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Using gradient masks to improve large areas of your photo

From: Photoshop for Photographers: Lighting Effects

Video: Using gradient masks to improve large areas of your photo

In this movie, we are going to have a little bit of fun.

Using gradient masks to improve large areas of your photo

In this movie, we are going to have a little bit of fun. And here we're going to look at how we can improve the lighting and the color in this photograph, by working with adjustment layers, masks, and gradients. One of the things that I want to do with this picture is, I want to brighten up the foreground here. I want to brighten up the wave and also bring out the green color that we have in that area. I also want to add a little bit more blue in this background color as well. Well to do that, we'll be creating two different curves adjustments. I'll be looking at how we can apply a gradient mask to each of these adjustments.

Let's begin by working on this area here. We'll go ahead and click on our adjustment layer icon for curves. What I want to do first, you just click and drag this up in order to add a little bit of a brightening effect to the overall photograph. Then, I'm going to pay close attention to the color. And here, I'm going to go down to my different channels, starting with the Red/Cyan channel. And I'm going to click and drag down to add a little bit more cyan to that area of the picture. Then we'll go to the Green or the green-magenta channels, I like to think of it, and drag up to add a little bit more green.

Alright. Well, if we click on the eye icon, you can see we've affected the overall image, adding a little bit of this color tint that we have here and also this brightening effect. Well, I don't want this to affect the entire photograph. So for a moment, I'm going to close or tuck away the Properties panel there. Then, I'm going to grab or reach for the Gradient Tool. When you select the Gradient Tool, it will build a gradient based on your foreground, and your background colors. You can see that up here in the options bar.

If I click on the Toggle switch, notice how it gives me a black and white option here, and I can change the orientation of this. And you'll see that flip up top here, in the options bar. Well, it doesn't really matter which way you have, but just for demo purposes, let's go ahead and start with white. So we're going white to black. By starting with white, what we can then do, is click in this area, and then drag up near the top, and then let go. So that we now have an adjustment which is primarily affecting the lower portion of the image.

Here you can see the before and after as I click this on and off. Now, if you click and drag a short distance, you'll see there will be a really harsh transition. If you click and drag a long distance it will create a smoother or a softer transition area. So you may need to click and drag a few times, because you can also experiment a little bit with the angle, until you get it just right. So that you have this brightening effect being applied to the subject here, and primarily just illuminating the foreground of the image and adding a bit more of a green tint to that part of the photograph.

Alright, well we have corrected and enhanced that area of the image. Now let's work on the background. To work on that area, we'll do something very similar. We'll click on our adjustment layer icon. Here we're going to go ahead and just darken this, so I'll click and drag this down a little bit. And then, I'm going to go into my different channels, beginning with the Blue channel. We'll click into the Blue channel, go ahead and select that. And then drag that one up a little bit. That will add some nice blue in that area. Of course, this is currently affecting everything, right? Which isn't very good.

So once again, with the Gradient Tool, we will create a gradient mask which will limit how this is affecting the photograph. Because we have white as our foreground color, we want to start to click in the area where we want the effect to take place, up here. And then we'll drag and then let go, where we want it to stop. In this case, again, you can see how we have this sort of fun adjustment, which is affecting the top portion of the image and it isn't affecting the lower portion. And so here we are able to, really quickly, change the overall characteristics and the lighting and the color in this photograph, by creating what's called a gradient mask.

And you can use gradient mask in order to make corrections or enhancements in all sorts of different types of photographs. Now before we wrap up our conversation with this photograph, I do want to highlight one thing. I want to show you one way that you can preview your mask. Here, if you hold down the Option key on a Mac, Alt on Windows, you can then click on the mask, and it will show you a black and white version of that mask. Notice that as I click and drag to create the gradient, a short distance, I have a short transition, or a long distance, and I have a bigger transition.

Well sometimes you may have a particular gradient like this. You may realize that you need it to be a little bit softer. One way to do that is to double-click the mask, to open up the Mask tab here in the Properties panel and then to increase the Feather. Notice that as I increase the Feather, what it's doing is its giving me a larger transition area. So, I have pure white and then grey, and then all the way down to black. In this way, sometimes it can help you just to soften out the transition, if you need to do so.

Alright. Well let's Option or Alt+Click on the mask icon. Option+Click on a Mac, Alt+Click on Windows, then let's use the Feather slider, and you can see how we can have that change here. And create a little bit of a softer transition, so that, that looks a bit better. Well, there you have it. A few techniques that you can use which will help you to improve the light and color in your photographs. Which all revolve around working with an adjustment layer in a mask and then building a custom gradient mask, as you can see in this photograph, with our before and then our after.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop for Photographers: Lighting Effects
Photoshop for Photographers: Lighting Effects

45 video lessons · 7207 viewers

Chris Orwig

Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 35s
    1. Welcome
    2. Using the exercise files
  2. 33m 54s
    1. Using the Basic panel to change the lighting
      5m 28s
    2. Creating a more expressive photograph with Camera Raw
      4m 24s
    3. Correcting under- and overexposure
      5m 21s
    4. Improving the color of light on a group of photos
      5m 6s
    5. Enhancing the quality and color of light
      4m 31s
    6. Using the Radial filter to improve light in certain areas
      4m 4s
    7. Improving larger areas with the Gradient tool
      5m 0s
  3. 21m 59s
    1. Changing the quantity and quality of light with adjustments
      7m 2s
    2. Using multiple adjustment to improve light and color
      4m 7s
    3. Using the Targeted Adjustment tool in Curves
      1m 58s
    4. Improving the color of light
      3m 19s
    5. Using the Shadows and Highlights controls
      5m 33s
  4. 40m 57s
    1. Painting in brightness with curves and masking
      5m 36s
    2. Fine-tuning the mask with the Density and Feather controls
      7m 39s
    3. Adding light with an elliptical selection, a mask, and an adjustment layer
      3m 56s
    4. Darkening the sky with Quick Select and Curves
      6m 33s
    5. Using gradient masks to improve large areas of your photo
      5m 40s
    6. Correcting exposure with a gradient mask
      2m 37s
    7. Improving a portrait with curves and masks
      4m 12s
    8. Speeding up your workflow by using a mask on two layers
      4m 44s
  5. 31m 28s
    1. Increasing visual interest with Soft Light blending
      3m 6s
    2. Soft Light blending: Recovering detail
      4m 0s
    3. Fine-tuning Soft Light blending with advanced Curves adjustments
      4m 55s
    4. Using Screen blending to fix underexposure
      3m 0s
    5. Brightening with blending modes and masking
      3m 49s
    6. Using Multiply blending to fix overexposure
      5m 32s
    7. Combining techniques to achieve the best results
      3m 37s
    8. Changing brightness with Luminosity blending
      3m 29s
  6. 42m 54s
    1. Working with the Burn and Dodge tools
      7m 54s
    2. Brightening by painting on a new layer
      4m 52s
    3. Darkening by painting on a new layer
      5m 8s
    4. Using a Solid Color adjustment layer to burn and dodge
      6m 46s
    5. Improving a portrait by brightening shadows
      5m 5s
    6. Burning and dodging by painting with color
      7m 19s
    7. Darkening the background and fine-tuning the color in Photoshop
      5m 50s
  7. 41m 48s
    1. Introducing Lighting Effects
      8m 7s
    2. Working with Smart Objects
      5m 7s
    3. Adding light and color
      3m 40s
    4. Using multiple lights with one photograph
      5m 52s
    5. Adding light and multiple colors for a creative effect
      5m 42s
    6. Creating an edgy, illuminated look
      5m 32s
    7. Using Lighting Effects to create a surreal effect
      7m 48s
  8. 36s
    1. Next steps

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