I found a pretty cool photo the other day. It’s full of lightening and clouds and it looks really neat. The only parts I don’t like about the photo are the facts that it looks a bit washed out and that parts of it look like they are the wrong color. The original photo has blue lights illuminating the clouds from the lightening and I thought things would look better if they were orange. Is it stands, the photo looks as if it could be the background of Metallica‘s Ride the Lightening album cover when what I was looking for is the background of the same band’s Master of Puppets album cover. I know, I know – little things.
In today’s post, I’ll work on changing the color that illuminates this photograph’s clouds right inside of Adobe Photoshop. To do this, I’ll take advantage of a Gradient Overlay effect. I’ll show you what the inside of this Layer Style panel looks like and how to tweak a few areas of it. I’ll also show you how to apply a gradient and how to change the colors of the gradient itself. Finally, I’ll use an Adjustment Layer to add some sorely needed contrast to the photo. When this project is finished, I should have an entirely new looking image that has much more appealing color and depth.
Here’s a view of the original image. I’m sure you agree with me about what I wrote in the above section. Don’t worry, I’m going to start cleaning this up right now.
By the way, I already launched this photo into Photoshop. I haven’t made any changes to it in Camera Raw or anything like that. Also, the only change I made to it inside of Photoshop so far was to straighten and crop it slightly. The photograph was totally crooked.
Applying a Gradient Overlay
Because I straightened and cropped the photo, the layer became unlocked. What I’m referring to here is whether or not the small lock icon can be viewed in a background layer. Since the layer has been manipulated, the lock was removed, giving me license to perform further manipulation. If I hadn’t done anything to the layer yet, I’d need to click the small lock icon to unlock the layer. Without doing that, the Fx menu I’ll use in just a moment would be grayed out and wouldn’t be available to me.
To kick things off, I’m going to head down to the bottom of the Layers panel and click on the Fx menu icon. When I do that, the relevant menu will appear.
When I see the menu, I can click the Gradient Overlay option.
Now, the reason I chose to use a gradient overlay is because I don’t want a solid color overlay across the entire image. I’d like to see some distinction between the top of the image and the bottom of the image. If I had chosen the Color Overlay option, I would have no control over any type of color variation inside of the effect layer.
Anyway, once I click on the menu item, I few things will happen. First, the Layer Style editor will appear inside of the Photoshop workspace and two new sub-layers will appear in the Layers panel. Because this is a non-destructive change, the Gradient Overlay sub-layer will be situated under the Effects heading, which is under the layer itself.
Adjusting the Gradient Overlay
As you can see, the gradient that has been applied to the photo I’m working on is solid. This may be the case in your situation as well, but may be something else if you had recently been working in Photoshop and had used this tool. Because I was fooling around with different things earlier in the day, Photoshop applied the last known adjustment I used. This makes no difference because I need to make some changes anyway.
The first thing I’m going to do is to apply a blend mode to this gradient overlay so we can see through it. I’ll click the Blend Mode drop-down box and look all the way towards the bottom of the menu that appears. I’ll click on Color, which does this:
Creates a result color with the luminance of the base color and the hue and saturation of the blend color. This preserves the gray levels in the image and is useful for coloring monochrome images and for tinting color images.
When I do this, the image will become visible again. It will also be tinted with the colors of the gradient.
This actually brings me to the second task I need to complete, which is to change the colors of the gradient.
Changing Gradient Colors
It’s very simple to change the default colors of a gradient in Photoshop. All I need to do is to click on the Gradient colors themselves inside of the Layer Style editor. This will launch the Gradient Editor.
I’ll click on the fifth pre-made gradient in the top row, which is orange and purple. Doing this will apply those colors to the image, as opposed to the black and white I started out with.
I chose this selection because it already had orange in it, saving me work. The thing is, although the result looks very colorful and pretty neat, it isn’t what I want. The purple has got to go.
To change the color purple to the color black, I’ll double-click on the small purple tick mark that’s all the way to the left on the gradient scale. When I do that, the Color Picker will open. From there, I can easily either type in the hex value of #000000 (black) or just click down in the black area of the color scale somewhere with my mouse.
Once I do that, I can click OK, OK and OK to apply and close out of all these editors and windows. What I’ll be left with is the photo of the lightening and storm clouds with an orange and black overlay.
I don’t know. I like the colors but the image still looks kind of worn out. It definitely needs some contrast. That’s what I’ll do next.
Applying Contrast with an Adjustment Layer
This last section will be quick because it’s really easy to apply an adjustment layer. I’ve actually discussed how to do this task on this site a few times. If you’re interested in reading about this topic, please take a look at these posts:
To add some contrast to the photo, I’ll head up to the Adjustments panel and click the Brightness/Contrast icon.
When I do that, the Properties panel for this adjustment will appear. I’ll click and drag the Contrast slider all the way to the right, so I get as much contrast as possible.
This will surely set the storm clouds ablaze. It will also darken a lot of those washed out looking blacks and will make the photo look a lot better.
The Final Photo
Okay, let’s take a look at this photo now. I’d like to see what my changes look like.
Now that’s what I’m talking about. I think that looks great, especially because I hardly put any effort into changing this image. If I wanted to, I could follow the same steps again, but this time everything would only take about 30 seconds because I just went through the process.
Boy, the depth of those clouds look good, don’t they?
I think this was a pretty informative little project. I enjoy making simple changes like this every once in a while. The original blue would have looked fine if I just added some contrast to it, but changing the storm clouds to orange made things really come alive.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!