Gradient Maps are used to replace or add to the tones of an image with a simplified range of colours. These are then blended together using a gradient. To keep things simple I’m only using two colours in the example below but you could expand this principle to get as creative & complex as you wish.
Load your photo into Affinity Photo and go to Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Gradient Map Adjustment. The image will initially go all 1970’s “Dr. Who” in look! However, we’re not going to leave it like this (unless of course this is exactly the type of thing you were going for!) As we only want to deal with two colours click on the middle green dot & press the “Delete” key. The highlights are currently blue & the shadows are red so let’s switch this around by clicking “Reverse”.
Now it’s merely a case of choosing your colours. I wanted more of a pink than a red for the highlights. So click on the red dot & then the red coloured rectangle. From here I select “HSL Color Wheel” to choose my new colour but if you already have a particular one written down you could use the “RGB Sliders” menu. Now change the Blend Mode to “Soft Light” to soften the effects a little. Repeat this step to change the blue point as well if desired.
This could be all you require but I still found the change a little too extreme so I reduced the “Opacity” slider down to 32%.
When printing photographs you can often find the resulting colours are not as vibrant as the ones seen on the monitor or, the image appears darker. This process will hopefully help to rectify this issue.
Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Soft Proof Adjustment
Pick the printer & type of paper you are printing on (in my case “Canon MG5200 series GL2/SG2” this is for glossy paper). The “Rendering Intent” box should read “Absolute Colourimetric” by default but it doesn’t hurt to check. You can now make adjustments to the image to try to bring it back to it’s original state making sure you work below the “Soft Proof Adjustment” layer.
Once complete go back to the soft proofing layer & tick the “Gamut Check” box. You may now see parts of the image greyed out. These areas are outside the gamut range & will not be reproduced accurately by the printer. To remedy this, open a curves adjustment layer Layer>New Adjustment Layer>Curves Adjustment. Drag the bottom node up vertically until the majority of the grey disappears. You can add additional nodes to bring some of the punch back to the photo. In addition, add an “HSL Adjustment Layer” & work on the individual colours to eliminate any remaining grey spots if necessary. Untick the “Gamut Check” box once you’re finished. Don’t forget to also untick or delete the “Soft Proof Layer” before printing as it is an adjustment layer & does affect the image.
Layer>Merge Visible to create a flattened layer.
File>Print & go to “Properties” to open the printer dialogue box. Here you can set it to “Photo Printing”, set the paper size, print quality, type of paper etc. Next tick the “Colour/Intensity Manual Adjustment” box & under “Matching” set it to “None”. Now click OK.
Back to the Affinity print dialogue box & go to the bottom left corner. Click on “Colour Management”. “Colour Handling” should read “Performed by App” & the “Printer Profile” should be the same as you selected before ie. “Canon MG5200 GL2/SG2”.
Finally click “OK”.
Hopefully at the end of all this you should produce prints that more accurately represent what you see on the screen. If you’re still having problems try calibrating your monitor to D50 or D55 screen calibration preset as opposed to sRGB.
OK it’s time to get my head around sharpening once & for all! It’s something I naturally use at the end of editing every photo but I’ve never really understood what the three elements of “Unsharp Mask” did.
Radius. This controls how many pixels adjacent to the edges are sharpened (sharpening works by the software increasing the contrast along the edges of objects within the image). A small radius enhances smaller scale details eg. stray hairs, eyelashes etc. Usually a setting of 0.6 to 2.5 is used. Setting too high a radius can create unwanted halos around objects.
Factor. This affects the strength of the sharpening (how much darker & how much lighter the edges become).
Threshold. This controls how far apart adjacent tonal values have to be before they are considered an edge ie. before any action is taken. Low values should sharpen more because fewer areas are excluded. Therefore, for human faces for example, higher values should be selected whereas, inanimate objects such as still life images can take a lower value.
When using Affinity Photo always apply sharpening non destructively via the Live Unsharp Mask filter, Layer>New Live Filter Layer>Unsharp Mask Filter. By doing this not only can you switch this layer on & off to see what affect the sharpening has on your image but you can also come back to tweek your settings at a later date.
Using a small radius (eg. 0.5) & a large factor (eg. 3.5) will accentuate more of the finer details eg. the brickwork on a building. Using a large radius (4.0) & a smaller factor (1.0) accentuates the larger details & acts in a similar way to a clarity filter. For portraits or images of low contrast eg. skin, increase the Threshold slider gradually to prevent artefacts from being enhanced in these areas.