Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gradient Fill Tutorial

Time to begin thinking about what piece of photo art you would like to showcase for our February link-up - Photo Art Friday.  The first Friday in February is the 7th.

You can always showcase ANY piece of photo ART you choose.  If you like to have a theme or challenge, the one for February is GEOMETRIC/GRAPHIC/ANGULAR.  Here are some examples if you are stymied by this theme:

At left, a hallway featuring ceiling to floor
beams.  A texture and a treatment with
a few RadLab stylets completes this piece.

At right a boutique in an up-scale shopping center featuring an amazing selection of fine perfumes and colognes.  A levels adjustment, sharpening, and Poster Edges were the only manipulations on this photo.

Below the simple graphic effects of a fence enhanced with a color saturation and Poster Edges.



A few weeks back I said I would post a tutorial on how to give your photographs a dreamy, romantic look using the Gradient Fill option in the Adjustments Panel in Photoshop.  I also occasionally use the Gradient Fill to obscure any parts of a photograph that are too busy or unattractive before I add a texture.

Adding Gradient Fill color to a photograph that has a stark black or a stark white background can also help it be a more 'welcoming' companion to a texture.  So here is an example of using two Gradient Fills before the application of a texture:

This is the photograph and you can see that I have made the usual Levels, Sharpening and Saturation adjustments.  The gorgeous begonia dominates the visual field, but the background reveals a pot and some metal rods.  I want to make the background less conspicuous.  (Please click on the images so that you can read the instructions and the Layers Panel.)

  1. BEFORE opening the Gradient Fill option you MUST select your foreground color which will be the color of the gradient fill.  
  2. With the color picker select a pale color from within the photograph.  I usually then choose an even paler color in that tone.  Of course, you can always choose white.  For this image I selected a pale yellow.
  3. Click on the small circle that opens the Adjustment Panel.
  4. From the Adjustment Panel options select "Gradient ..." (always the second on the list in my versions of PSE and PS).
  5. I leave all the gradient fill options as they are when the dialogue box opens, except for Angle.
  6. With your mouse guide the lever in the Angle circle so that your Gradient is positioned on your photo the way you want it.
  7. Click OK.

Above you can see how I moved the Angle of the Gradient Fill so that it creates a cloud of color over the hanging pot in the upper right corner.

The Gradient Fill layer always comes with its own Layer Mask.  Set your foreground color to black and choose a soft, round brush.  I like to lower the opacity of the brush to about 40%, before starting to remove any gradient color on the flower.  If it does not remove enough, I can go over the area again.  You will want to adjust the size of your brush to fit the areas you are working on.  If you make a mistake and remove some of the gradient fill color where you do not want to remove it, simply change your foreground color to white and brush over the spot. 

Since I want to obscure the busy background on the left of the photograph, I add another Gradient Fill Layer (as before) adjusting the Angle to bring the color where I want it.  As you can see in the Layers Panel, I have not yet used the Layer Mask on the second Gradient Fill to remove color I don't want on the flower.

Now, if you look in the Layers Panel you can see I have used the second Layer Mask.  Notice that the area masked out is paler.  That is because I lowered the opacity of my brush to 30%.

 I open and 'place' the texture on the Gradient Filled photograph and adjust it to fit by pulling on the bounding boxes while holding my Shift key.  The texture is pdpa Yellow Shards from my new Moonglow Medley Texture Set.

You can see that even a beautiful photograph and a beautiful texture do not merge beautifully without a little help.  This is where the Blend Modes come into play.  I select Luminosity Blend Mode and adjust it down to 75% to get the effect below.

Used a Layer Mask to remove texture from the flower.

I want to use the Poster Edge Filter on this piece, but must first right click on the top layer and select Merge Layers.  That gives me only one background layer.  I duplicate that layer in order to be able to apply the Filter, Poster Edges.  (Don't ask me why, but I can't seem to get the Filters to work over several other layers and so must Merge and Duplicate layers first.)

I apply Poster Edges sliding the three little adjustment levers to 1/1/2 respectively.  Blending the Filter, Poster Edges in Luminosity and lowering the opacity to 75% softens the effect.  The Poster Edges give the piece a bit of an artsy feel.  I, too, still love the beauty of the flower as is - but we are using digital editing to produce a piece of photo art and I like my photo art to lean a bit toward the abstract.  You have to find your preferences and your favorite ways to produce them with digital editing.

And here you have a sweet little piece of photo art that shows nothing of its original busy background and sits beautifully in the pdpa Yellow Shards texture.  I cropped off a chunk of the image on the left, so that the focal point is not sitting smack dab in the middle. As I look at it now, it could perhaps do with a Levels Adjustment to bring in a bit more light - but there it is for now!

I hope these instructions are helpful.  Hope I have not left out too many steps that I do all the time and therefore don't think to mention. Feel free to ask questions and please let me know how it goes if you use it.

I am preparing another tutorial with lots of tips for using textures to create photo art. Stay tuned!

Looking forward to connecting with you all at our next Photo Art Friday, February 7th! Be well!!!


  1. This looks like a great tutorial Bonnie, and am anxious to try this out. I have never really know what to do with that gradient. so was excited to see it. Hope you are not freezing up your way. It has even been cold in Texas! Hugs to you and will look forward to the linkup!

  2. Fabulous tutorial, Bonnie! I'm definitely going to be playing with this!! I'm hoping to have a submission ready for next week!

  3. Nicely done -- soft lovely Art work indeed..

  4. thank you for taking the time to create this tutorial. I'm looking forward to trying it out.

  5. Oh, so beautiful! Bonnie, thank you so much for the tutorial! I now know what I was doing wrong to try to achieve this effect! I can't wait to try some of your textures, and super excited about photo Friday!

  6. Awesome tutorial Bonnie. Thank you for sharing it. Look forward to the next PAF.

  7. I've printed it and added to my catalog of tips for photo editing. Thanks so much for sharing. I haven't done much with the gradient before. Looking forward to doing my first PAF with you. :)

  8. These are really some nice photos those are sound quite nice and I would like to get chance to see in such photos of wonderful lightining. Thanks :)
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  9. Nice tutorial. Glad to found your blog. Thanks for sharing.

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