Sky Color Gradient

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Today’s Question: I have a photo where the sky is a bit lacking in color, and I would like to use a gradient in Photoshop to add some color. But since the Gradient tool requires me to select use two colors, my entire image gets covered up by the gradient. Is there a way to make only half of a gradient, so I don’t need to use a layer mask to hide part of the gradient?

Tim’s Quick Answer: You can actually define a gradient that transitions from sky blue to transparency, enabling you to use the Gradient tool to add color to the sky without altering the rest of the photo.

More Detail: The Gradient tool in Photoshop is often used to draw a gradient that transitions from one color to another, for a total of two colors with a smooth gradation in between. It is also possible to define a gradient that includes multiple colors for a more complex result. In addition, it is possible to include transparency as part of a gradient.

There are two basic settings you’ll need to use with the Gradient tool in Photoshop to draw a gradient that transitions from a color to transparency. The first step (after selecting the Gradient tool) is to choose the “Foreground to Transparent” preset from the popup toward the left end of the Options bar. The “Foreground to Transparent” preset is the second option on this popup, right after the “Foreground to Background” preset.

Also, you’ll need to be sure that the “Transparency” checkbox is turned on. This checkbox can be found at the far right of the controls on the Options bar.

Once you have configured the Gradient tool to include transparency, you can define the color you want your gradation to start with. The foreground color is used for the “Foreground to Transparent” preset, so you can simply define the desired foreground color to configure your gradient. To do so, click the color swatch associated with the foreground color near the bottom of the toolbox. In the Color Picker dialog that appears you can select the desired foreground color.

Once you’ve configured the Gradient tool and selected the desired foreground color, you can create a new empty image layer to use as the destination for your gradient, and then click and drag across the image to draw that gradient. In this type of scenario you may also find it helpful to use the Color (or Color Burn) blend mode, which can be selected from the popup toward the top-left of the Layers panel.