Zone System Gradient Photoshop Panel

Working with black and white images requires us to move or remap tones within an image to suit our artistic vision. Unlike colour images, when we are editing grey scale images, we need to be aware of the tonal transitions which occur throughout the entire tonal range of the photograph.

We can manipulate or remap these tones with a variety of tools inside Photoshop, such as curves, levels, dodge and burn. There is  no rule which says, you must use this particular tool to reach your goal. Having said that, it is important to understand what effect the tools which you choose can play on the image.

Zone System Gradient Panel

Digital Zone System Photoshop Gradient Photoshop PanelFor those who are serious about their black and white editing will probably have heard of the Zone System and how the Zone System can contribute towards producing good black and white photographs.

Although the Zone System was primarily designed for analog film, there is no reason why certain aspects of can cannot be used in the digital world. Some time ago, I wrote a small eBook titled “In The Zone” which demonstrates how the Zone System can be put to use with a digital camera.

Putting the Zone System into practice during the editing stage can also be beneficial as it allows you to essentially remap tones to where you want them to go either globally or selectively through masking.

The Zone Gradient is an extension panel which is designed to be used as a visual reference as it shows both the Lightness values and also the corresponding zones for a particular shade of grey. The panel has been designed to work across the three main working colour spaces, sRGB, Adobe RGB 1998 and ProPhoto RGB.

When the Zone Gradient panel is used used in conjunction with the Photoshop Info Panel, we can very quickly place anchor points anywhere on the image and then see the values of the tones beneath the curser.

With this information, we can then use the Zone Gradient panel to visually inform us of what particular zone the anchor point falls into.

By using a curves adjustment layer for example, we can manipulate or effectively, remap that tone to any zone f our choice. As we are working in a linear fashion, all other adjacent tones are also going to get remapped but we can easily overcome that by masking out the curves adjustment and then painting back in the effect with a soft white brush.

I use this on a daily basis and find it to be a handy addition to my workflow.
The Zone Gradient Panel is compatible with Photoshop CC and above for both Windows and Mac operating systems.

Digital Zone System Gradient Photoshop Panel