Zoner Photo Studio X differs significantly from the versions before it. It adds layers and masks to the Editor and offers many new options for non-destructive editing in the Develop module.
We’ve prepared this article mainly for the users of our older versions. It explains how to work with gradients and gradient filters in our current version, ZPS X.
How It Used to Be (in ZPS 17 and 18)
In ZPS 17 and 18, the Gradient Filter tool in the Editor let you choose between a color gradient and an exposure gradient. However, both of these offered only basic settings and were very simple overall.
ZPS X has introduced layers and masks, which have brought many new editing possibilities. However, this has also created the need for a new kind of gradient tool. And so we have added one: the Gradient tool, which you’ll find among the Editor’s Drawing Tools.
While the Gradient Filter has to adjust a source picture of some kind, you can create a Gradient even on an empty layer, or within a layer’s mask—and indeed, both of these possibilities are used very often.
So How Do You Work With Gradients in ZPS X?
There are two routes you can take here. The first is quick and simple, uses non-destructive edits in the Develop module, and is good enough for most ordinary edits.
What Are Non-destructive Edits?
Every edit you make in the Develop module is non-destructive. This is a type of editing where the edits are not written directly to the file. Instead, an accompanying file with a description of the edits is created. That lets you go back to your edits and adjust all of their settings at any time. Zoner Photo Studio then always shows you the edited version of the picture, even though the original file is what’s on your disk.
We describe the advantages of non-destructive edits in more detail in a separate article.
The second method demands more effort—mainly more setup at first—but pays back on that investment via a higher-quality result, and one that you can adjust at any time.
The 1st Route: Work with the Gradient Filter in the Develop Module
For ordinary edits to the vast majority of photos, you can make do with the non-destructive Develop module. Within it, you’ll find the Gradient Filter tool, which includes a number of settings and is much better than the Editor’s older tool of the same name.
Left-click where the gradient’s guideline should start, drag to the place where it should end, and then release the mouse button.
To add another gradient filter to the same picture, click the Add Mask button. The top part of the tool’s settings then lists all of these filters. (Double-click a Mask’s name to rename it.)
The filter list is followed by the various filter settings. These can affect a wide range of things, and so a single filter can e.g. reduce exposure while adding saturation or brightening shadows. To create a color gradient, leave all of the non-color settings at zero, set a Color, and raise its Intensity (which is normally zero).
The 2nd route: Gradients in the Editor
Here’s where things have changed the most compared to older versions. We’ll illustrate the Editor’s new Gradient tool via a classic example: using a gradient to darken clouds in the sky.
First duplicate the layer with your picture.
On the duplicate layer (Layer 2), make some edits (exposure reduction, etc.) that bring out all the details in the clouds and keep them from being overexposed: Click the Adjustments button above the layer list; then click Quick Edits and make the kinds of edits mentioned above. Click the green Apply button on the right to confirm your edits.
Then activate the Drawing Tools, and then from among these, the Gradient Tool. Then look at the layer list to double-check that the mask (the white box) for the top layer is activated, and then draw a guideline into the picture (actually, into the mask) from bottom to top. The result should look like what’s shown here. Once ready, click Apply on the right.
What’s just happened? You’ve created a second, darker layer, and then created a mask for it that tells ZPS how strongly to display that layer. You’ve drawn a gradient (from black to white) onto that mask that tells ZPS that the top layer should be displayed more and more strongly in the direction of the gradient arrow.
The advantage of this approach is that you can adjust the mask’s coverage anywhere in the picture at any time to strengthen or suppress the effect. In short, it’s much more flexible.