Using the Hidden Color Grading Presets in Photoshop
Learn where to find Photoshop's hidden color grading presets, how to use them to instantly add great looking color effects to your images, and how to combine the color grading presets with Photoshop's blend modes for the best results!
In this tutorial, I show you how to quickly add color effects to your image using the hidden color grading presets in Photoshop. In a previous lesson, I showed you how to color grade images using Gradient Maps, and I covered everything you need to know to create your own custom color effects. But Photoshop also includes color grading presets, or what Adobe calls Photographic Toning presets. And in this lesson, I show you how to use them.
The Photographic Toning presets are a set of gradients. And they’ve been included with Photoshop’s other gradients since CS6. But in Photoshop 2020, Adobe added a ton of new gradients. And to make room, all of the classic gradients, including the Photographic Toning presets, were moved to a hidden location. So in this tutorial, I show you where to find the presets in the latest versions of Photoshop and how to use them to add great looking color effects with a single click. I also show you how to combine the presets with Photoshop's blend modes for the best results.
If you find these presets useful, be sure to check out my Color Grading Images with Gradient Maps tutorial to learn how to create your own custom effects.
To follow along, you’ll need Photoshop 2020 or later. I'm using Photoshop 2022.
Let's get started!
Step 1: Open your image
You can follow along with your own image. I’ll use this image from Adobe Stock.
Step 2: Open the Gradients panel
The Photographic Toning presets were designed to be used with a Gradient Map. But before adding a Gradient Map, we first need to load the Photographic Toning presets. And these days, we load them from the Gradients panel.
You'll find the Gradients panel grouped in with the Color, Swatches and Patterns panels. Click on its tab to open it.
If you’re not seeing the Gradients panel, go up to the Window menu in the Menu Bar and choose Gradients. But if a checkmark appears next to its name, it means that the panel is already open and selecting it from the Window menu will close it.
Step 3: Load the Legacy Gradients group
The Gradients panel holds the new gradients that were added back in Photoshop 2020, all divided into groups. But the older gradients, including the Photographic Toning presets, need to be loaded separately.
To load them, click the Gradients panel menu icon:
And choose Legacy Gradients.
Then scroll to the bottom of the gradients and a new
Legacy Gradients group will appear.
Viewing the Photographic Toning presets
Twirl the group open by clicking the arrow next to its folder icon.
And inside are all of Photoshop’s classic gradients, again divided into groups. And the group we're looking for is Photographic Toning.
Open the Photographic Toning group, and here we find all of the color grading presets.
Step 4: Add a Gradient Map adjustment layer
Since the Photographic Toning presets were designed to be used with a Gradient Map, we can’t simply select them from the Gradients panel. Instead, we first need to add a Gradient Map adjustment layer.
So in the Layers panel, click the New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom.
And choose Gradient Map from the list.
A Gradient Map adjustment layer appears above the image.
And by default, the Gradient Map converts the image to black and white. I cover why that is, and how Gradient Maps work, both in my Color Grading Images with Gradient Maps tutorial and in my Instant High Contrast Black and White tutorial.
Step 5: Open the Gradient Picker
The gradient that the Gradient Map is currently using appears in the preview bar in the Properties panel.
Currently the Gradient Map is using a black to white gradient. But we want to use our Photographic Toning presets. So open the Gradient Picker by clicking the small arrow to the right of the preview bar. Don’t click on the preview bar itself or you’ll open the larger Gradient Editor. We only need the Gradient Picker, so click the arrow.
Step 6: Open the Legacy Gradients group
In the Gradient Picker, you’ll find the same list of gradients that we saw in the Gradients panel. Scroll down to the bottom of the list to get to the Legacy Gradients group.
Step 7: Open the Photographic Toning group
Twirl the Legacy Gradients group open and scroll down to the Photographic Toning group.
Then twirl the Photographic Toning group open to once again view all the color grading presets inside it.
How to view the names of the presets
By default, the presets appear as thumbnails. But the problem with the thumbnails is that a lot of them look very similar, making it hard to tell what they do. So you may want to switch from the thumbnail view to a list of names. To do that, click the Gradient Picker's gear icon.
And choose Small List.
Step 8: Choose a gradient preset from the group
Scroll through the list to view all the presets you can choose from. Click and drag the bottom right corner of the Gradient Picker downward to expand it and view more presets at once.
Then click on any preset to see what it looks like with your image.
Most of the Photographic Toning presets are variations of blues, cyans, reds, oranges and browns, including sepia, since these colors tend to work well for color grading. Here I’ve selected the Sepia 1 preset.
But there are also some reddish tones, like copper. Here’s the result with the Copper 1 preset.
And some nice black and white effects, like the Selenium 2 preset.
How to scroll through the presets
An easy way to try all the presets out is to click on one to select it, and then use the Up and Down arrow keys on your keyboard to scroll through the list.
I’ll choose the Gold-Copper preset, mostly because it looks pretty bad at the moment, at least with this image. But up next, I’ll show you how to fix that by blending the preset's colors with your photo's original colors.
Once you’ve chosen a preset, close the Gradient Picker either by clicking outside it or by pressing Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) on your keyboard.
Step 9: Change the Gradient Map’s opacity
By default, the color grading presets completely replace the photo’s original colors. But that’s not usually what we want. Instead, we want to blend the gradient colors into the originals. And an easy way to do that is to lower the Gradient Map adjustment layer’s Opacity value in the Layers panel.
I'll lower the opacity from 100 percent down to 40 percent.
So now I’m mixing 40 percent of the gradient colors with 60 percent of the original colors.
For comparison, on the left is the Gradient Map at 100 percent opacity, and on the right is with the opacity lowered to 40 percent. And already, we see a big improvement.
Comparing the color grading with the original image
You can toggle the Gradient Map on and off by clicking its visibility icon to compare the original and color graded versions of the image.
On the left is the original image, and on the right with the color grading (again at 40 percent opacity).
Step 10: Change the Gradient Map’s blend mode
Another, and more powerful, way to blend the preset's colors with the original colors is by changing the Gradient Map’s blend mode. The Blend Mode option is directly across from the Opacity option in the Layers panel.
The default blend mode is Normal, which simply means there is no interaction between the Gradient Map adjustment layer and the image below it. But two blend modes to try that work great with color grading are Color and Soft Light.
The Color blend mode
The Color blend mode keeps the brightness values of the original image and blends only the colors from the gradient. This keeps the overall contrast between the two versions the same and helps to avoid any issues with color banding that appear when using the Normal blend mode.
On the left is with the Gradient Map’s blend mode set to Normal, and on the right is with Color. Both are using an opacity of 100 percent. Notice how the contrast improves with the Color blend mode, and that much of the banding seen with the Normal blend mode has disappeared.
The Soft Light blend mode
The other blend mode to try is Soft Light. And the advantage with Soft Light is that it not only blends the colors but also increases the overall contrast, making shadows darker and highlights brighter. This results in the color graded version having higher contrast than the original image.
On the left is the original image, and on the right is with the Gradient Map set to Soft Light.
And here's a comparison of all three blend modes, with Normal on the left, Color in the middle and Soft Light on the right. No matter which blend mode you choose, you can also combine it with the Opacity option that we looked at earlier to fade the Gradient Map adjustment layer and fine-tune the results:
Trying other Photographic Toning presets
Of course, you can always go back and try different Photographic Toning presets by returning to the Properties panel and clicking the arrow next to the preview bar to reopen the Gradient Picker.
Then choose a different preset from the list. Here’s what the Gold 2 preset looks like (using the Soft Light blend mode at 100 percent opacity).
And you can change the new preset’s blend mode and opacity value in the Layers panel, just as we did earlier. I'll leave the blend mode set to Soft Light, but I'll lower the opacity to 40 percent.
And there we have it! That's where to find and how to use the hidden Photographic Toning presets to color grade images in Photoshop!
Be sure to check out my Color Grading Images with Gradient Maps tutorial if you haven't already to learn much more about color grading. Or visit my Photoshop Basics or Photo Editing sections for more topics. And don't forget, all of my Photoshop tutorials are available to download as PDFs!