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Photoshop Basics: Gradients

Part 1: Custom Gradient creation By Dave Nagel
It's impractical for most users to get to know every aspect of Adobe Photoshop. Even advanced Photoshop users limit themselves to a certain workflow that precludes comprehensive knowledge of the program. Yet, every now and again, we all have to expand beyond our comfort zone and get into areas of the program that we're not familiar with, even on the most basic level. So I thought we'd launch a new tutorial series that takes a step back to explore some of these fundamentals for compositing, painting, masking and effects creation, starting with the first in a two-part miniseries on gradients.

We've presented several tutorials covering techniques that involve gradients, everything from sky and landscape effects to gradient masks, text overlays and layer styles. But we rarely discuss gradients themselves, especially the crucial element of custom gradient creation. Photoshop, of course, ships with a variety of predefined gradients, including several libraries' worth of extras. But these, regardless of quantity, can't fulfill your every need, and eventually you'll need to make your own. Here's how it works.

Gradients can be accessed and created from a variety of locations, including the Adjustment Layer, Fill Layer and Layer Styles menus, as well as the Tool Options bar when the Gradient tool is selected. For our example, we'll create on using a Gradient Fill Layer. So first, create a new document, and then select Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient. A dialog pops up asking you to name your layer.

Click the OK button, and a new dialog shows up, allowing you to select one of the pre-defined gradients.

Although it isn't immediately apparent, this is where you access the Gradient Editor function. It's not available in any menu; rather, you enter the Gradient Editor by clicking on the image of the gradient itself. (The same is true for creating gradients in other workspaces, such as the Gradient Overlay Layer Styles panel.) Once you click on the gradient, the Editor will show up displaying the currently selected pre-defined gradient.

This is where you create your own custom gradient. But what do all of those controls mean?

General settings
First, for Gradient Type, you can select between Solid and Noise. Noise is a gradient generated from noise using RGB values. It's useful for creating complex gradients with numerous color bands quickly, though the result is somewhat random. Solid is the type of gradient that moves between user-defined bands of color, with the bands of color set manually rather than generated algorithmically. We'll be working with Solids for this tutorial.

The next setting, "Smoothness," determines the smoothness of the transition between color bands. A high Smoothness value means an even transition, while a low Smoothness value will give you longer intermediate steps with abrupt transitions to the color bands (or "stops") that you define.

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Related Keywords:adobe photoshop, tutorial, gradient, gradient fill, overlay, layer style, sky gradient, horizon

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