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Posts tagged “gradients


Image of the Trail at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, Florida

This week I am getting back to just having some plain ole’ Photoshop fun! Recently I ran across an easy and quick technique to turn an image that looks ho-hum into something great! There are times when an image does not look quite right no matter what is tried. That is when I usually open one of Topaz’s (see the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) creative filters to see if something connects with me – that is usually the fabulous Topaz ReStyle plugin. (See blog links at bottom of post for more info.) But if you do not own ReStyle, this a pretty nifty way to get a somewhat similar result using a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer. The last two examples do not have extreme color changes, but by adjusting the layer opacity, which seems to be critical in getting certain looks, or trying different blend modes, very interesting results can be obtained.

What does a Gradient Map do? Photoshop maps the shadows in an image to the foreground color and the highlights to the background color. It also allows you to add as many colors as you want by using the Gradient Editor while still maintaining some of the photo’s original tonality. For more on using a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer for black and white images, see my blog links at end of post.

Workflow on How to Randomize a Gradient Map

Recently Kelby One placed a link to a short video by Victor Feyes called How to Get Easy Color Grades in a Simple Way that used this technique. Here are the steps used for getting some pretty fantastic quick results:

  1. Open Gradient Map Adjustment Layer and set the Blend Mode to Color and the Layer Opacity to roughly 50%. Don’t worry about the actual colors in the  color swatch.
  2. Click on the gradient strip to open the Gradient Editor dialog.
  3. Set the Gradient Type to Noise.
  4. Set the Roughness somewhere under 15%, usually nearer to 10%.
  5. Set the Color Mode to HSB or LAB.
  6. Check Restrict Colors box.
  7. Click Randomize as many times as you need to get an effect that looks good.
  8. If the colors are too intense but look good, go out of the dialog and change the layer opacity – less than 50% is best.

That’s it! It is so simple I am not sure why I didn’t try this a long time ago. These settings above are general and there is no reason why the Color Mode cannot be left at RGB, the Roughness setting increased, or Add Transparency checkbox turned on. And all the Color Mode sliders can be adjusted to give a little different result on the image. (See the last image’s screenshot.) Watch the gradient while clicking the Randomize button to see how the different colors are affecting different parts of the image. Once the gradient is applied, in the Gradient Map properties, there is a Reverse button that can give an interesting effect. To save the gradient for reusing, in the Dialog Box click in field to name if you want and click the New button – it appears at the end of the shown gradients. (Note: if the Save… button is clicked, it opens a dialog to save all the presets in one file and not just the new one.)

The image at top was taken at Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, Florida (with this rather steep trail that tried to kill me!) and was pretty much a basic shadowy shot. The images I took here have been hard to post-process due to the bright sun and blotchy effect on the bushes and flowers which were in bloom. Therefore this image seemed like a logical choice to try out this Gradient Map technique. Below is a Screenshot showing the original image with only LR settings applied and the Gradient Map and settings used to create the new color look in the top image. The Adjustment Layer was set to Color blend mode and 36% Layer Opacity. (Click on screenshot to see larger in Flicker.)
Screenshot of the Gradient Map settings for the Ravine Gardens Trail image

What the Gradient Map Dialog Box and Sliders Do

The Photoshop Wow Book (from years ago but still one of the best PS books around) is the only good source I could find on how the Gradient Map Dialog Box actually works so the following info is from this book. By checking the Add Transparency box, random transparency is provided – by checking this box “….will probably introduce more variability than you want to cope with” so instead use a layer mask after the Noise gradient is applied. The Noise Gradient ranges are set by moving the sliders on the Color Model bars which will determine the Outside limits of the colors that can appear in your gradient but the gradient will often include a much narrower range of colors. The Wow Book also provides the following definitions: Roughness: a higher amount makes more and sharper color bands and a lower amount has fewer bands and smoother transitions. Restrict Colors is checked so that the gradient will not include any colors too saturated to be printed with CMYK inks. To create a gradient of just gray colors, set the Color Model to HSB and set the Saturation all the way to the left – now only the Brightness tabs will have any effect on the image. I could not get a very good result doing this. The pretty Azalea below was also taken at Ravine Gardens in Palatka, Florida and is another example of this workflow.
Beautiful White Azalea image taken at the Ravine Gardens in Palatka, Florida
Below are the settings used in the photo above – click on image to see larger in Flickr. The blend mode was still set to Color and the Layer Opacity was set to 55% – any higher opacity and the image becomes very yellow.
Screenshot of Gradient Map dialog for azalea image
A  different gradient was tried below. A screenshot shows more of a blue toned gradient applied. Used Color blend mode and 42% Layer Opacity. The image is not finished, but it does give a very different pretty result.
Screenshot of Blue-Purple Gradient Map for Azalea
This last image of Old St. Andrews in Scotland is an example of combining the two types of Gradient Maps – the first was a Noise Gradient Map (see screenshot for how image looked before applying the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer – click on it to see settings more clearly in Flickr). On top a regular Solid Gradient Type instead of Noise was selected and Blake Rudis’s action and his gray gradient 19 set to Soft Light blend mode at 41% Layer Opacity was added. Blake has a really good video called Advanced Color Toning Made Easy and he gives away the action and 20 gradients so check it out. It’s a very handy action and I use it all the time! This combination seems to bring some very good results in the images. It is not a huge change but definitely an improvement.
Image of a View of Old St. Andrews in Scotland
Screenshot of Gradient Map settings for St. Andrews image
Hope you will try this technique. It gives some really nice unusual looks and can really pull the colors of an image together for some needed pizzazz! I am having a lot of fun with it. Have a great week – Spring is almost here!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle – from a while ago, but it is still relevant
Four Picture Triptych with Topaz ReStyle
How to Use a Topaz ReStyle Trick for Improving Your Image
How to Do a Black & White Gradient Map Conversion

Take the Time to Experiment!

Just had some fun experimenting this week and came up with these images.  For the above I love the way the texture and color and abstract form compliment each other. I started out with a very over-exposed image of two pink grocery tulips – I was actually experimenting with my shutter settings on my camera when I shot this image. (See top image in photo below.) I do not know why I decided to use this image but it just looked so different – a few adjustments were made to the RAW file in Lightroom following my blog workflow in How to Use Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom 4 Quickly before opening it in Photoshop. (See bottom image in the photo below.) I wanted to try out some of my new watercolor brushes (here is a download link) I made in my How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush blog. Following this blog’s basic workflow the layer was duplicated and, instead of selecting the flowers, this top layer’s blend mode was set to Darken so the white disappears. On a New Layer set between the Background layer and duplicated layer, I selected SJ Watercolor Erodible 2 brush set to 250 pixels and a blue color where the watercolor background was painted in. A Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers to clip) to the blue watercolor layer to change it to the purplish color. Since I only want to change the flowers, the top layer was highlighted and Topaz (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4 plug-in was opened. The Oil Painted Tone I preset was applied as is. Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was added for a little more contrast to make the background stand out more. The center image below is where I was at in the workflow at this stage.
I decided to try just one more thing so a composite layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) of all layers. I opened up Topaz photoFXLab (this is the new Topaz interface to access the different plug-ins quickly) since I was not sure where I was going with the image. First I went into Topaz Adjust 5 and applied the Spicify preset – it looked great! I created a Stamped (same as a composite) layer in the plug-in and opened Topaz Lens Effects to see what a Fisheye effect would do – it did not look good so I started trying out the other lens effects. I ended up in the Lens-Split Prism section. After clicking on all the presets, I liked the Seven Way Split Prism with changes. (I changed the Mixing Level to .50, Radius to .42, Rotation to 83.76 and left at Type I.) Back in photoFXLab I created another stamped layer and in the Adjustments tab, the Saturation slider was set to -37 and my favorite Dynamics slider to +27. Another stamped layer and Topaz Simplify4 was opened where one of my old presets I call Factory HDR Look was applied. (The settings are Simplify section: YCbCr Colorspace, Simplify Size .52, Feature Boost 3, Details Strength 1.51, Details Boost 1.27, Details Size .62, Remove Small 0, and Remove Weak 0.16; Adjust section – Brightness .01, Contrast 1.07, Saturation 1.93, Saturation Boost .97, Dynamics 0, Structure 1.0, Structure Boost 1.00; Edges section – Edge Type MonoEdge – Fine, Edge Strength 4.47, Simplify Edge .39, Reduce Weak 7.78, Reduce Small 0.07, and Fatten Edge 4.11. In Finishing Touches section the Transparency was set to .53 – it made the flowers pop!) I decided this was enough photo manipulation. Back in Photoshop I wanted the tulips a different color than the actual reddish pink they were. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to turn them into the purple colors. (The settings were for Reds Hue to -97, Saturation to -38 and Lightness to +14; the Yellows Saturation was changed to -21; and the Greens Hue to -124 and Saturation to -29.) Totally changed the image. I used 2 Lil Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Texture 4 from their Texture Workshop E-Book bundle set to Darken blend mode to remove the white center to create a border, and then turned the frame color to white by clipping a white Color Fill Adjustment Layer to the texture (ALT+click between the layers to clip). A final Curves Adjustment Layer was added just to even out contrast.
This is another image that I had to really fiddle around with to get something interesting. I liked the different plants in the image – it was taken while in my car at a stop light outside a shopping center. The original image is seen below.
I got the idea for the initial steps to this image from a very creative book I just purchased by Theresa Airey called Digital Photo Art New Directions. In it she uses a program called Akvis Sketch to create some effects on her images. With the new Topaz Simplify 4 Sketch section, it seemed reasonable to me that it could be used in the same way. It worked! This image started off using Topaz Adjust Mild Detail preset on a duplicate background layer. This layer was duplicated and Topaz Simplify 4 was opened to the Sketch section Hard Pencil II preset and adjustments were made to the preset. (All sections but Edges were turned off (here area the slider settings:  MonoEdge Fine, Edge Strength 5.00, Simplify Edge .40, Reduce Weak .54, Reduce Small .52, and Flatten Edge 0). In Photoshop a composite layer of just the Topaz Adjust layer and the background  (turn off the Simplify 4 layer by clicking on the eyeball in the Layers Panel) and highlight the two remaining layers – CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E. On this layer Topaz Simplify 4 was applied again but this time the Pastel preset was used.  (These settings were changed: Simplify Section –  YCbCr, Simplify Size  0.27, Details Boost  1.00, Details Size  .20, Remove Small  0.10, and Remove  Weak  0.31; Adjust Section  – Brightness  0.10, Contrast  1.48, Saturation  1.70, Saturation Boost  1.24 , Dynamics  0.36, Structure  3.33, and Structure Boost  0.67; Finishing Touches, turned on the Tone section – Tone Strength  0.46; and Local Adjustments – painted back the yellow flowers and a little of the pink and whitish leaves  using a .37 opacity brush). This layer was placed below the sketched layer and set to 73% opacity.) The Sketch Layer should be placed above the Simplify Pastel preset layer, turned on, set to Multiply blend mode to get rid of the white area, and set to 73% opacity. A new Composite layer was created using all the layers. A clean up layer was added to get rid of distracting areas. I decided I needed to fill the lower center area so I copied the purple pansies in the center, warped them and changed flowers to pink. Next I used a program that I have always loved but do not use a lot – The Plugin Galaxy – which has this marvelous Mirror Effect plugin. It was set to Vertical Right – then you can drag in the interface by right clicking and dragging to get very different results. I dragged all the way left for my final image above, but below is a screen shot dragging almost all the way right.
Since I wanted the pink hyacinth back in the image, I added a layer mask to the mirrored layer and used a black brush to paint back the pink flower and the side. A PNG filter similar to my SJ PNG Borders was added and a Gradient Overlay using the Pastel Grunge gradient (free from Graphix1 A White Shade of Pale Gradients set) at 130% scale at -112 degrees was added to create the pink to green frame effect. It took a while to do but the results are very nice and interesting.

Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 1: Take the time to Experiment! – Definitely paid off in this instance. Hope the workflow did not put you to sleep but I wanted to show how you can create some very interesting effects by just experimenting a little. In both cases Topaz Simplify 4 was applied twice using different presets for each image. Really liked the final results and they are  something unique and truly mine!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1
Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop

Faking Fireworks!

(Updated 07/04/20) Since the Fourth of July is just around the corner, I thought I would create a blog for making some of your beautiful night images into spectacular holiday images. Just to get you in the mood, here is a link to Stunning Fireworks Photos from Smashing Magazine. This was helpful to see the colors needed to get a realistic look on some of the fireworks.

As far as I can tell, there are two major ways of making images look like a fireworks celebration: either by adding fireworks images to a nighttime image or painting in the fireworks with brushes. This blog will address both types.

Creating Fireworks with Images

The above image used five different fireworks – old jpg images (from a 2 megapixel camera taken 8 years ago so don’t delete those old images, you may use them years later) brought into the original nighttime photo of the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida. The basic steps are as follows:

  1. Do correction to your original image. A really dark scene is helpful.
  2. Go into Adobe Bridge and just drag the first image into Photoshop (does the same thing as File -> Place an object).
  3. The new image comes in as a Smart Object (right click and your will see the Free Transform choices) and can now be moved and sized (adjust by just dragging in the handles). Click Enter. I usually rasterize to get rid of the Smart Object as it makes the file bigger and is not needed for this workflow – just right click on the fireworks layer and select Rasterize layer.
  4. Double-click on the fireworks layer to open up the Layer Style and go to the “This Layer” slider near the bottom of the dialog box. Since the fireworks images have dark backgrounds, move the black tab right to get the correct effect. Then hold the ALT key to split the tab, click on the left side of the tab and drag it back to get a smooth the transition. If your image has a white background, move the right tab left, hold the ALT key and drag the right portion of tab back for the desired look.
  5. Add a layer mask to the layer and paint out any areas that are covering up part of the background image to make the fireworks look realistic. May need to lower the opacity of the level to see where to mask and then bring it back up to 100% when finished.
  6. Keep adding in more fireworks.
  7. Use a Basic Soft White Cloud Brush to paint in the soft black smoke coming from the fireworks. Set layer opacity to around 5-10% – do not overwhelm the image with smoke.

This basic workflow is from Scott Kelby’s book, Classic Photoshop Effects, “Adding Fireworks to Nighttime Photos,” one of the few nice fireworks tutorials I could find. Also, the Basic Soft White Cloud Brush was created by following the video Brush Dynamics and Fluffy Clouds in Photoshop by Ice Flow at (no longer available but many other tutorials on this subject are).

Several beautiful fireworks images were downloaded for free from Stock.xchng and can be added to your images following the above workflow. They were moved into a black background. Here is a link to the Fireworks images – there are 46 pages of them so have fun finding some nice ones! Once you log in and download an image, you need to right click and select the Save Image As to your computer.

Painting Fireworks into your Images

Here is an example of Fireworks brushes that can be downloaded from the internet. After trying many fireworks brushes, the best are once again from Obsidian Dawn’s Fireworks set with a very small fee attached to the download now. (There are also jpg’s of these same brushes for download – to use follow the steps in the next section.) Obsidian Dawn had some great tips on how to use her great brushes so I thought I would share:

  • Can use as just a solid color and they look great but to make them more colorful, apply a Radial Gradient to the layer. This is pretty easy – just follow these steps:
  1. Create a New Layer above your nighttime image.
  2. Click to make just one brush stroke – choose a bright color.
  3. On the brush layer, double click the layer to open the Layer Styles dialog and go to Gradient Overlay. Change Style to Radial and select any Gradient. A new group of gradients may be added by clicking the drop down arrow and clicking on the right pointing arrow in the top right corner. Try clicking Reverse checkbox to change color order. Change the scale to adjust which colors go where and try different blend modes and opacity.
  • Remember some fireworks are brighter in the center – some the outer edges. To get this effect for using only one color, use a basic Black and White gradient in the Gradient Overlay Layer Style and set the blending mode to Screen. Set the Gradient opacity to 50% so it is not too bright. Use the Reverse checkbox to toggle where the darker and light colors show up.
  • Try an Outer Glow Layer Style to make them more luminescent – try a different color too. Also try Color Overlay in a different color at a very low opacity to add some new color.

The Fountain above was created by using Photoshop Free Brushes Firework’s Brushes no.3 – placed on its own layer, duplicate it, Free Transform (CTRL+T) and flip Horizontal. Add a Linear gradient to get the effect. This set of  brushes were created from clip art so most of them are not so realistic looking but nice if you want a more graphic look.

There is another way to get some interesting fireworks results that was posted as a comment on Photoshop Daily blog by Jo Cole that you might want to try. Once a fireworks brush is selected, here is what Kazzie said in her comment about creating a new brush to get a really nice fireworks:

“Shape Dynamics: size jitter – 75-100%.  Color Dynamics: foreground/background 75-100%, Hue – 50-100%, Saturation – 100%, Purity – (+100).  Brush Tip Shape: spacing = 1% or OFF. I set the foreground/background colors to bright colors in the main menu. Then I just clicked in the same place to achieve glorious fireworks using basic white color in between clicks.”

I tried this and it creates some very nice results that look similar to the orange and yellow fireworks above, but you must be careful not to click too much or you lose the effect. Go in and try different Hue settings. Once you get some settings you like, be sure to save as a new brush so you do not have to keep resetting it every time you try a different brush. (See my blog on “How to Create Photoshop Brushes from Objects or Text.”)

Combining the two processes

For the above image, both fireworks brushes and several jpg images from Obsidian Dawn were used. Since the fireworks are on a white background, I used the free Adobe Pixel Bender filter and my favorite filter for it, the free Kill White filter (This filter does not appear to be available anymore but am not sure about Pixel Bender.) It works better with Pixel Bender than just as a Photoshop plug-in) to delete the white areas – can get some very interesting effects using Kill White so I recommend downloading it. (Note often an error warning comes up when applying Pixel Bender – just say OK.) Below is the workflow used for the jpgs.

  1. Open up your base nighttime image.
  2. Drag over one of the jpg from Adobe Bridge – comes in as a Smart Object so adjust the size and position. The right click on the layer and choose Rasterize layer to remove Smart Object.
  3. Go to Pixel Bender and select MikeYael_Kill White. Pixel Bender is not long available but Select -> Color Range is and choose Shadows. Say OK and a layer mask – then apply it.
  4. Double click on the fireworks layer and open the Layer Style. Choose the Gradient Overlay and set the Style to Radial. Open up the different Gradients and load any new ones you want to try by clicking the popout at the top right and appending them. Then adjust the Scale, try reversing the colors and changing the blend mode.

To get the reflection on the water, after making all your fireworks, put them in a group named fireworks. Next right click on the Layers Panel popout and select Merge Group to create just one layer of the firework objects. Free Transform (CTRL+T) and select Flip Vertical. Hold SHIFT Key and drag straight down to a point. Enter. Go to Filter -> Blue -> Gaussian Blue and select a Radius between 3 and 10. Add  a layer mask to mask out anywhere the reflection should not be or to tone down some of the brighter colors with a 20% opacity soft round Brush. Can add in some smoke with the Basic Soft Cloud Brush and set to a very low opacity – usually between 5 to 10%.

I guess you can tell that an image which may not be that great can take on a really nice look with the fireworks. This has once again been a lot of fun to explore and try. It is really worth your time to play around with some of these effects – you can learn a lot! Hope everyone has a very happy Fourth of July celebration!…..Digital Lady Syd