Photoshop Gradient Tool: Blending Images
1 Photoshop Gradient Tool: Blending Images
|This image was created from two separate photos, using Photoshop’s Gradient tool.|
Photoshop's Gradient tool may not be on most users' lists of go-to editing options. But it should be. In combination with layer masks, the Gradient tool lets you create natural-looking composite images. In this tutorial I'll show you how to combine a compelling foreground element with an interesting sky to create a seamless, believable landscape image.
In an upcoming article we'll explore how to use the Gradient tool to modify layer mask-enabled adjustments to brightness, contrast and toning. But first things first. Here, I'll show you how to make two separate images blend seamlessly into one.
When two is better than one
If your instinct is to resist the whole notion of composite imagery because it feels like 'cheating', you should know that the idea of combining pictures together has a long photographic tradition. Swedish photographer Oscar Gustave Rejlander pioneered the photomontage a.k.a. 'combination printing' in the 1850s! In addition to solving the problem of capturing both sky and foreground on the low-latitude, blue-insensitive emulsions of the day, many 19th century masters appreciated that combination printing is a wonderful way for photographic artists to realize their personal vision, just as painters do.
Here our goal is to seamlessly blend the two images below into a the single image shown at the start of the article. Since we're combining two images, you may be wondering why I don't just use the Quick Selection tool to cut the sky out of one image and paste it over the existing sky in the other image.
The problem is that masking or silhouetting the horizon line is much harder than you may think. The roofline won’t be a problem, and the soft edges of the mountains at the horizon are do-able, but those tree limbs and leaves will be a source of heartbreak! Chances are, even after hours of careful work using Channels, Image Calculations or the Pen tools, something will still look 'funny' around those trees.
So let’s just skip all that. Using the Gradient tool in a layer mask is fun, effective, and best of all, speedy. Of course, there are some projects that need a complex silhouette, but when you're blending things like sky and clouds, using a gradient is not only easier, but produces better results.
Layer masks and gradients explained
The concept of layer masks can be hard to grasp, even for experienced Photoshop users. So before we go any further, here’s a good, simple way to think about them. Masks have only one job: they hide stuff. A mask on a pixel layer makes it possible to hide parts of that layer without destroying any pixels. By using masks instead of the Eraser or History brushes, you can always change your mind about any edits because you're never deleting pixels, only changing their visibility. Better still, you can restore the visibility of any hidden items even after the image file has been saved, closed, and reopened.
When a layer mask is white, it reveals the layer to which it is attached. A black layer mask does just the opposite. It hides the layer to which it is attached. But of course, a mask does not have to be filled completely with black or white. And that's where gradients come in.
When making a gradient inside a layer mask, the thing to remember is that a black-to-white gradient means 'hidden-to-revealed' or 'invisible-to-visible'. A white-to-black gradient means exactly the opposite: 'revealed-to-hidden' or 'visible-to-invisible'.
Gradient tool options
When you select the Gradient tool there are two options you need to set: the gradient's colors and its shape.
|You can set the Gradient options to display as thumbnails or in a list view, at a choice of sizes. You can even opt for a text-only view to save room if you're working on a small monitor.|
In this tutorial we'll be using the Black, White option to fill in the layer mask. These are the colors we want to use to hide and reveal parts of the layer. The Black, White option is, by default the third item in the Gradient flyout menu shown above. Note that if you set Photoshop's foreground/background swatches to their defaults, (keyboard shortcut: D), then choosing the Foreground to Background option in the Gradient flyout menu will give the same effect.
You also want to make sure to select a Linear Gradient in the options bar. In a followup article on gradient masking, I’ll be using both the Radial and Reflected Gradients. (If anyone can tell me a practical use for the Angle or Diamond Gradients, I’d love to hear from you.)
|Once the Gradient tool is selected you can decide the shape of your gradient. You can apply it as a straight-line (linear), radial or reflected blend (shown here). For this tutorial only the Linear Gradient will be employed.|
I'll be honest, it takes a little practice to get the hang of using the Gradient tool and its options, but the idea is pretty straightforward. The Gradient tool (unlike a Gradient Fill or Gradient Map Adjustment Layer) is similar to the Brush tool. As with brushes, the color black in a mask hides stuff; white makes it visible. And as I'll demonstrate later, gray partially hides a layer.
Here's where gradients differ though. You create one by click-dragging. A longer click+drag results in a more gradual transition, a shorter click-drag creates a more abrupt transition. To experiment with the Gradient tool I suggest creating a new, blank canvas (File>New) and drawing different gradients on the white Background layer. It’s a great way to make sense of this very useful tool.
|Nectar Dancing by Lensmate|
from A Big Year - birds
|Foggy morning by LassiM|
|Sad clown by PEB|
|Mtl Gen X 2015 DP by MarioSS|
from - Gen X - (In Full Colours+ Border)
Lens manufacturer Voigtlander has introduced a 65mm F2 macro lens for Sony E-mount that it says "rates as one of the finest in the history of Voigtländer."
The UK released a preview of their upcoming drone safety regulations, and it looks like drone pilots will have to both register their device and pass safety awareness tests.
National Geographic photographer Bob Holmes talks about light, and why you need to learn how to 'see' and not just 'look' at your subject.
Photographer Alessandro Barteletti shares the story behind his National Geographic Italia cover, shot with a 10-year-old DSLR and an iPhone flashlight.
Fashion catalog photographers in China have some next-level models to work with. In this video, you see one model hitting 30 poses in 15 seconds as the photographer snaps away.
Photographer Paul Adshead breaks down 11 photography-related smartphone apps he couldn't live without—from a pocket light meter to a lighting diagram app.
Fast-growing Chinese flash brand Godox is teasing a brand new flash trigger... for smartphones. The Godox A1 is a 'phone flash system' that can act as both flash and 2.4GHz trigger.
On July 12, Canon opened its newest Technology and Support Center, designed to serve the motion picture industry, in Burbank, CA. DPReview got a sneak peak and takes you behind the scenes.
The Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art is truly one-of-a-kind. It offers the fastest aperture of any lens that shares its focal length, produces beautiful sunstars and is incredibly sharp to boot. If you're in the market for a fast ultrawide prime, this looks to be the one to get.
In this article, expert macro photographer Thomas Shahan shares advice for successful closeup photography of bugs, insects and small animals.
DJI's new firmware makes it difficult to fly in restricted airspace, even when you have proper clearance. Is DJI placing themselves between professionals and the FAA?
Go behind the scenes with National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk and see what it takes to capture a dangerous, harrowing, stunning Nat Geo photo essay.
Erez Marom tells the story behind this ominous photo of the sand 'reaching up' towards the mountains at Skagsanden beach in Norway. He calls this photo 'Torment.'
DPReview staffer Carey Rose has taken the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 along for everything from a city-side boat ride to a bachelor party across the mountains. Find out how the little Leica fared.
Canon just unveiled the largest 12-ink printer on the market. The new imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 printer can make prints from 17 all the way up to 60 inches wide.
"Standing in one of the holiest places on earth, I felt uneasy," writes Wired's Jason Parham. "Most of my fellow visitors, I realized with a brief bloom of nausea, were taking selfies."
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has been receiving great reviews, but it's a challenge to see it in its full glory. This handy infographic reveals the aspect ratio chaos that is wrought as the industry retreats from film.
Anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label's Annual Bullying Survey 2017 reveals yet again that Instagram, more so than any other social network, has the worst effect on youth mental health.
It's been a crazy day for innovative patent news. Apparently Sony is thinking of developing a medium format curved sensor camera.
An update to the Silkypix Raw converter fixes some bugs and adds support for several popular new cameras.
This crazy custom-built underwater camera shoots 8x10 large format film. It's supposedly "the first successful underwater 8x10 ever made," and it can be yours for $5,800... plus shipping.
Blackmagic just reveled a new accessory for their Cintel Film Scanner. The Cintel Audio and KeyKode Reader can capture KeyKode data and high-quality audio from film in real-time as it is being scanned.
A new Nikon patent shows a lens designed for a curved full-frame sensor. Could this be the high-end Nikon mirrorless camera people are hoping for?
The ability to shoot images at 1,000 fps first appeared in a Sony smartphone sensor. Now the Japanese manufacturer is using the same feature for industrial applications.
Astronomy expert and photographer Dr. Tyler Nordgren thinks you should "see your first eclipse, photograph your second." But if you do plan on taking photos this August, here are a few tips from someone who's been there.
How confident are you that you can spot a manipulated photo? A recent study at the University of Warwick shows that many people are pretty bad at it.
If you purchased a Leica TL2, do NOT attach Leica's Visoflex electronic viewfinder. Leica is working on a fix, but for now, it's possible the viewfinder will break your camera.
Google just released Motion Stills for Android. Unlike the iOS version, the Android app uses a redesigned video processing pipeline that processes each frame of a video as it is being recorded, creating instant results.
A huge copyright lawsuit between photography firm VHT and Zillow Group is heating up again, as both sides appeal a court ruling that granted VHT $4 million in damages.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent 6 months on board the International Space Station where he worked with Google capturing spheric panorama images that are now available in Street View.