Using Gradients
to Simulate Graduated Filters

Gradients and graduated filters in Paint Shop Pro are very versatile and useful in multiple situations.  In this tutorial they will be used to simulate expensive filters.

Let's take a look at  how they work with a bit of background first ... 


Grey skies, nothing but grey skies during s typical English summer!

If there's a dynamic range of tones in the sky (that is, not a uniform grey), fine, you can use those tones to your advantage which will give the image atmosphere (sorry about the pun).

But often that's not enough.  

Graduated Filters On The Camera

Changing the colour of the sky from grey is easy with a graduated or gradient filter so that the foreground is unchanged.  Or, you can change both to different colours.  In the days of film, this was achieved using glass or plastic (polycarbonate) filters. 

Polycarbonate filters are rectangular polymer sheets which dyed in the mass.  They are designed to fit a universal holder which is attached to the camera lens filter screw thread by means of a threaded adapter, and can be rotated and adjusted. 

The holders are designed to hold multiple filters, one in front of the other, and to allow vertical or horizontal adjustment.  The two most well-known manufacturers are Cokin and Kood.  A whole range of filters is available; gradient or graduated filters have colour which is dark at one end gradually becoming uniformly paler across the filter.

These filters work with both SLR film cameras and Digital SLR's and you can buy a graduated filter kit to work with your compact camera.

Gradients in Action

This picture was taken without filters, and the contrast was enhanced using Adjust>Brightness and Contrast>Levels (see the Levels tutorial) to improve the separation in sky.

It's still boring.

This picture was taken without filters, but the contrast has been enhanced using Adjust > Brightness and Contrast > Levels (see the Levels tutorial) to improve the separation in sky but darn, it's still boring!

The foreground has been filtered with a Cokin "tabac" filter which fades as you go into the picture.  The background has been filtered with a "blue" filter which fades as you go into the picture.  The contrast of the image has been raised by lightening the midtones and highlights using Layers>New Adjustment Layer>Curves moving the curve upwards slightly at the highlight end.  (see the Curves tutorial )

Filters won't turn a bad picture into a good one, but they will increase the interest level.  So you then have a choice.  “Do I apply the filter at the time of taking, knowing that there is a limited number of filters available, or do I apply the filter at the time of editing in Paint Shop Pro?” 

Simulating Graduated Filters
With Paint Shop Pro Gradients

I'd been playing around with some sky images for the blend mode tutorial, and one caught my eye as I wished it had been taken using a filter.
OK, so how does it work?  Could I create the same effect with Paint Shop Pro as I did from my box of filters? 

Step One - Getting The Image Ready 

The image lacks contrast, so Layers>New Adjustment Layer>Curves sorted that problem out. See the Curves tutorial if you need further help.

Step Two - Making Your Filter Layer

Add a new layer in which you are going to add the filter. Layers>New Raster Layer.
Make sure this new layer is selected as the current layer.
And now to create the filter.   Paint Shop Pro already has some a lot of gradients, so all we need to do is to edit the one which is nearest to our requirements.

Step Three - Making Your Custom Filter

Call up the Materials Editor by double clicking the gradient button in the materials palette. 

Materials Palette

Gradient Editor

... and choose a suitable candidate for editing by clicking on the coloured box above the edit button.

This will bring up the wide range of Gradients included in your copy of Paint Shop Pro and there are a lot of them ... 

Corel_06_005 (duotone dark blue looks about right) - next click on the edit button and the Editor will come up, so that you can modify the colours. 

The pattern selected has three markers to indicate the colours and their positions within the filter. As you click on each in turn their colour is shown within the “custom” box.

If you hover the mouse or pen over the custom box it will change to an ink dropper shape. A double click brings up the colour dialogue controls and the creative fun can start.

You can adjust the colour and then their positions within the filter. And the “Save As” button allows you to keep that filter for future use. 

Step Four - Applying The Filter

Close the Editor, then OK the Materials Properties dialogue. Choose the Flood Fill Tool and click onto the picture.

Don’t be alarmed as the entire picture disappears with your filter, you’ll see the magic as you set the blend mode of the layer to Overlay

So  - did I duplicate the real film world gradient filter with the Paint Shop Pro? 

No - because no after treatment can replace the effect in the camera, but PSP achieved the effect that would have required two filters and perhaps several exposures to succeed, and of course, you can experiment with different combinations that may not exist or be in your camera bag. 

On that photo, I think the result scored, since all who have seen it don’t see it as intrusive or even know that it was achieved artificially. 

Copyright 2009 - 2015

Use the Contact Form to ask questions, make suggestions or add comments.