Gradient maps for Anime Transitions!

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1. Introduction.

Hello, in this tutorial I will be going over a few common ways to use gradient maps ending with my personal favourite, animated transitions! If you're already somewhat familiar with gradient maps you can skip to section 5 for the animation part.

A gradient map is a tool that changes the colours on an image based on brightness. The bar highlighted in red signifies the gradient map that is applied to the ball next to it. By clicking the blue gradient map preset below we can change the colour of the ball at the click of a button.

You can shift around the individual nodes left and right on the gradient map to change their range of influence.

To add a node click anywhere on the bar, to remove one drag it out of the gradient map interface.

To change the colour of a node select it then click the rectangle and it will open the colour picker.

2. Gradient Maps as correction layers.

There are two methods of applying gradient maps to a layer. One merges directly to the layer as it is applied as a tonal correction, the other is created as a gradient map layer that can be adjusted later on.

With your desired layer selected click Edit-> Tonal correction -> Gradient map, this make a gradient map that directly changes said layer and adds no extra layers.

However if you instead do Layer -> New correction layer -> Gradient map, you will end up with the same visual result except the gradient map is an extra layer. You can double click the gradient map layer in the layer tab to re-open its settings edit its effect on the fly.

3. Controlling the area of effect.

There are two ways to define the area that will be affected by the gradient map layer.

The simpler way is by the 'Clip To Layer Below' function, so it only applies the gradient to the layer directly below it. This can be done by selecting the gradient map layer and pressing 'Clip To Layer Below'. Examples without and then with this enabled can be seen below. With the clipping enabled the gradient map no longer affects the entire canvas.

The other way is to select an area with the selection tool, and while the selection is active create the gradient map correction layer. This will create a 'mask' based on your selection allowing the gradient map to only affect the masked area.

The mask can be seen attached to the gradient map layer in the 'Layer' tab

4. Colouring a Candle.

Using the aforementioned techniques we can now select areas and assign colours based on the brightness. I used two gradient maps to colourise the candle on the left into the one on the right.

The candle and background have slightly different gradient maps assigned to each to reach desired colour ranges. Using 'Clip To Layer Below' allows a unique gradient map that only affects the candle.

5. Animated Colour Transition using a Gradient Map.

Using a gradient map on the entire animation folder allows me to change the colour of the lines, highlights and shadows all from one correction layer. This is is quick and avoids wasting time changing each respective layer individually.

Gradient map is superior to using blending modes as it can very specifically target multiple elements of the image at the same time, covering the entire value range.

Using the one gradient map at the top layer I can control the colour of all the folders below from one place.
Seeing how many layers there are it would be a pain to change them all one by one...

The setup is quite simple on the timeline.

1. For the gradient map layer enable keyframes.
2. Set the opacity of the first frame to 0% and the last frame to 100%

This will make the gradient map fade in allowing for a smooth transition.

6. Conclusion.

Gradient Maps are a versatile tool useful for both the earlier experimental stages of a digital piece as well as for colour adjustments and style changes later on in the workflow. Applicable to almost any style, it's really up to you how you use this tool to benefit your process!

Thanks for reading, Feedback is appreciated and if anything is unclear feel free to comment.

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