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A Gradient Lesson

Friday, November 10th, 2006 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

A Gradient Lesson

At some point during all of your Photoshop adventures, I’m sure you all have wondered at least a little about the gradient tool. What really do you use the gradient tool for? All it seems to do is cover your images with different colors. Well, today is your day! We are going to go over what you can really use this gradient tool for, in a productive manner. For this purpose, I am going to use the following picture. In this specific example, I am going to demonstrate how I used the gradient effect to shade the clouds and the water in the picture below.

In this picture, we can use the gradient tool to give a different shade to the water, as well as, the clouds. I am going to make two different layers with the gradients on them. One at the bottom for the water shading and one for the sky.

To start with, let’s choose a gradient. For this picture here, I have chosen a liner gradient, but you can pick whatever you would like.

The second step is to choose a color. The gradient that I have chosen gives a foreground color to a transparent effect. That is, from the color you chose to transparent. Create a new layer and drag the gradient from the top to the mid area of the image. The color of the gradient should overlap your image. Does it look a little foggy? Well, worry not! In this example, I created another layer and moved the gradient from the bottom up to the midpoint of the image. Yes, you guessed it right. It’s meant to shade the water. The two gradients should now cover the top and the bottom of your image. Let’s go ahead and merge the two layers on which you have the top and bottom gradients. To merge, go to Layer, Merge Down or press Ctrl + E.

Now, both the gradients should be on the same layer. The last step involves changing the blending mode of the layer to multiply. It’s pretty simple. In the Layers palette, click on the Blending Mode option and select Multiply.

Does it look better now or what? Similarly, you can do two other things here. One, experiment by changing the color of your gradient and second, try out different layer blending modes to see what effect they give you. This is what I eventually ended up with:

As you can see, this little trick works really well on outdoor pictures, especially when there’s a little bit of the sky in the picture too. Not only has it added a nice dusky effect, it has made the image a lot sharper. This can be used to make all those sunset pictures even prettier than they are in their natural form. Likewise for all those big city skyline pictures that everyone loves to take. Give it a spin!

~ Yogesh Bakshi

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