STEP BY STEP
Go softly into the night
Once you’ve shot your sunset images, it’s time to start merging...
01 One we prepared earlier
If you don’t have your own series of shots, use the images included on the cover disc, or follow the link at the bottom of the page. Copy the images onto your hard drive. Open Photoshop and select File > Open, and choose the image DayToNight1.jpg from the downloaded images.
03 Stack ’em high
Repeat the process for all of the images, until DayToNight1 has them all layered on top of it, moving from the lightest shot at the bottom to the darkest at the top. Click on the eye icon next to each layer to turn off visibility, leaving only DayToNight1 and DayToNight4 with the eye icon turned on.
05 Select the mask
When you add the layer mask, a white square will appear next to the DayToNight4 layer. Select this, and a black frame will appear around the outside denoting any changes will only affect that layer. The next stage is to add a gradient to fade each image into the background.
Open DayToNight2.jpg, then go to Select in the menu bar, and choose All (or press Ctrl/Cmd A). This will allow you to copy the entire image using Edit, and then Copy (Ctrl/Cmd C). Select DayToNight1.jpg and select Edit, then Paste (Ctrl/ Cmd V). This will create a second layer for DayToNight2.jpg.
04 Add a mask
A layer mask gives you the ability to manipulate the opacity of a particular layer, which is essential for this technique. To add a layer mask, with the DayToNight4 layer selected, go to the bottom of the Layers panel and click on the icon resembling a rectangle with a circle in the centre.
06 Set the gradient
Click on the Paint Bucket tool and hold until the alternative options appear. Select the Gradient tool, then the linear gradient option from the top toolbar. This will make the progression move in one direction. Double-click on the gradient pattern to the left to open the Gradient Editor.
07 What lies beneath
In the Gradient Editor, click on the bottom-right preset, which is called Neutral Density. Next, select the top-right marker, and change the opacity level to 0%. This will mean that one side of the gradient will make the layer below completely visible, while on the other side of the gradient the layer below will still be fully covered.
09 The right stripes
Select File, Open again, and open the Gradient-Template file from our start images. This will give you coloured points across the image to start and end at. (Don’t worry, the colours won’t appear in your final picture.) Copy and paste the template so it’s the top layer in your composition, as explained in Step 2. It should be the only image visible.
11 Pull it together
Click on the gradient tool and drag from the left edge of the yellow segment to the right edge of the red segment. This should make the image underneath visible, which is DayToNight1, but only at the very right-hand edge. Hide the template by clicking on the eye symbol on the layer.
08 The gradient’s a drag
You don’t actually want a completely opaque part in the gradient, so select the top-left marker and set the opacity to 70%. Confirm the changes by clicking on OK. This will give you ability to select the starting and ending point of your gradient, managing how much of the image below can be seen by dragging a line horizontally.
10 Leading lines
Double-click in the space next to the title of this layer, opening up the Layer Style window. Reduce the opacity of the layer to 30% so the image underneath is now clearly visible, and click on OK. Select the Layer Mask for the DayToNight4 layer – the white box will be surrounded by a black frame when you’ve done this.
12 Fade to black
Click on the layer mask for DayToNight3, then make the template layer visible again. Start the gradient at the left edge of the yellow section, ending at the right edge of the blue section. Repeat the same action for DayToNight2, then turn off visibility on the template. Your image is done!