3 Favorite Tools in Photoshop

Hello my dear readers, in this article I will speak about three of my favorite tools in Photoshop. I will explain you why do I like them so much and give you different examples how to use them.

These favorite tools are:
  1. High Pass,
  2. Selective Color,
  3. Gradient Map.
You can do almost any color adjustment thanks to Selective Color and Gradient Map and thanks to High Pass you almost don´t need another sharpening or blur filters.

1. High Pass
Find High Pass: Menu > Filter > Other > High Pass...

There is really useful article on the Photo Tuts about the High Pass - "3 Fantastic Uses of Photoshop High Pass Filter".
You can use High Pass filter for:
  • sharpening,
  • softening,
  • increasing the contrast.
I don´t use the filter for increasing the contrast (I have different method for it which will be mentioned in this article too) but for sharpening and softening I don´t use anything else.

Let´s take a brief look on how the High Pass works. If you want to work with High Pass filter always start with duplicating the layer you want to sharpen/soften.

As you can see on the picture below there is only one parameter you need to set - Radius. If you want to make your picture sharper you set lower number, if you want softer look you set higher number.

High Pass

If you want to make your picture sharper it´s necessary to set Radius on the number where you will be able to see only decent edges of the image.
Below you can see the example how the lines should look like.

High Pass for sharpening

To blend the layer with "High Pass effect" you need to change the Blending Mode of that layer on Overlay.

If you want to make your picture softer looking you need to set the Radius on higher number to get the edges much more visible.
To get really softer look you need to invert the color of the layer! Otherwise you get over sharped picture. And you also need to change the Blending Mode on Overlay.

On the folowing picture you can see how the edges should look like for softening.

High Pass for softening

2. Selective Color
Find Selective Color: Menu > Image > Adjustments > Selective Color

I´ve already written article about Selective Color adjustment - "Beauty of Selective Color" so I won´t write about it much. I just say that I always start changing colors from Black to Red (not otherwise) because the bottom three colors make the biggest change on your picture.

I´d like to show you few pictures with and without Selective Color adjustment to show you the power of this tool.

3. Gradient Map
Find Gradient Map: Menu > Image > Adjustments > Gradient Map

Gradient Map is another great adjustment which you can use for:
  • increasing contrast,
  • changing color tones.
Increasing contrast
In almost every photo I edit  I start with using Gradient Map for increasing the contrast. You can do it very easily by adding new adjustment layer Gradient Map on the top of the layers, choosing Black, White gradient and changing the Blending Mode of this adjustment layer on Luminosity.

Contrast made this way looks really natural. You definitely should try it.

Changing color tones
Another way how you can use Gradient Map is for changing color tones. Let me show you how I use it on some example.

Below you can see the image without the Gradient Map.

Image without the Gradient Map

Now I add new adjustment layer Gradient Map and set the colors as shown below.

Gradient Map setting

To get nice colors it´s necessary to change the Blending Mode. For this kind of adjustment I usually use Screen or Soft Light. In this case I chose Screen.

Sometimes it´s necessary to lower the opacity because the adjustment is too strong.

Picture with Gradient Map

And what are yours favorite tools in Photoshop?
Let me know in comments!