photoshop creative

How to create a sunset effect in Photoshop

Posted in:
Tips & Tutorials, by Mark White
December 18, 2013

Intensify colour in your sunset photos with this non-destructive method of editing

Sunset effect in Photoshop


Open the starting image 1176898.jpg from the disc. There’s no need to make a duplicate of the layer, as a Gradient Map appears on its own one. Click the Create New adjustment Layer button in the Layers palette, and select Gradient Map.


The image turns into black and white, but not for long! The Gradient Map appears as a new layer, and has its own mask. Double-click on the left thumbnail on its layer to open up the Gradient Editor dialog box.


In the Gradient Editor dialog box there are two squares on the bottom side of the gradient’s colour bar. Double-click on the bottom left square (black by default). In the Select Stop Color box, choose a warm red then hit Ok to apply.


Your image should tint red. To balance this, double-click on the far right square on the bottom side of the colour bar. Select a bright yellow and hit Ok. The colour bar now has orange as the midtone, with red and yellow either side.


Hit OK in the Gradient Editor menu to apply the mapping. Your image will be a mix of orange, yellow and red. In the Layers palette, with the Gradient Map layer selected, change the blend mode to Overlay. This dramatically boosts the contrast of the overall sunset.


To reduce the harshness of the Gradient Map created by the Overlay blend mode, use the Opacity slider in the Layers palette. Reduce its value to 60% to make the sunset subtle and more realistic. If the red is too dominant, go back into the Gradient Editor and choose a darker shade.


To intensify the shimmer of the water, click on Curves in the New Adjustment Layer list in the Layers palette. Pull the top of the line upwards in the Curves dialog box to give the image more brightness.


Select the white thumbnail on the Curves adjustment layer, and go to Image>Adjustments>Invert. Use the Brush tool, set to black and a soft edge, to paint over the water to add shimmers of light coming from the horizon, completing the tutorial.