What is the gradient tool?
As a Photoshop designer you're going to definitely want to understand how to
use the gradient tool. There is much more to it than meets the eye.
The gradient can create colorful and smooth gradients across entire layers or
selections. You can easily create your own custom gradients with all the
colors of the rainbow and more!
The gradient tool is found on the toolbar in the same space as the paint
bucket. As with any tool, you can create your own custom presets but if
you look in the options bar you will see that you have a gradient window.
Here is where you can choose different preset gradients or double click and
bring up the gradient window editor. In the gradient editor you can create
your own custom gradients by clicking on the color stops to bring up the color
You can add new stops by clicking along the bar and
choosing a color. Simply name your new gradient and enter new. If
you want to duplicate the exact gradient of a professional ad for example.
Bring it up in Photoshop and with the gradient editor window you can click at
points along the image with the eyedropper tool to automatically program the
color stops into the gradient. After you have created a gradient you can
then use any of the gradient tools to show your gradient.
There are linear, radial, angle, reflected and diamond. These will give
you a different shape of gradient. Keep in mind the layers palette.
Whatever layer you are on, if you use the gradient tool (without a selection) it
will swipe across the entire layer so you'll want to create a new layer to
practice with the gradient tool.
Another thing you'll want to keep in mind is the gradient blending modes and
foreground-background or foreground-transparent. When you choose a
preprogrammed gradient you are selecting foreground to background. If you
choose the upper left option (foreground to background) you are choosing
foreground to background. What this means is that you are filling the
layer with the foreground and background color. If you look in the toolbar
at the foreground and background colors when you select the upper left gradient
you will end up with those foreground and background colors. You can
change the foreground and background colors in the color picker by double
clicking it in the toolbar.
You can also choose foreground to transparent. You will have to select
your foreground color (whatever is currently foreground in the toolbar color
picker). When you use this gradient you will have the foreground color
(let's say black) fading into invisible so you can see the layers below.
Basic Photoshop DVD Training
covers the gradient tool extensively. You'll be very excited once you
master it because of the power for great design it holds.
The most useful purpose of the gradient tool? (And this is a great
secret)...Layer masking. This is what will give you professional results
with minimal time. You know those perfect fades that you see in perfect
designs? This is how its done. Use foreground to transparent
gradient tool with black as the foreground color on a layer mask and you will
create beautiful fades to hide pixels. Simply swipe across the pixels you
want to hide. You can also use the brush tool but gradient makes such
perfect fades, I use it ALL the time.
You can also use the blending modes. You can see how they will "add up"
every time you swipe the gradient tool. On the darker modes, you will
saturate the layer/document very quickly. It's just good to be aware that
blending modes are there which you can use. But usually I'll just go with
the "Normal" setting so I can see what I've got and then if it's on it's own
layer I can go ahead and change master blending mode on the layers palette.
Remember that the gradient tool on foreground to background (in normal mode)
will give you one clean shot to get the gradient right and if you don't like it
you can try it again until you get it right (try it and you'll see what I mean).
With different blending modes on, your gradient strokes will start to "add up"
so I just keep it on Normal.
To use the gradient tool, simply drag across with it. The shorter your
stroke, the sharper the gradient will be. The longer your stroke, the
smoother a transition or spreading of the colors (in foreground to background
mode). It will take some practice to get use to it. But just fool
around on a blank layer with the gradient tool on different gradients.
Check out the different blending modes.
When not to use the gradient tool? In quick mask mode. Use
brushes because you'll want to have a distinct, tight control over your
selection that a brush can provide. The gradient is a powerful tool with
more than meets the eye because of it's hidden effectiveness in layer masking.
And now you know! Check out the
tutorial on gradient layer
- Orion Williams