How do I create subtle background gradients like this?


This has been bugging me for ages. I want to recreate the shadows that are on the background of this image. Whenever I attempt to recreate something like this the shading ends up looking very amateur no matter how much noise or blur I add or how many layers I introduce. I would really appreciate help on this!

Background Gradient

5/20/2016 7:07:00 PM

Accepted Answer

I would look at this as either

  • A spotlight with a hot center, and with a falloff at the edge of the spot light
  • Partly lens vignetting
  • A combination

The latter often give a more realistic and natural look than just one of the top options.

It's easy to do this with 3D software for the light and then add vignetting in Photoshop or After Effects. But you could get close using these steps in Photoshop:

  1. Fill background with brightest color
  2. Add a circle mask representing the outer rim of the spot light
  3. Turn selection into a mask for an empty layer, invert mask, blur it to create soft edge and fill layer with black.
  4. Dial down the opacity of the layer (I'm using 14% below)
  5. Create a new layer for vignette. Manually draw in black solid in the upper and bottom right corners. Blur it (f.ex. 75 for Gaussian blur).
  6. Dial down opacity, optionally stretch and re-position the layer to your liking (I'm using 41% below)
  7. Throw on a LUT effect on top to warm up the result (I used FallColors for the result below at 19% opacity)
  8. If too much banding add some noise/grain, work in 16-bit mode etc.

It got me this result - I could have spent more time tweaking the vignette and spot layer's opacity but you'll get the idea:

Step 1

step 1

Step 2-3

step 2-3

Step 5 A

step 5a

Step 5 B

step 5b


With LUT effect. The vignette layer was stretched downward in this end result.

demo result

5/21/2016 6:13:00 AM

There is a filter in Photoshop that has not currently in fashion, hence not often seen used, that does these kinds of things. This is a bit similar answer to @K3N has to offer. This filer is found is Filter → Render → Lightning Effects.... It achieves the same thing as rendering in a 3d application.

enter image description here

Then just put tt on top with a slightly offset lightning effect and drop shadow. Adjust with levels to get the feeling you like.