The Gradient Map is an extremely useful effect for stylizing images. With that said, you should always choose to use the Gradient Map adjustment layer instead of the Image Adjustment command.

What does the Gradient Map do? The name says it all; it takes a gradient and then maps it based on luminance values. The effect is particularly useful for colorizing backgrounds and textures. When used on photos, however, it can create some dynamic looks, especially when used with blending modes.

After Effects users have an extremely similar effect too; in AE, it's called Colorama. To see Gradient Maps in action, open the file Ch09_Gradient_Map.psd and turn on the individual gradient maps.

When Gradient Maps are used as adjustment layers, they can be masked and blended All of the effects shown used a single Gradient Map. There is no rendering time involved, and the original color data is preserved. (Photo by James Ball.)
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