toning presets have been added to the Gradient Map image adjustment, which means we first need to add a Gradient Map adjustment layer to our document. Click on the Gradient Map icon in the Adjustments panel (far right, bottom row):

Selecting a Gradient Map adjustment from the Adjustments panel. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Clicking on the Gradient Map icon in the Adjustments panel.

This adds a Gradient Map adjustment layer above the photo in the Layers panel:

The Layers panel showing the Gradient Map adjustment layer. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
The Layers panel showing the newly added Gradient Map adjustment layer.

Step 2: Open The Gradient Picker

The options for the Gradient Map adjustment layer appear in the Properties panel (new in CS6). Click on the small, down-pointing arrow to the right of the gradient preview bar to open the Gradient Picker:

Opening the Gradient Picker in the Properties panel in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Clicking the arrow to the right of the gradient preview bar.

Step 3: Load The Photographic Toning Presets

When the Gradient Picker appears, click on the small gear icon in the top right corner:

Clicking the gear icon in the Gradient Picker. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Clicking the gear icon.

This opens a menu with various options for the Gradient Picker, and at the bottom of the menu is a list of additional gradient sets we can load into Photoshop. This is where we find the Photographic Toning presets. Click on Photographic Toning to load them in:

Loading the Photographic Toning gradients in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Choosing the Photographic Toning presets from the menu.

Photoshop will ask if you want to replace the current set of gradients with the new Photographic Toning gradients, or if you just want to add the new gradients in with the current ones. I’ll click OK to replace the current gradients with the Photographic Toning set. At the end of the tutorial, I’ll show you how to easily switch back to the original default gradients at any time:

Replacing the current gradients with the Photographic Toning gradients. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Clicking OK to replace the default gradients with the Photographic Toning gradients.

With the Photographic Toning presets now loaded into Photoshop, we can see thumbnails for the various presets in the Gradient Picker:

The Gradient Picker showing the Photographic Toning preset thumbnails. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
The Gradient Picker showing the Photographic Toning preset thumbnails.

The thumbnails may look nice, but it’s tough to tell exactly which preset is which just by looking at the thumbnails. Click again on the gear icon in the top right corner of the Gradient Picker to once again open the menu:

Clicking again on the gear icon in the Gradient Picker. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Clicking again on the gear icon in the Gradient Picker.

Then, from the menu, choose either the Small List or Large List view option. I’ll choose the Small List:

Choosing the Small List view option from the Gradient Picker menu. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Choosing the Small List view option from the Gradient Picker menu.

This lets us see not only a thumbnail for each preset but also the name of each preset to the right of the thumbnail:

The Gradient Picker showing a thumbnail and the name of each preset. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
The Gradient Picker now shows both the thumbnail and the name of each preset.

You can expand the size of the Gradient Picker to view more of the presets without needing to scroll simply by clicking and (with your mouse button still held down) dragging the bottom right corner of the Gradient Picker downward:

Expanding the Gradient Picker to view more presets at once. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Expanding the Gradient Picker to view more presets at once.

Step 4: Click On A Preset To Apply It To The Image

Now that we’ve loaded the Photographic Toning presets into the Gradient Map adjustment and we can easily see both the thumbnail preview and the name of each preset, all we need to do is click on a preset from the list to have Photoshop instantly apply it to the image. The Photographic Toning presets are divided into two groups. The top half, starting with Platinum at the top of the list and ending with Copper 2, are tinting presets, meaning that they apply a single tone to the entire image. Simply click on any of them to see a live preview of the tinting effect in the document window. For example, I’ll click on Platinum to select it:

Selecting the Platinum Photographic Toning preset. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Selecting the Platinum tinting preset.

Photoshop instantly applies the effect to the image. Since we’re using an adjustment layer here, we’re not making any permanent changes to the photo so we’re free to try out as many of the presets as we like:

The photo with the Platinum Photographic Toning preset applied. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
The photo with the Platinum preset applied.

If I click on the Sepia 1 preset in the Gradient Picker:

Selecting the Sepia 1 Photographic Toning preset. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Choosing a different preset from the list.

The preview in the document window updates to show me what the sepia effect looks like. There’s several different sepia presets to choose from:

The photo with the Sepia 1 Photographic Toning preset applied. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
The photo with Sepia 1 applied.

And if I choose Cyanotype from the list as a third example:

Selecting the Cyanotyoe Photographic Toning preset. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Choosing the Cyanotype preset.

We get a different tinting result:

The photo with the Cyanotype Photographic Toning preset applied. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
The photo with Cyanotype applied.

The second half of the Photographic Toning presets, from Sepia-Selenium 1 down to Cobalt-Iron 3 at the bottom of the list, are split-toning gradients that apply one tone to the lighter areas of the photo and a different tone to the darker areas. As with the tinting presets, all we need to do is click on the one we want from the list and Photoshop will instantly apply it to the image. I’ll choose the Sepia-Cyan preset:

Selecting the Sepia-Cyan Photographic Toning preset from the Gradient Picker. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Selecting the Sepia-Cyan split-toning preset.

And here we can see the effect, with the lighter areas toned with sepia and the darker areas with cyan:

The photo with the Sepia-Cyan Photographic Toning preset applied. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
With split-toning presets, the darker and lighter areas of the image each have different tones applied.

For a stronger effect, I’ll try Gold-Selenium 2:

Selecting the Gold-Selenium 2 Photographic Toning preset from the Gradient Picker. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Choosing the Gold-Selenium 2 gradient.

And now we have a gold tone applied to the lighter areas and selenium to the darker areas:

The photo with the Gold-Selenium 2 Photographic Toning preset applied. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
The result of the Gold-Selenium 2 preset.

And as one last example, I’ll choose the Copper-Sepia preset:

Selecting the Copper-Sepia Photographic Toning preset from the Gradient Picker. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Selecting the Copper-Sepia preset.

And here, we get another interesting look for the image. In total, there’s 38 different Photographic Toning presets to choose from in Photoshop CS6 (19 tinting presets and 19 split-toning presets) so be sure to try them all out on your own:

The photo with the Copper-Sepia Photographic Toning preset applied. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
The Copper-Sepia split-toning effect.

Restoring The Default Gradients

If, at some point, you need to switch out of the Photographic Toning presets and back to the original default gradients for the Gradient Map adjustment, just click again on the gear icon in the top right corner of the Gradient Picker:

Clicking the gear icon in the top right corner of the Gradient Picker. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Clicking the gear icon.

Then, when the menu appears, simply choose Reset Gradients from the list:

Choosing Reset Gradients from the Gradient Picker menu. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Choosing the Reset Gradients option.

Photoshop will ask if you want to completely replace the current gradients with the default set. Click OK to say yes, and the default gradients will once again become available and ready to use:

Replacing the current gradients with the default set. Image © 2012 Photoshop Essentials.com
Click OK to replace the current gradients with the originals.

And there we have it! That’s how to load and use the new Photographic Toning presets to quickly apply tinting and split-toning effects to your images with Photoshop CS6! Check out our Photo Retouching section for more great image retouching and editing tutorials, or see below for tutorials you may be interested in!

Download our tutorials as print-ready PDFs! Learning Photoshop has never been easier!

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