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Add a ray of hope to a dreary image with the Gradient tool

Added on Monday 9th of January 2012 08:42 am EST
 

by Renée Dustman

Applications:

Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows

 

 

Playing Mother Nature only sounds tough. In Photoshop, creating a rainbow is easy. It helps that a preset gradient called Transparent Rainbow already exists in the Gradient picker.

 

To create a rainbow in Photoshop, we’ll:

•  Use the Gradient tool to create a prism on our canvas.

•  Spend some time transforming the prism into a shape and blending it into its surroundings.

•  Copy and paste the rainbow so it appears to shoot out from behind the horizon.

 

 

Capturing the image of a complete rainbow spanning over a picturesque landscape is an aspiration you may not expect to achieve any time soon. What are the odds you’ll ever be in the right place at the right time? Well, we got tired of waiting and decided to play Mother Nature again. If we can create clouds in Photoshop then what’s stopping us from conjuring up a rainbow? As shown in Figure A, a rainbow is a great way to perk up a dark and dreary image. What you can’t see in our image, though, is the technique we used to create the rainbow. We’ll reveal it to you in this article. And, we promise, it will be a lot easier than capturing the real thing!

 

A

 

 

Set the stage

First, open the image you want to enhance with a rainbow in Photoshop. In your open document, display the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and [option]-click ([Alt]-click in Windows) on the Create A New Layer button. In the resulting New Layer dialog box, enter Rainbow in the Name text box. Then, click OK. You’ll work on this layer until the very last step.

 

Use the History panel

The History panel is great for keeping track of your steps as you create them, but its memory is erased after you close the document. Alternatively, you can create a new layer for each step. Unlike a history log, the layer method gives you a way to go back and make changes to the document without having to retrace your steps. Instead of creating many separate layers, though, consider creating a set of layers. A layer set enables you to organize a single effect created on multiple layers. For example, you can organize all the layers that make up the rainbow technique in a single set. Then, with a single click of your mouse, you can show or hide all the layers in the set. To create a layer set, choose New Layer Set from the Layers panel’s pop-up menu. Name the set Rainbow and then click OK. You can add new layers to this set as long as it’s selected.

 

With this new layer selected in the Layers panel, choose the Gradient tool from the Tools panel and, on the tool options bar, click on the triangle to the right of the Gradient thumbnail to open the Gradient picker. Double-click on the Transparent Rainbow gradient preset to select it. Then, set the remaining tool options to match those shown in Figure B.

 

B

 

Light the way

Now, we’re ready to draw the gradient that we’ll gradually transform into a rainbow. We’ll do this in a series of steps.

Step 1: Make some rays

First, position your mouse pointer near the bottom of your document window. Then, as shown in Figure C, click and drag up about an inch to create a linear gradient, as shown in Figure D.

 

 

C

 

 

D

 

Step 2: Create a distortion

The next step is to bend the linear gradient into the standard arc shape of a rainbow. To do this, choose Filter > Distort > Polar Coordi...