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Improve Your Photos: Photoshop Elements

Improve Your Photos: Adobe Photoshop Elements


Let’s add a little drama to this nice, but rather dull sunset. We’ll do this using just four layers that you can tweak for an infinite variety of effects. Adjustment layers and blending modes are key to achieving the dramatic effect.


To add drama to the sunset:

  1. Open a sunset photo to use as the background layer.
  2. To add a deep blue colour to the water, add a Hue/Saturation layer above the Background layer.
    1. In the Layers palette, click the Adjustment Layer icon and select Hue/Saturation.
    2. In the Hue/Saturation window, check Colourize and use the following settings to get a deep blue: Hue 225, Saturation 60, Lightness -50. Click OK.

  1. To show only the blue water, add a Black and White gradient to the adjustment layer mask.
    1. Click to select the mask in the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
    2. Select the Gradient tool and in the drop-down box on the Options bar, select the Black and White gradient.
    3. Start the gradient at the base of the statue and drag to the bottom of the photo. The black part of the gradient hides the colorize adjustment from the photo below, revealing the original sky; the white part of the gradient reveals the colorize adjustment on the photo below. Using a gradient that shades from black to white to mask the effect allows for a more natural blend transition from the original photo to the blue water.
  2. To make the reflection of the setting sun pop on the water, set the blending mode of the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer to Overlay. The Overlay mode affects the contrast in the image to darken shadows and lighten highlights.
  1. Create a Levels adjustment layer above the Hue/Saturation layer:
    1. Select the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.
    2. In the Layers palette, click the Adjustment Layer icon and select Levels.
    3. In the Levels window, make no changes. Click OK. An adjustment layer with a layer mask is created. We will use this layer in a clipping group.
  2. To create the dramatic sky:
    1. In the Layers palette, click-and-drag the thumbnail on the Background layer to the New Layer icon to create a duplicate photo layer above the background.
    2. Drag the duplicate layer to the top of the layer stack, above the Levels adjustment layer.
    3. Set the blending mode of the duplicate layer to Multiply. The Multiply mode darkens the image.
  3. To pull the dramatic sky and blue water together, add a layer mask to the duplicate layer:
    1. Select the top layer and click Ctrl+G to create a clipping group with the Levels adjustment layer below. The mask in the Levels adjustment layer is then applied to the layer above.
    2. Click to select the layer mask in the Levels adjustment layer.
    3. Press D to select the default colours (black foreground, white background).
    4. Select the Brush tool and choose a large soft brush. Because the mask is selected, you will be painting on the mask when you paint, not on the image.
    5. Paint with black over the water to reveal the blue water below. The brush strokes are displayed on the mask. (Black hides the pixels on the current layer to allow the layers below to show through.)
screenshot final
screenshot final



To change the intensity of the effect, you can adjust the opacity of the various layers in the Layers palette.

You can also change the settings in the Hue/Saturation layer to give the water a different color.

Try different blending modes with the layers to get even more varied effects.

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