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At times, when applying a targeted adjustment, you may find that you want to have that adjustment transition through the image. Here, for example, I'd like to add a darkening effect to this image, but I'd like that effect to be stronger at the bottom of the image than at the top, so that it sort of leads you into the photo. For that I'll use a gradient in conjunction with a layer mask for my adjustment. I'll start off by adding the adjustment, so at the bottom of the layers panel I'll click on the Add Adjustment Layer button and in this case I'll just use a levels adjustments in order to apply that darkening effect.
So, I'll choose Levels from the pop up and then on the Properties panel, I'll shift the slider for the mid-tone value over toward the right. I'll make the effect exaggerated just so we can get a better sense of exactly what's going on when I apply the final effect. Now that I have that adjustment applied, I'm ready to add the gradient layer mask. Of course, I already have a layer mask, it's filled with white and so the entire adjustment is being revealed. In other words I can see the adjustment throughout every pixel in this image. So I'll go ahead and choose my Gradient tool from the tool box. And then up on the Options bar, I'll click the popup for the gradient presets. And I'm going to choose the first gradient.
It looks like a white to black gradient. It's actually the foreground color to background color gradient. It's just that my foreground color It happens to be set to white, at the moment, and my background color is set to black. I'll go ahead, and choose that preset, and then close the pop-up, and next I'll make sure that my style for the gradient is set to linear, that's the first of the five options. I just want a normal gradient to transition from one side of the image to the other. I'll also make sure the blend mode is set to normal and that the opacity is set to 100%.
Now I'm ready to create the gradient and of course I want that gradient to appear on my layer mask. So I'll click on the thumbnail for that layer mask just to make sure that the layer mask itself is active so that I'm adding the gradient onto the layer mask, not for example onto my background image layer. And now I'm ready to draw the gradient in the image and to do that, all I need to do is click and drag. My colors are set to white and black so I'll be painting a white to black gradient. You could press the letter D on the keyboard to make sure those colors are set to their default values and you can also switch the foreground and background colors by pressing the letter X. So I want the adjustment to affect the bottom of the image and then taper off. And that means I want the bottom of the layer mask to be white and the top of the layer mask to be black and I want a nice smooth transition in between. So I'll start at the bottom of the image and click and then drag upward. The point where I initially click is the point where the transition will start. In other words, from the bottom of the image up to the point where I initially clicked will be filled with white on the layer mask so the adjustment will be completely effective in that area.
The point where I release the mouse is the end of the transition. So everything above that point will be black, and in between we'll have a smooth transition from white to black. You can see on the layers panel that my gradient, sure enough, goes from white at the bottom to black at the top with a transition in between. The direction I drag determines the direction of that transition. And the distance that I drag determines the distance of the transition. So I can have a very smooth transition, or a very tight transition, a very short transition.
In this case, I want a relatively smooth transition and I want it to go from bottom to top, although not all the way at the bottom and top of the image, just the portion in the middle. So I think something like that works pretty nicely. And of course now that I've gotten that gradient in place, I can go back to my adjustment, and then fine tune the effect. I had darkened the image more than I really wanted to. I just wanted a little bit of a subtle darkening of that foreground, so that it leads you in a little bit to the photo. So, by utilizing a gradient in conjunction with the layer mask for my adjustment layer I'm able to create an adjustment that transitions from one portion of the image into the other, fading off very smoothly in between.
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