Powerful Gradient Masks with the Local Adjustments Tool
January 17, 2013 9 Comments
Capture One has had a Local Adjustments Tool since version 6, and in Capture One Pro 7, a number of improvements and new features have been added to make it even better.
One of these improvements is the new Gradient Mask cursor tool. By using this tool, you can easily create a Gradient Mask in an adjustment layer.
To create a Gradient Mask, you simply click in the image and drag the cursor in the direction of the desired mask:
- The mask is at full intensity where you start
- The mask is a 0 intensity where you let go
The image to the left is straight out of the camera. It has been exposed to preserve detail in the sky, which has resulted in a very dark foreground. The image is a typical example of a shot where we, traditionally, would have used an optical gradient filter to create a better balance between the bright sky and the foreground.
If you shoot with a low noise camera, you can actually achieve even better results by using a Gradient Mask in a Local Adjustments layer. The image to the right shows the effect of correcting the image with the Local Adjustments tool by using the new Gradient Mask option.
I have created two adjustment layers for the image in this example. One for the foreground and one for the sky.
In the Local Adjustment tool tab and in the Local Adjustments layers tool you find the selector for the options: Draw Mask, Erase Mask but also the new Gradient Mask cursor tool.
Start by adding a new Adjustments layer by pressing the “+” button and choosing the Gradient Mask option in the selection drop down menu.
Drawing the foreground Gradient Mask
For the foreground mask I want a short gradient across the horizon. This creates a mask that selects the foreground and smoothly fades out into the sky. I draw the gradient mask by clicking with the mouse at the point in the image where I want the mask to be at full intensity. I then draw the mask with the mouse button kept down and let go at the point in the image where I want the mask to be at 0 intensity. Above in the image to the left, you can see the starting point and the end point for the foreground gradient mask. You can see the final foreground mask on the image to the right.
Applying corrections to the foreground mask
I now open up the dark foreground by adding exposure compensation to the mask.
Drawing the mask for the sky:
For the sky I want a gradient mask that creates a long smooth gradient all the way from the top of the sky down to the foreground. First, I add another Adjustments Layer named “Sky”. With the Gradient Mask hand tool I then draw the mask from the top of the image to a point a little below the horizon.
Applying adjustments to the mask for the sky
I want to bring back detail and create a bit of drama in the sky. To accomplish that, I simply apply negative exposure compensation to the mask.
Just by using two simple masks with the new Gradient Mask tool, I was able to bring back a good balance between the sky and the foreground – thereby creating a much more interesting image. To add the finishing touches, I also added some minor adjustments to the basic layer of the image with the Exposure tool and the Clarity tool.
I hope this post has inspired you to play around with the new Gradient Mask tool.
All the best,