Photoshop’s Gradient tool will not be about many users’ lists of go-to modifying choices. However it ought to be. In combination with layer masks, the Gradient tool lets we create natural-looking composite pictures. In this guide I’ll explain to you how to combine a compelling foreground element with an interesting sky to create a seamless, believable land image.
In an future post we’ll explore ways to use the Gradient tool to change layer mask-enabled changes to brightness, comparison plus toning. But initial points initially. Below, I’ll explain to you how to create 2 separate pictures blend seamlessly into 1.
When 2 is much better than one
If the instinct is to resist the entire idea of composite imagery considering it feels like ‘cheating’, you really need to understand which the idea of combining photos together has a lengthy photographic custom. Swedish photographer Oscar Gustave Rejlander pioneered the photomontage the.k.a. ‘combination printing’ inside the 1850s! Additionally to solving the issue of capturing both sky plus foreground found on the low-latitude, blue-insensitive emulsions of your day, numerous 19th century masters appreciated which combination printing is a fantastic method for photographic artists to understand their individual vision, merely because painters do.
Here our goal is to seamlessly blend the 2 pictures under into a the single image shown at the begin of the post. Because we’re combining 2 pictures, you are thinking why I don’t simply utilize the Quick Selection tool to cut the sky from 1 image plus paste it over the existing sky inside the alternative image.
The issue is the fact that masking or silhouetting the horizon line is a lot harder than you might think. The roofline won’t be a issue, as well as the soft edges of the mountains at the horizon are do-able, however those tree limbs plus leaves is a source of heartbreak! Chances are, even following hours of thoughtful function utilizing Channels, Image Calculations or the Pen tools, anything can nevertheless look ‘funny’ about those trees.
So let’s only skip all which. With the Gradient tool inside a layer mask is fun, efficient, plus right of all, fast. Needless to say, there are several projects which require a complex silhouette, nevertheless whenever you’re blending items like sky plus clouds, utilizing a gradient is not just simpler, however produces greater results.
Layer masks plus gradients explained
The concept of layer masks is difficult to grasp, even for experienced Photoshop consumers. So before you go any further, here’s a wise, easy method to consider them. Masks have just 1 job: they conceal stuff. A mask about a pixel layer makes it potential to conceal components of which layer without destroying any pixels. By utilizing masks rather of the Eraser or History brushes, you are able to constantly change the notice regarding any edits considering you’re not deleting pixels, just changing their awareness. Better nevertheless, you are able to restore the awareness of any hidden goods even following the image file has been saved, shut, plus reopened.
When a layer mask is white, it reveals the layer to that it is actually connected. A black layer mask does really the opposite. It hides the layer to that it’s connected. However naturally, a mask refuses to need to be filled completely with black or white. And that’s where gradients come inside.
When creating a gradient inside a layer mask, the thing to keep in mind is the fact that a black-to-white gradient signifies ‘hidden-to-revealed’ or ‘invisible-to-visible’. A white-to-black gradient signifies precisely the opposite: ‘revealed-to-hidden’ or ‘visible-to-invisible’.
Gradient tool options
When you choose the Gradient tool there are 2 choices you ought to set: the gradient’s hues as well as its form.
In this information we’ll be utilizing the Black, White way to fill inside the layer mask. These are the hues you wish To employ to conceal plus present components of the layer. The Black, White choice is, by standard the 3rd item inside the Gradient flyout menu shown above. Note which in the event you set Photoshop’s foreground/background swatches to their defaults, (keyboard shortcut: D), then selecting the Foreground to Background choice inside the Gradient flyout menu will provide the same impact.
You moreover wish To ensure to choose a Linear Gradient inside the choices bar. In a followup post about gradient masking, I’ll be utilizing both the Radial plus Reflected Gradients. (If anybody may tell me a useful employ for the Angle or Diamond Gradients, I’d love to hear from we.)
I’ll be honest, it takes a small practice to receive the hang of utilizing the Gradient tool as well as its choices, yet the idea is very straightforward. The Gradient tool (unlike a Gradient Fill or Gradient Map Adjustment Layer) is synonymous to the Brush tool. As with brushes, the color black inside a mask hides stuff; white makes it noticeable. And because I’ll demonstrate later, gray partially hides a layer.
Here’s where gradients vary though. We create 1 by click-dragging. A longer click+drag results inside a more slow transition, a smaller click-drag creates a more abrupt transition. To experiment with all the Gradient tool I recommend creating a modern, empty canvas (File>New) plus attracting different gradients found on the white Background layer. It’s a awesome method to create sense of the quite helpful tool.
For this guide I’ve offered moderate-resolution JPEGs of both pictures we see under thus to follow along every step of the method. Simply right-click about every to conserve it to a computer. Throughout the guide I’ll refer to the image with all the foreground homestead because Photo 1 as well as the image of the dramatic clouds because Photo 2.
These JPEGs are produced from Raw files that I edited thus the total comparison looked advantageous as well as the color of the 2 skies was suitable. You’ll wish synonymous flexibility whenever we try this technique about your pictures too, thus I very suggest utilizing Raw files because the basis for any composite function.
Bring the 2 pictures together because levels inside a single file, with Photo 1 found on the bottom plus Photo 2 about top. An convenient method to do this might be to open both pictures inside Photoshop inside adjacent windows. Select the Move tool plus, when carrying the Shift key, click-drag Photo 2 onto Photo 1. Tip: Holding the Shift key till once you release the mouse can center align the image you’re dragging.
Reduce the layer opacity of Photo 2 (here I selected 74%). Utilize the Move tool to change Photo 2 up plus right down to see how the 2 pictures look inside relationship to every different. When the alignment looks wise (no mountains inside the sky, as well as the clouds functioning together nicely), restore the opacity of the Photo 2 layer back to 100%.
With the Photo 2 layer chosen, add a layer mask into it by going to Layer>LayerMask>Reveal All. The resulting layer mask is filled with white.
If you’ve utilized brushes inside masks before, utilizing the Gradient tool follows the same idea. First, choose the Gradient tool (keyboard shortcut: G) plus inside the Control panel set it to the Black, White choice (see below). If you’ve skipped the initially page of the post plus jumped directly to Step 1, make certain you’ve read my earlier explanation of the Gradient tool.
With the Photo 2 layer active (meaning it’s highlighted inside blue), click-drag inside the canvas, from above the apartment towards the best of the image. This may create a black-to-white gradient inside the mask. Because inside a mask, black conceals plus white reveals, the bottom of Photo 2 is hidden as well as the top may stay noticeable.
I used the gradient many occasions, at somewhat different angles, dragging a bit further or perhaps a bit less till I created really the appropriate gradient inside the Mask. This really is anything you’ll like to experiment with oneself over many tries. Keep in your mind, still, which gradients about a single layer are not cumulative. Drawing a new gradient instantly replaces the past 1.
The awesome thing regarding utilizing the Gradient tool is the fact that the transition is smooth plus progressive. Why? Because the gradient is not just applying black plus white regions to the layer mask. It additionally introduces shades of gray in-between those to feather the blend. Gray values partially conceal or present regions, permitting for a all-natural, subtle transition amongst the 2 levels.
Of course, I might have selected choices for this job, or brushes, however, a Linear Gradient is the most perfect tool to mask a more interesting sky onto a superb foreground. In fact, Linear plus Radial Gradients mimic the makeshift cardboard tools you utilized for burning & dodging inside conventional, chemical black-and-white darkrooms; they offer feathered, believable transitions – particularly efficient whenever utilized inside Masks.
And with merely 3 easy procedures you are able to create a seamless blend like we see under. Spend only a small time practicing with all the Gradient tool plus you’ll have a swiftly, convenient technique for creating composite pictures.
This is the initially of the two-part information thus remain tuned for Part 2. We’ll do the ‘darkroom’ function this pic demands utilizing the gradient tool with Adjustment Layers – plus explore a few of the Gradient tool’s advanced attributes.
Jean Miele has been digitally modifying pictures for over 15 years. A functioning commercial photographer plus very popular Photoshop teacher, his fine art pictures plus workshop schedule is enjoyed at jeanmiele.com. You are able to equally follow him about Facebook.
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