Posted by Claire Wade

Here’s a photo of a train I took and it’s OK, but it could be a lot better. I’m using a train photo this time as a cat photo is always already perfect!! 😉

So here’s the photo, it’s looking a bit pale and dull:

resizedimage500331-Crewe-3resizedimage500304-71. I started by going to Enhance, Adjust Lighting and clicked on Levels.


2. In the Levels dialogue box, I moved the little sliders that are underneath the histogram. The more you move them, the more the photo changes.

Moving the left one in darkens the image. The right one lightens it. The one in the middle changes mid tones.

You can see in the diagram how far I moved the sliders, it is down to personal preference though.

When I was happy with the changes I’d made, I clicked OK.


3. Personally, I think that the left hand side of the photo is paler than the right. So I wanted to fix this. To start, I wanted to copy the background layer.

If you cannot see your Layers Palette, click on Window at the top,and then Layers. Or you can press F11.

I then dragged the background layer onto the New Layer icon in the panel. I’ve pointed to this icon with the upper arrow in the diagram.

Another way to do this is to press CTRL and J together.

And another way is to click on Layer at the top, then New, then Layer from Background.


4. I made sure that the copied layer was highlighted –  it is possible to tell as it is highlighted blue in the Layers Palette.

I opened the Layers box again (Enhance, Adjust Lighting, Levels) or I could press CTRL and L.

I moved the left slider in to the right. The rest of the photo did get too dark, but it doesn’t matter and you will see why. I then clicked OK.

resizedimage500382-115. Next I went on the Layers Palette. Making sure I was still  on the Background copy layer, I clicked on the Add Layer Mask button. The arrow on the left is pointing to it.

resizedimage499410-126. When I clicked on the Add Layer Mask button, a white thumbnail appeared next to the thumbnail of the photo. I clicked on the white thumbnail – you can tell as there’s a highlighted box around it.resizedimage500356-13

7. Next I clicked on the Gradient Tool. The top arrow on the diagram points to it. The Gradient options appeared at the bottom and I made sure it was on Linear – this is the default.

I pressed the letter D on my keyboard, this makes the two colours at the bottom left default to black and white. I then pressed X to make white the foreground colour. (X swaps the background and foreground colour with each other.)


8. So next  I clicked on the left of the image (where left arrow is pointing), and holding down the mouse button, I dragged it across to the right (you may be able to see the tiny line where I dragged on the diagram on the left – it is very thin!).

*Please note, on the layers palette I was still on the thumbnail of the layer mask, this means that the gradient is going on the mask, not the image.


9. So you can see that the gradient is on the thumbnail of the layer mask. The areas that are black, you can see through to the lighter layer underneath.

On every layer there is an icon of an eye, on the left of the layer. If you try doing this tutorial, click on that eye a couple of times. This will click it off and on and you can see the difference in the image.

So overall, the darkened area on the left (copied layer) is graduated to the paler area on the right (background layer).


10. Next I went onto the Layers Palette and clicked the icon on the top right hand corner. It has four lines and an arrow pointing down. A drop down menu appeared.

I then clicked on Flatten Image. I did this to merge the two layers together into one.

resizedimage500405-1711. Next I thought I’d brighten the sky a little. So I went onto the Layers Palette and clicked the icon on the top left hand corner to Create a New Layer. This layer would be blank and transparent.


12. You can see the blank new layer on the right. You can tell it’s transparent as in the thumbnail it shows grey and white checks – this represents transparency.

I went back onto the Gradient tool and clicked D to get black to be the foreground colour.

resizedimage499345-1913.  At the bottom of the screen, I clicked on the arrow (as pointed at by the lower red arrow). A new box popped up with various gradients in it. I clicked on the second one from the left, at the top. This gradient goes from the foreground colour (which is currently black) to transparency.

resizedimage500217-2014. Next, making sure that I’m still on the top layer that is transparent, I dragged the mouse from the top to the middle of the image.

resizedimage500265-2115. This was the result. But it wasn’t going to stay like this for long! I went back to the Layers Palette, making sure I was clicked on the top layer with the black gradient in it.


16. At the top of the Layers Palette is a drop down menu, that is by default set to Normal. I clicked on this and lots of other options showed, I clicked on Overlay. The result was that the black gradient blended into the layer below making it a richer colour.

If you are trying this tutorial, I recommend clicking on some of the other options, just to see what they do.


17. The only problem was that although the sky was nice, the train had turned rather dark where the gradient was overlayed over it.

So making sure I was still on the gradient layer, I clicked on the Layer Mask icon as pointed to with the upper red arrow.  I then clicked on the white thumbnail which appeared – you can see a highlighted box around it.


18. I then clicked on the Brush Tool, pointed to by the upper left hand red arrow. I made sure that black was the foreground colour by pressing D.

I had the brush at the size of 1000 pixels, but it’s down to personal preference what size you have it. I painted over the train. You can see in the thumbnail in the Layers Palette where I painted in black. This meant that the area of blended gradient in this area could no longer be seen and the train was nice and bright again.


19. Back in the Layers Palette, I clicked on the top right hand corner to get the drop down menu and clicked on Flatten Image.

This makes all the layers merge into one. This is important because it makes the file size smaller and it has to be flat to save as a jpeg and therefore be able to upload to the web.

Only keep an image in layers if you intend to come back and work on it another day. If you want to save your image with the layers, it has to be a PSD file, as this allows you to keep layers when saving.

resizedimage501345-2720. Lastly, I went to Enhance, Unsharp Mask so that I could sharpen the image.

resizedimage499340-2821. This is the Unsharp Mask Dialogue box. I set the amount to 100%, radius: 1 pixel and  threshold: 1 level. This is personal preference, I suggest anyone try moving the sliders up and down to see how sharp you would like your image. I then clicked OK.


And here’s the final enhanced photo. I think it looks better, I hope you do too!

If anyone has any questions, is having probelms, or would like me to send them the original image (if you think it will help to have a go at this), please email me at