Create Sunset Sillhouettes in Photoshop

Creating sunset silhouettes in Photoshop can be a unique way to make your photo much more interesting. Silhouettes can be taken with cameras, but it's also possible to simply recreate the effect in Photoshop if you know what you are doing. By creating a silhouette, you will black out the subjects and place a sunset background behind them.

Step 1: Open Your Photo

For this tutorial, you will need a photo of someone or a couple which can be turned into a silhouette. If you don't already have a suitable photo, then it should be possible to download some from stock photo websites. Open the photo in Photoshop by selecting File Open and choosing the image that you plan to work with.

Step 2: Select the Subject

Now you need to isolate the subject from the rest of the photo. Depending on the type of photo your working on, you will need to use a different technique for this. If you are working with a image which is already isolated, then it should be possible to use the magic wand. If not, then it will be easiest to use the quick mask tool by pressing the Q button on the keyboard. When the quick mask is applied, select the brush tool and paint away the red from the subject of the photo.

Step 3: Adjustment Layer

Once the selection has been made, you now need to make a new Hue/Saturation Adjustment layer. To do this click Layer, New adjustment Layer and adjust the lightness to -100 or whatever value you think works best. Leave the Hue and Saturation as they are at 0.

This should result in an image where your subjects are blacked out in silhouette, but the background currently remains the same.

Step 4: New Adjustment Layer

Now it's time to create a new adjustment layer, which is below your existing adjustment layer. Set this with the same settings of the lightness at -100. This will make the image black; press G to select the gradient tool and D to make the colors default. Now, using the default black to white gradient, click the bottom of the image and drag it upwards.

This will reveal the silhouette again. You might need to experiment with this so that you can get the best results possible.

Step 5: Background

Below the two adjustment layers, create another new adjustment layer, but this time set a solid color adjustment layer. Choose Layer, New Fill Layer, Solid Color. Choose a color that you would expect to see in a sunset--a dark orange such as #f78733 will work fairly well. This adjustment layer should have the blend mode changed to Burn.

If you're not happy with the colors, then you can adjust them until they look right. Open up the Solid Color Adjustment layer and make changes until it looks right.

Step 6: Create the Sun

Select the circle selection tool and make a selection in the image where you want the sun to be located. Create another color adjustment layer and choose a yellow color such as #f4bc12. Now choose Filter, Blur, Gaussian Blur. Set the blur so that the sun looks natural and you can't see the edge of the circle. A blur with intensity of 30 should be sufficient.

Step 7: Finish the Effect

At this stage, you can stop here if you want, however, you can also make the image look much better with some finishing touches. Make a trapezoid shape with the selection tool (a triangle with a flat top). Keep the top of the trapezoid at the center of the horizon, and approximately the same width as your subjects.

Create a solid color adjustment layer and set the same yellow color used for the sun. Add a Gaussian blur effect with the intensity of around 15 or half of whatever you used for the blur of the sun. Change the Layer Blend mode to Linear Light, and set the opacity of the layer to around 50%.

Now you've finished; it's just a matter of merging the layers down so that the image can be printed out or posted on the Internet.


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