By Perry Harmon, Shutterstock Contributor
Here’s a quick way to lighten or darken part of an image in Photoshop, and do it seamlessly so there’s no obvious “line” where your adjustment starts and stops.
1. Open your image. In this example, I’m using an image of an old barn and I want to darken the sky but not the rest of the image. I also want it to darken gradually from the top to the bottom.
2. Add a blank layer above your image layer. (You can do this in the layers palette by clicking on the “Create a New Layer” button at the bottom of the palette.) Note: This may look different on your screen depending on the version of Photoshop you’re using and whether you’re using a Mac or PC.
3. Click on the Gradient tool from the toolbox. Make sure you’re using the “linear gradient” brush. (This is usually located at the upper left of the screen.)
4. To the left of the “linear gradient” brush, click on the downfacing arrow (usually the second option from the left) and choose the “Foreground to Transparent” option. Your foreground color doesn’t matter so don’t be worried if it’s some weird color. In this case I used yellow.
5. Hold the Shift key down and click and drag from the top of the image down to the point that you want to stop the effect. In this example, we want to darken the sky but not the rest of the image so we’ll start at the top of the image and drag down and stop at the top of the trees. (Holding down the “Shift” key ensures that your line will be perfectly vertical.)
6. Click “Select,” then “Load Selection.” Make sure the channel box says “Layer 1 Transparency.” Your image should look like this:
7. Go to the layers palette and click on the layer you just added the gradient to. Drag it down to the “Delete Layer” icon (looks like a tiny trash can). Do NOT deselect! Now your image should look like this:
8. At the bottom of the layers palette, click on the “Create new fill or adjustment layer” icon (a circle that’s half black and half white). Click on “Levels” or “Curves” (whichever you prefer) and adjust accordingly to darken or lighten the area.
9. Flatten and save (with a DIFFERENT name than the original).
That’s it! Now, our bland, hazy day just took a delightfully menacing turn with some possible storm clouds, both surreal yet real-looking at the same time.