Tip #728: Improve Landscapes with Gradients

… for Visual Effects

Tip #728: Improve Landscapes with Gradients

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Apply the Overlay blend mode to a B&W gradient to add magic to exteriors.

Clockwise from top left: Source, blend mode, gradient, finished image.

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This trick was invented by Ansel Adams almost 100 years ago; when used with a lens, it’s called a “grad filter.” You can use it yourself to improve exterior shots. Here’s how.

  • Using Photoshop, or the NLE of your choice, create a smooth gradient the same frame size as your project, shading from black, at the top, to white, at the bottom.
  • Stack it on top of an image.
  • Apply the Overlay blend mode to the gradient.


NOTE: Vary the results by adjusting the width of the transition between the two colors, as well as rotating the angle of the transition.

Note how the darker portions of the gradient emphasize the texture and color of the clouds. While the lighter portions of the gradient highlight the foreground.

The overlay blend mode alters highlights and shadows, but not midtones, which is why the middle of the image looks the same in both shots.

This is a powerful effect that I use frequently.

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