How to Create Gradient
Let's do some more layer masking. Here I'll show you how to create a fade to white or fade to black effect. Start with a flattened image or a photograph on a new document (File: new...cut and paste or drag into a document).
You'll then want to create the white layer. This is really easy; click on the new layer icon and choose white as your foreground color and then 'fill' the layer (Edit: Fill or Alt/Opt Backspace or Paint bucket).
Now create a copy of the original image by dragging it to the new layer icon. This will create an exact duplicate. I'm doing it here because the background layer is locked and prohibits me from doing things to that layer itself so I just duplicate it to have something to work with.
Now you'll want to use the gradient tool. Grab it in the tool bar and make sure you have black as your foreground color in the color picker. Choose linear gradient tool and have it on foreground to transparent pixels (as you can see). This will allow the gradient to 'hide' pixels and fade them into the rest of the image.
Now, create a new layer mask on the layer making sure that it is above the white layer in the layers palette. By masking or 'hiding' these pixels, we will allow them to 'fade into' the white layer that is beneath it. It is important to understand this concept. So on the layer mask icon in the layers palette, take your gradient tool and swipe down in a straight line. This allows the pixels to be blended into the layer below. The gradient tool does a great job.
Here you can see the layer mask icon in the channels palette. When you create a layer mask, it becomes a permanent channel (until you get rid of it). You can toggle on and off the rubylith here. The rubylith allows you to see the masking job that you are doing.
Now you can create some text with the text tool...choose a font and type some names.
You can drag a guideline down to allow layers to 'snap' to the guideline. This makes it easy to align other layers such as text headings. Choose View: Rulers and then you can drag down guidelines by putting the cursor (on any tool) in the ruler area, clicking and dragging a guideline down to where you want it. Drag one down to the bottom of the text where it should 'snap' into place.
You can easily create the same text settings by just duplicating a text layer (drag it to the new layer icon in the layers palette), make sure you're on the text tool and you can type in something else. After you've duplicated, you can immediately move the text layer with the move tool along the guideline or hold Shift and drag it to the right to keep it parallel.
When using the text tool, you have to line it up just right so you can enter the text editing field...this may take some practice as sometimes even I'll 'miss' the field if I want to modify some text. So create another text layer with different names and have that moved over.
When you look at the layer mask icon in the layers palette, the black areas that you see are what are 'masked' or 'hidden'. Here I've used the gradient tool and swiped from the bottom Up to hide pixels on the bottom portion, allowing the white layer to be showing. Now create a layer mask on the white layer by pressing the layer mask icon when you have the white layer selected in the palette.
Now, I chose to fill the background layer itself with black. Keep in mind when doing this that you want to keep an original of whatever your image was but because I know I'm not going to be making actual pixel adjustments (just layer masking which is disposable) on the image, I went ahead and filled it with black (and have a backup original somewhere saved anyways). Now simply use the same method swiping up with the gradient tool on the white layer's layer mask with the black layer beneath it.
This will allow the visible white to 'fade to black'. You will have to be aware of all of the layers above it. For example, if there wasn't a layer mask on the image (filling up the full screen) you wouldn't be able to see any of the masking on layers underneath it, but in this case, we have the layers masked to allow viewing of the bottom-most layer (black).
Now that there is the background layer showing through, some white text will balance really well on top of it. I can keep the layer where its at in the layers palette because there are no other visible pixels on top of it in that location; otherwise usually text will always go on top (unless you deliberately don't want it to as in some other tutorials here).
Here is one method to center your guidelines and allow layers to be centered. Find a base or background layer that covers the entire width of the document (here I just create a copy of the background b/c locked layers won't let you transform); select free transform so there is a bounding box on the whole layer.
Now you can drag guidelines down from the horizontal and vertical and they will 'snap' to center (with snap 'on' in the View menu), then you can press enter to get rid of the transform box and you can now center layers along the document.
Add some text with the T tool.
Now you should have a much better understanding of how gradient layer masking works and know how to fade any image into black or white! Remember that you can get this iPSD from the iPSD Directory or if you're already signed up to the PSDer, then check your first email with the access instructions to all 42 downloadable finished .psd's.
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