Create a Moody Color Landscape

I’ve previously shown you my own process for creating a dramatic black and white landscape. In this tutorial, I’d like to share my process for creating mood and drama in a color landscape.

Time Taken – about 15 minutes

Video Walk-through

If you prefer to read the instructions rather than watch, here we go…

Starting Image…


I prefer to start with a pretty even HISTOGRAM. It’s not absolutely necessary but I believe that it’s better to have a solid foundation on which to build your image effects.

So tweak the exposure and contrast to try to even out the histogram across the full spectrum. Then hold the OPTION key (ALT key on Windows) and adjust the WHITE slider. Holding the Option key will cause the image to go black. Just play with the slider until some patches of image start to appear. Then repeat this for the BLACK adjustment. This time the image will turn white, so tweak the setting until some dark patches appear.

I lift the EXPOSURE just a touch, +.05, along with CONTRAST +9, lift WHITES to +27, and drop BLACKS to -47.

When you are done you should have a pretty evenly spread histogram. It won’t be perfect, but most things are never perfect!


Now to the BASIC settings…

I bring the HIGHLIGHTS down a touch to -7 and drop the SHADOWS to -13.

I lift the DEHAZE up to around +30 and then drop the SATURATION to -33. This helps the greens in the image.

I then revisit to my Whites and Blacks setting. WHITES drop to -23 and I push blacks darker, to -76.


My next step is to create the much-loved ‘S’ curve. I open up the TON CURVE panel and add three adjustment points: One in the centre, one half-way between the centre and the top right, and one half-way between the centre and the bottom-left.

I lower the top-right point down a little and raise the bottom-left point up by a similar amount. I take the center point down a little, the mid-top point up just a touch, the mid-bottom point down a little.


Now to the HSL panel. I leave the HUE untouched but move to the SATURATION tab, where I take the shine from the GREEN by lowering the saturation to -16 or so.

I then switch to the LUMINANCE tab and bring the GREEN down to -40 and also pull the blue from the Sky down to half this value, -20 or so. This creates a deliciously moody ground and sky.


Now for some finishing touches. First step is to add a graduated filter to the sky. I select the GF tool, a rectangle, from the top of the panels bar. Click and hold on the image and drag down until it covers roughly the sky area. I can adjust the height of the GF by pulling on the parallel lines. I can also reposition it using the centre circle ‘marker’.

When I have the filter in position I can play with the adjustment panel.

I lower the TEMPERATURE to about -17, to help the blue in the sky. I boost EXPOSURE a touch, +0.28, and bring the contrast down to around -40.

I lift HIGHLIGHTS to +7 and bring the SHADOWS right up to +55. BLACKS I set to -35, and SATURATION a similar amount, -33.

I DEHAZE to about +30 and for fun, list the SHARPNESS to +25.

Lastly, I just double check the positioning of the Graduated Filter.


Now I add a couple of radial filters just to accenuate the two upper-most peaks of the rock.

I choose the RADIAL FILTER tool, a Circle, at the top of the Adjustments Panel, and click once on the highest peak. I then use the handles to change to fit the filter to the shape of the peak, resizing and rotating slightly.

I set the following adjustments:


I right click and DUPLICATE this filter and move it over to the second-highest peak, adjusting it to fit.


And that’s it, less than 15 minutes to a moody, color landscape.

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