Friday, June 29, 2007

Gradients

Mastering this tool will help to ensure that you have continuous tones in your images



Experimenting

Gradients can be transformed substantially (Edit > Free Transform).

Create gradients within active selections to affect only selected areas.

A stroke with a soft-edged brush creates a gradient.

Blur a hard-edged shape and you can create a gradient. By the same token, if a gradient doesn't have sufficiently smooth transitions, it may be blurred, in whole or in part; watch for posterization if you do this.

Some gradients suffer from banding. To reduce the effects of banding, add a small amount of noise (Filter > Noise > Add Noise); this will often break up the effect of banding. Be careful not to overdo it or you'll simply trade one distracting artifact (lines) for another (dots).

While gradients can be used as image layers, they're more frequently used as layer masks. Gradient masks can be used in two central ways, which differ from one another significantly. First, gradient masks can be used to selectively reduce the effects of any correction made as an adjustment layer. Second, gradient masks can be used to selectively reduce the opacity of any image layer.

You can create and fine-tune a gradient mask in five quick steps:
1. At the bottom of the toolbar, Click Edit in Quick Mask Mode (Q).
2. Use the Gradient tool.
3. Click on Edit in Standard Mode (Q).
4. Create a layer mask (one will automatically be made if you make an adjustment layer with an active selection).
5. Apply Curves to the mask to lighten, darken or increase the contrast of the mask.

Remember, masks are black-and-white images. By definition, a gradient mask is a monochromatic gradient. Anything you can do to a grayscale image you can do to a mask—adjust its contrast, filter it, transform it, liquify it, clone it, paint it, etc.

You can look at the image and a mask at the same time. This way you can modify the mask and see the effects on the image at the same time. To do this, create a new window of the same document (Window > Arrange > New Window). Look at the mask in the new window. To see the mask, hold the Option/Control key and click on it; this toggles. There are a number of key commands that make masking and selections faster and easier (see the next page).

While a layer can have only one mask, you can have more than one mask affect a layer. File the layer into a layer set and mask the set. If necessary, file the masked layer set into a new layer set and mask it.



 

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