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Create a Stunning Sunset with Photoshop

Sunday, April 21st, 2013 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography, Photo Editing

Sunsets may be beautiful in real-life, but catching that image can be difficult. Here’s how to give mother nature a little help. This tutorial will explain how to turn a plain, dull sunset into a bright, color-rich sunset with dramatic pink and orange hues, using the following effects: 

  • Adjustment layers
  • Colour adjustments
  • Brush Tool
  • Curves 

Here is a copy of the original photo we will be working with:


Here is a copy of what it will look like when we have finished:


1. Open the original image in Photoshop and click on “Create new fill or adjustment layer” icon in the Layers pallet. 

2. Now click on Solid Color.

3. Apply a Solid Color with Hex Value #f30a88.

4. Change the Blend Mode to Multiply.

5. Now change the Opacity to 40% to avoid excessive saturation. 

Note: you’ll see now that the skyline acquires a nice pink/purple color blend. It should look something like this:


6. We now need to remove the pink from below the shoreline. To do this, we are going to use the Gradient Tool so as to avoid creating a harsh contrast between the end of the pink skyline and the beginning of the shoreline.

Select the Gradient tool:


And choose the following settings for the Gradient Tool:

Left Color = Black  Right Color = Black
Left Opacity = 100% Right Opacity = 0%


7. Now select the Layer Mask for your Color Fill layer and draw gradient line starting FROM the shoreline TO just above the building.

Note: the line should start from the bottom of the yellow line and end on the tip of the yellow arrow.

8. Now we need to remove the pink that has covered the restaurant to the left of the picture. To do this, we’ll use the Brush Tool (the hardness of the Brush Tool should be set to 0%) over the restaurant to remove the pink Color Fill.

Note: see the Brush size in the example below.

9. Next, add a new Adjustment Layer and select Curves.

10. Blend the curve line down to make the image darker and the skyline will light up.

11. Now use the same Gradient Tool that was used in steps 6 + 7 and draw the same line. This will take the Curve effect OFF the water and restaurant. This time draw the line from the bottom of the lighthouse to the top of the lighthouse.

12. After that, use the Brush Tool again to remove the Curve from the restaurant (see step 8).

13. Now we’re going to add some blue back into the skyline. We will do this by removing some of the color from the original blue areas of the photo using a Layer Mask. Select the Brush Tool and change the Opacity to 15% and set Width Size so that the Brush can fit inside the blue streaks in the sky (see below).

14. Select the layer mask of the pink Color Fill layer and begin drawing over the blue streaks in the sky.

Note: run over the areas closer to the border a few times with the Brush Tool to give the streaks a richer blue hue, creating a gradient effect.

15. Now let’s add some orange to the bottom of the skyline to make it look like a real sunset. Create a new Color Fill adjustment layer: set the color to #fcff00 and decrease the layer Opacity to 50%.

16. Using the Gradient Tool on the Layer Mask of the new Color Fill layer, draw a line from just below the horizon, to about 1/4 up. Then draw another Gradient line from about half-way down from the top of the picture, to the horizon (as shown below). This will leave the yellow Color Fill only on the bottom part of the sky.


17. Now use the paint Brush tool again, and with an Opacity of 100% draw over the restaurant to the left again (as in steps 6+7). Enjoy your stunning sunset.

TIP: Play with the Curve layer you created in step 9 (bending the line up and down) and adjust the color of your sunset to reach the desired effect. 

~ Sam

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4 Responses to “Create a Stunning Sunset with Photoshop”

  1. hari says:

    i was really need it.. can u please give us some more tip of photoshop

  2. Connie says:

    Loved the step by step – so many times I have tried to do this type of editing and it never came out right…….I will REALLY follow these instructions the next time I have a sunset to edit!!!

  3. samt says:

    Excellent, glad the tutorial was helpful. If you have any ideas for a Photoshop tutorial let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

  4. Josh says:

    nice tutorial. Just one thing though. The water is still the same and in reality it would reflect some of the color also. Good job though.

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