How can I apply a limited palette to a photo, while still keeping the value variations within the original image?

  • have you tried a gradient map? That's what I'd recommend. More information on your problem (and a sample image) would be helpful – Ashlee Palka Dec 12 '17 at 22:31
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    Can you elaborate a little more? What program are you using? What is the image like? Can you add some screenshots? – Ovaryraptor Dec 12 '17 at 22:37

Let's talk about gradient maps

You haven't specified what software you're using, but let's assume you've got Photoshop.

Here's the image we'll be working with.

Ashlee Outside Gecko in Hawaii

Select your color palette

Here, I've chosen 4 colors that are fairly similar to one another, giving me a limited palette.

I like to lay my palette out in the order I think I want to apply it to my image. This step is not required. Just have your color values ready.

photo with color palette

Apply a gradient map

Click on gradient map (found in the Adjustments panel).

getting to gradient map

Input your colors as stops on the gradient.

color mapping

Adjust the sliders (and maybe reorder the colors) until it looks the way you want it to look. Then, you're done!

gradient map applied

Tip: If the color seems like it's too much, you can always lower the opacity of the gradient map layer or use some more adjustments to darken or lighten the overall image. (Try the Levels adjustment)

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