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Cc4FuzzyHuggles

Gradient Blending - Blending Objects Using a Transparent Gradient

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Gradient Blending - Blending Objects Using a Transparent Gradient.

 
Hello, in this tutorial I want to show you a technique that I call Gradient Blending. I will be using gradient blending to blend the object of one image into another image. There are several ways of blending pictures, merging pictures, combining pictures, merging objects, other image manipulation techniques, etc, and this technique using the gradient tool is one of them.

I've tried to write this tutorial in a way that is aimed at paint.net beginners. If you have suggestions for this tutorial, or suggestions on how I might do future tutorials, please send all suggestions through a personal message (pm).
If you have any questions about any of the steps, need help, or want to share your blended pictures, feel free to ask anything or share in the comments area below. :)
 

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For this tutorial my Main Image will be a picture of a flowery field with a horse, while my Insert Image is a pond, and the pond will be the Object that I blend into my Main Image, the field.
.horse-in-field-of-flowers-1440517-m.jpg. .artificial-pond-1401193-m.jpg.
Field Image : http://s5.postimg.org/odkoippsn/1440517_54455690.jpg
Pond Image : http://s5.postimg.org/ufsb97e8n/1401193_21003685.jpg

Here is the combined picture that I will be showing you how to make. And just for fun I added a faint reflection to the pond using the Water Reflection plugin (and yes, I have bonus steps where I show how to add the reflection.)
WaterReflection%20LayerBlendModesMltply1
 
Note: For this tutorial, I resized each sample image down to around 800 by 533 to stay within the forum rules (max image size is 800x600). Also, smaller image sizes are easier for me to work with on my low RAM PC. However, normally, if your PC can handle working with larger images, then it is best to keep the images large and later create different smaller sizes at the end of the project.
 

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1) To blend the images, have each image on their own layer, the Main Image as the bottom layer and your Insert Image/Object as the top layer. Then, if it isn't already your active layer, click on the Object Layer.

MainImageObjectLayer%20Pic_zps88f0awmr.j

2) Cut out your object.
Important : When cutting out your object, you don't need to make a perfect cutout, you want to make a roomy and spacious cutout. The excess spacing around your object is what will be faded to blend the edges with the rest of the image.

To cut out your object you can either use the method seen in this other tutorial, or if your object is like mine you can do what I did...

 

   2a.) Use one of these selection tools; Ellipse :EllipseSelectTool:, Rectangle :RectangleSelectTool:, or Lasso :LassoSelectTool:. Since my object is a pond I used the ellipse selection tool :EllipseSelectTool: and adjusted the selection using the “Move Selection Tool :MoveSelectionTool: " . (Here are some “how to” links : The Selection Tools and How to use the move tools.)

Selection Sample Picture.
SelectionToolsAndMoveSelect_zpsyfwuc8vp.
SelectionPondImg_zpsn86yszvx.jpg

   2b.) Invert the selection by hitting ctrl + i on your keyboard, or by going up to the Menu Bar > Edit > Invert Selection. Then hit delete on your keyboard.
 
InvertSelectionDeleteSelection1_zpswp2iy
 
4) Resize and position the object to where you want it.

   4a. The place I wanted to position my pond was a little hard to see. So I turned off my pond layer for a moment, made an extra layer, and gave myself a temporary guide line using the line/curve tool with an easy to see color. I then turned my pond back on and made sure it was my active layer. (This step (4a.) is optional.)
For anyone interested, here is a sample image of my layers showing my temporary guide line. (When I'm done with the layer, I'll turn it off and move it out of the way, or I'll delete it.)
GuidesMarksShowingLayers2015_zpsrktkght6

   4b. Lower the opacity of your Object Layer so you can see what you are doing (How to change layer opacity? See Layer Properties.).

   4c. Select all (ctrl+a) or use a selection tool to select your object.

   4d. Then use the “Move Selected Pixels Tool :MoveTool:” to resize and move your object.

Tip, you can toggle and fiddle with your layer's opacity at any time to help you better gauge where you want your object to be. When you are happy with the size and position of your object, deselect (crtl + D).
 
Here is a picture of my object (the pond) being positioned where I want it by using the Move Selected Pixels Tool :MoveTool:.
MoveSelectedPixTool_zpsfsk5vj5x.jpg
ResizeAndPositionObject771x600_zpszzyqwi

5) After you have moved your object...

   5a. Increase the opacity of the object layer back to 255, so the object isn't transparent anymore.

   5b. I recommend making a backup layer of your object layer.
How? Simply duplicate the object layer and then turn one of the object layers off (invisible), and re-name it so you don't get the two object layers confused.
Why? In case of mistakes you can copy selected areas from the back up object layer, and then paste them over your mistakes on the other object layer. Or if you don't like how your blending is looking, you can start over and try again by deleting the messed-up object layer and re-duplicating the untouched backup object layer. The backup layer can also be used as a reference to compare the normal version of the object with the blending version of the object.

   5c. Zoom in a little on the area you want to blend first. (I will be fading the top edge of my object first). I suggest starting with a zoom that lets you see some details but isn't too close, so you can still see some of the surroundings of the overall image.

Here is a sample image. I have deleted my guide line layer since it wasn't necessary anymore, and instead I now have a duplicate of my object layer. I am zoomed in at 300%, but I think computer screen sizes effect how zooms look on different PC screens, so a different zoom % might be better for you. (Most images for this tutorial cannot be enlarged, but to get a better sense of how much I'm zoomed in, you can click on this picture to see a larger version or click here.)
ZoomedInSample800x434_zps7snqesmk.jpg

6) Next, choose the Gradient Tool, make sure it's set to “Linear”, and change the tool's mode from “Color Mode” to “Transparency Mode”. It is also recommend that your primary and secondary colors be black and white (the default colors).
 
GradientToolTransparencyMode4.0_zpsh6svc

7) Gradient Blending.
Be sure you're on the correct object layer, then...
1. Click in the center of your object,
2. Drag your mouse in the direction you want your object to be faded.
One side of the gradient will erase/fade your object, while the other side will be solid.
Tips - Holding shift while you draw your gradient will keep it straight. Right clicking on a nub will swap the faded side of the gradient with the solid side, so if you happen to get your fade backwards, don't worry, just right click on a nub.
 
GradientClickAndDragToFade1_zpshs9hdeml.

8) To get a feel for things, move your two nubs till they sandwich the edge of your object.
Tip - While holding a nub, you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard to help you adjust the nub's position with better control.
 
SandwichEdgeOfObject1_zpsjn0nmmz2.jpg

9) The edge of the object is harder to see, but it's still visible. That's alright, because I want you to see how the transparent gradient functions. This will be important when you apply this technique to other various images. In order to blend the edge, fade it out, erase it, etc, you will need to move the “fading nub” under the object's edge or inside of the object's edge.

For my sample picture the “fading nub” is the top nub that is on the outside of my object. Moving the fading nub in under the object's edge will cause the edge to become invisible as it is erased by the transparent gradient. (Depending on how close your nubs already are, you might want to move the other nub as well, because when the two nubs get too close to each other the gradient can get tricky to control. Arrow keys can help give control when needed though.).
GradientObjectEdgeFade1_zpsuggdtq2n.jpg

10) Now that you know how to fade/erase your object's edge, lets shape your object by blending away any unwanted areas. With your gradient still active (if it isn't click undo or undo with crtl + z), let's move the gradient nubs to sandwich the area that you want to have as your object's new edge.

NewObjectEdge1_zpshszzpeoi.jpg
 
11) Which edge do you want to blend/fade next? You can zoom in closer on your new focus point if you want. Then click near the area you want your new edge to be and start another gradient. Sandwich the area with your gradient nubs like you did in the previous step.

NewSandwichEdgeSampleImg1_zpsoy83wuhj.jp
 
12) Gradient Blending Small Areas, and Using Selections.

   12a. You can gradient blend small areas by zooming in very close, and being careful with the angle of your gradient with either a steady hand or by using your keyboard's arrow keys.
Instead of gradient blending as much as you can with one gradient, it can be good to blend small areas to help get a cleaner shape and possible better end results. This is because some areas need to be faded differently for them to look better, such as different gradient angles or different spacing between the nubs.

   12b. You can also gradient blend smaller areas by using selections. Gradient blending in selections has other benefits too. Keeping a gradient restricted in a selection can help you apply the right gradient to the right area without effecting neighboring areas, such as areas you've already blended and are happy with. But, be careful, using a selection can sometimes cause the gradient to make a rough edge of it's own. The rough edge will only be noticeable after you de-select. Learning when to use selections and how to use them for gradient blending comes from trial and error.
 
In this picture I made a broad selection around an area, and then I blended my object's edge in the selection.
SelectionGradientBlendingResized_zpsigmk

Here is a chopped up picture of how I blended medium to small areas, with and without selections.
SelectionsAndNoSelections1_zpsuqefmcrg.j

13) Experiment with different gradients.
I found that the Radial Gradient can be used to make small powder-puff fades that work nicely for some spots. Small radials can also be similar to the eraser tool when the eraser's hardness is set very low, but sometimes the radial gradient can give better blending results than the eraser.

In this sample image, I blended most of the area without a selection and with the regular linear gradient, but now I've gone back and used several small radial gradients to help edit the area and give it a little more of a curved edge. You might not be able to notice much in my sample below, but fine detailing can make a difference depending on the images and objects you are trying to blend together, which unfortunately isn't very apparent in my choice of images.
RadialGradientReshape3_zpsdxb25c77.jpg

14) Keep gradient blending until you are satisfied.
The gradient blending technique will hopefully serve you well, and in more ways than one. There are other ways to blend images and fade edges using plugins (mentioned at the bottom of this tutorial), but if you're not looking for a quick fix, or if you want a blending method with more versatility and more control, I think this method can produce decent end results.

Here is the combined picture. I have combined the object (the pond) with the main image (the field) using the gradient blending technique.
GradientBlending%20FinalOriginal_zpsf5tf
 
Bonus Fun & Extras.
 
Bonus 1. Clone Stamp Tool.
I didn't really want the white bit that you see on the pond. So I used the Clone Stamp tool with a hardness set to 0 to remove it.
 
CloneStampRemoveWhiteFromPond_zpsjwc2cri

Bonus Fun 2. Water Reflection.
Alright, since my inserted picture/object is a pond, I'm going to add a faint extra water effect using the Water Reflection plugin, which is found here : http://forums.getpaint.net/index.php?/topic/2482-water-reflection-ymd100725/
(Don't know how to install plugins? See here : http://forums.getpaint.net/index.php?/topic/1708-how-to-install-pluginsgeneral-plugin-troubleshooting-thread/)

These steps will be worded to match the sample images I'm using, the field and pond. But, you can use the water reflection plugin on anything you want.
1) Duplicate the field image and move it to be the top layer.
2) Lower the layer's opacity to anywhere from 100 to 85, so you can see the pond behind it.
3) Run the Water Reflection plugin.
For the look I want, the settings I used were a distance of 58.50, and the rest I left at default.
 
WaterReflectionSettingAndSamplePic_zps5q

4) Next, while on the reflection layer, make a selection around the pond. You don't need to match the edges of the pond perfectly, just like before, the excess spacing is what we will fade to blend the edges with the rest of the image. After you have your selection, invert it and hit delete on your keyboard.
 
ReflectionSelectionPond_zpslgbzry6q.jpg

5) Let's fade the edges of the reflection.
   5a. First, increase the opacity of the reflection layer so you can see the edges of your cut shape better. (Anything around 140 to 161 should do.)
   5b. Now, instead of doing the gradient method to fade the edges, we can do a quick fade this time with a plugin. I will use the Alpha Blur plugin.
Settings:
“Shift in <--” all the way (-127)
The radius depends on how big of a selection was made around the pond. For my cutout reflection a radius of about 14 looks fine to me.
 
ReflectionAlphaBlurSettings_zpsvlsqn8un.
 
6) Next, play with the layer's opacity and blending modes till you like how the reflection looks.
I personally think an opacity at around 125 or less looks good. And for the blending modes, I like Overlay, Lighten, Multiply or Darken. Even though a shiny pond is a pretty pond, I want to have my pond remain close to it's original appearance, so I used the multiply blending mode with a layer opacity of 102.

Here is the final result. :)
WaterReflection%20LayerBlendModesMltply1

 
Edge Fading Plugins.
Plugins often are very good at fading edges, but they are not always the best choice for blending images. For more control over your blending, and sometimes better quality blending, I do suggest gradient blending. However, for my extra water effect, a simple faded edge was all I needed. And although I like the results of gradient blending, I have to admit that I also love quick and easy things too, so here are recommended edge fading plugins :
TR's EFX, Feather (setting set to 10), and Alpha Blur.
I personally use Alpha Blur the most because it has both a radius setting and a directional/strength setting. It also works with selections.

Edited by Cc4FuzzyHuggles
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UH,Just your basic WOW! 

Your pictures and text are Great- I understand the idea very well. Many Thanks for your work 

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Thank you! This is new for me and will use it. I did not know we could do blending with the gradient tool.

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Cc, thank you for taking the time to do this tutorial. The screenshots, the patients...detailed step-by-step info. This is such a TRULY well done tutorial. I've saved this one, too. (I'm making my own custom PDN tutorial 'nerd binder'...complete with plastic page protectors to slide the pages into.)

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