Create a Golden Sunrise with Photoshop Solid Colors – Part 2

In part one of this tutorial,  we had an introduction to Adjustment Layers and prepared our photo for our golden sunrise by applying a solid orange color to the photo.

In this tutorial we will be applying two lighting effects to finalize our image and give it a real-life looking sunrise.

  • Lighting Effect 1 – Creating the sunrise
  • Lighting Effect 2 – Creating the reflections (of the sun) on the side of the buildings

Applying the Sunrise Effect – Exposure

We’re now going to lighten up the base of the skyline or the horizon to create a bright gleam of light to make it seem as though the sun has just begun to rise. To do this, we’re going to create another Adjustment Layer and then, using the Gradient Tool, we’re going to remove the effect from the top of the sky whilst leaving the effect on the horizon with a blending effect.

First, let’s click on “New Adjustment Layer”:

Select “Exposure”:

And set the Exposure to about +1.80, as shown below.

Your image should be nice and bright, as shown below.

You’ll notice another layer has been created in your Layer Palate, as shown below.

The white square to the right on your New Layer is your Layer Mask. It should already be selected (the white cornered box around the white square). We are now going to work in the Layer Mask with the Gradient Tool.

First, let’s set up the Gradient Tool.

Select your Gradient Tool, located among the tools on the left-hand side of the screen.

Toward the top left-hand side of the screen you will see the following Gradient configuration button:

Double click it on it and configure it as follows:

The two squares highlighted in yellow define your Color (which should both be black).

The two squares highlighted in purple define the Opacity (the left value should be 100% and the right value should be 0%).

OK, we’re ready to go!

With the Layer Mask selected, draw a line from just below the top of the image to just above the horizon, as shown in the image below (using the yellow arrow as your Gradient line).

Your image should now look similar to this:

Almost there!

Now we just need to add a final lighting effect to the side of the buildings to make it seem as though the sun is shining through the city skyline.

Adding the Reflection of the Sun – Exposure

To add the sunlight reflection effect, we are going to create another Adjustment Layer and adjust the Exposure (a second time).

First, click on “New Adjustment Layer”:

Select “Exposure”:

And set the Exposure to about +1.50, as shown below. 

This could vary depending on your photo, however keep an eye on your buildings and adjust the Exposure to a point where the side of your buildings appear bright and shiny, as though direct sunlight were reflecting off of them.

Your image should look similar to the one below (notice the bright reflection on the side of the buildings).

We now need to remove this effect from everywhere BUT the reflected areas we want to keep (as shown in the yellow circles above).

To do this, we will need to paint over the areas on the Layer Mask that don’t require this effect.

We can remove the majority of the effect with the Gradient Tool, as shown below.

Using the arrows above as a guideline for Gradient lines, use the Gradient Tool to remove the effect from these areas.

You can now use the Brush Tool to remove the rest of the effect from around the buildings.

Select your Brush Tool:

Go to the settings:

Select the following Brush:

And get a Brush size similar to the one shown below.

Now paint in-between and around the buildings so that your image looks like the one shown below.

NOTE: I’ve also painted over the face of the buildings (facing toward you) so the sun is only hitting the right side of the buildings, to make it look more realistic.

It’s not a very striking effect, but have a look at the difference without the effect applied (shown below without effect).

That’s it! You now have yourself a nice golden city sunrise…which was never really there!

Thanks for following.


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