Great Gradients

By Lesa Snider, iStock evangelist and author of Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual

Photoshop’s Gradient tool is incredibly useful. You can use it to fill a layer, selection or text with color, or inside a layer mask to produce faded color effects and collages.

For example, instead of painting on a layer mask with a black or white brush—wherein black conceals and white reveals—use a black-to-white gradient.

Here are two ideas to get you started: 1) Faded color to grayscale. A Black & White Adjustment layer is a great way to turn a color photo into black and white. Choose Layer > New Adjustment layer > Black & White and then use the Gradient tool inside the included layer mask to make the color fade softly into grayscale; 2) Solid color fade. Fading a solid color onto one side of a photo creates a nice spot for text. Choose Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color and then use the Gradient tool in the included mask to make the color fade into the photo.

That’s all there is to it!

Beautiful Color to Black-and-White Conversion

By Lesa Snider, iStock evangelist and author of Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual

A great way to create a non-destructive yet gorgeous black-and-white image is to use a Gradient Map Adjustment layer. In fact, pro photographers swear by this method. To do it, open you image and set your color chips to black and white by pressing D (which stands for default).

Because the Gradient Map Adjustment layer you’re about to add uses your foreground and background color chips, the result is less startling if you set them back to factory-fresh black and white first (though you can always change the gradient colors later).

Next, click the half-black/half-white circle icon at the bottom of your Layers panel and choose Gradient Map. Instantly, Photoshop maps the shadows to one end of the gradient (black), and the highlights to the other end (white). Add it all up and you’ve got a truly spectacular black and white conversion!

Photoshop Tips from iStock

Cropping a layered document
By Lesa Snider, iStock evangelist and author of Photoshop CS5: The Missing Manual

Normally, when you crop an image, Photoshop deletes the portion of the photo that you cropped so it’s gone forever. But if you’re cropping a layered file, you can tell Photoshop not to vaporize the cropped material, making it easy to get back if you change your mind. To do that, head up to the Options bar and, in the Cropped Area section, turn on the Hide radio button.

From now on, Photoshop will hide the cropped area outside the document margins instead of deleting it, meaning that even though you won’t see it onscreen, it’s still part of your file. In fact, if you want to resurrect the cropped portion, choose Image>Reveal All and Photoshop will automatically resize the canvas to reveal anything that might be loitering outside the edges of the document (in this case, that’s the previously cropped bits).

If you want to bring back a portion of the cropped area, just use the Move tool to reposition that area back into view.

Digital Photo Revolution

Check out this sneak peak for Photoshop CS4 (

This Content Aware Fill feature will revolutionize the way in which digital photography is editied. As one friend said “why take photots when you can build them instead”. While I won’t go that far, this new technology is going to allow people to take ordinary photos and make them spectacular.  I have no idea when CS4 will be available but I’ll be lining up to get a copy…I might even pay for it!