photoshop creative

Quick fix – using gradients

Posted in:
General, by The Photoshop Creative Team
March 21, 2011

Find out how to use gradients to add colour to sky and fix exposure problems in your photos

Using gradients to edit photos

This is a great tip, first seen in Photoshop Creative and also featured on Photoshop Daily.

Gradients are often called upon in digital design, but rarely do they come into play for photo edits.

However, they can be useful especially when they are teamed up with blending modes. In our example here, we have a photo taken on a dull day. The sky is grey and washed out, while the buildings look very underexposed. By applying a gradient, it’s possible to add colour to the sky and also deal with the exposure problem. And it all starts with a selection…


Isolate the sky

If you would like to use the same image as us, you can click here to get it. We start by isolating the sky. Use the Magic Wand if there is lots of contrast. Once selected, create a new layer and then click the Gradient tool. Make sure you have Linear Gradient selected and then click the Gradient bar to open the Gradient Editor.


Apply the gradient

Click the Black,White gradient from the Presets panel and then click the black colour stop below the gradient bar. Click the Color: bar at the bottom of the screen and then select a dark blue. Click OK to return to your canvas, hold down Shift on your keyboard and drag the cursor from the top to the bottom. Fill the sky area with blue.


More foreground

To let the gradient colour merge with the photo, pick the Overlay blending mode. Now create a new layer, go to Select>Inverse and then Edit>Fill and pick White. Apply the Overlay blend mode again and the dull foreground will zing!

  • Derek Hattersley

    This effect can also be remedied with a variety of sky brushes available free to download. You can alter the exposure of the image in a variety of ways and then using the mask technique put in a blue sky and render until you are satified with the effect (you can use a variety of ways to alter the sky density such as curves, or take down the density etc). Then add the sky brush (again you can add what ever colour clouds you prefer) after all was the shot taken at dawn, mid day etc, I would suggest using layers for every step and even storing a PDS so you can alter it for different effects without starting the process all over again.

  • Becci

    Thank you! I have tons of pix that can use this technique!