Gradient Overlays for Great Looking Photographs (with Affinity)

Highlight mood and artistic creativity with simple gradients overlays

By Martin KP in Articles and Tips on Jul 11, 2019

In this tutorial I will show you how to enhance black and white photographs using gradient overlays.  I will demonstrate this technique to enhance a portrait using Affinity Photo, but of course the technique can be applied in other mainstream photo editing programs.

Digital post processing offers the photographer a selection of tools to help with creating a pictorial mood. Subtle tonal changes can elevate, heighten or lessen photographic elements to help the viewers eye toward an artistic expression whilst remaining hidden within the photographic structure. Indeed, a graduating tonal shift using a vignette tool when used properly is a good way to enhance your post processing creativity, yet, over use of this tool can lead to mundane predictability across the tonal space in a series of pictures and the tool itself negates your own artistic expression. There is another way to create the same mood effect of a vignette whilst remaining creative to a mood within the frame. This can be done by employing the gradient fill tool.

Pauline Standing
Original image

All good photo editing programs will have a gradient tool. Tones, colors or tints can be altered to serve the intended mood of a photograph. The easiest scale to use is a gray scale but this technique also works well for color scale. Sometimes a color photograph only needs a hint of gray scale but I find I employ gradients to black and white images. Sometimes the same gradient can be used across a picture series. Bare in mind, gradients suffer from the same transgressions as vignettes, their over use can muddy a picture instead of providing a subtle mood change and artistic expression. When carefully considered and combined with selective curves the creative elements fuse to an interesting result. The key here is to experiment and I will show you how to do just that.


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