Using the Gradient Tool
You may be happy with the preset gradients provided by PS so you may never want to do it but you can alter the presets or create your own gradients. Here’s how:
Once you’ve selected gradient tool (see diagram below - Gradient Tool) from the tool panel,
this is what top tool bar looks like: (see diagram below - GRADIENT TOOL top tool bar)
To the right of gradient tool icon is a horizontal bar (see diagram below - gradient picker) that’s either transparent, white, or colored. And to the right of this horizontal bar, you see five icons indicating how PS can apply gradient. It’s possible to find these five options in other locations in PS but this is the handiest location once you’re in the gradient tool.
From left to right (see diagram below - Five ways to apply gradient) the icons make gradients as follows:
-Linear Gradient makes gradient from start point to end point in straight line
-Radiant Gradient makes circular pattern from start point to end point
-Angular Gradient makes counterclockwise gradient around starting point
-Reflected Gradient creates mirror of the same linear gradient on either side of starting point.
-Diamond Gradient creates diamond pattern from middle to outer corners, somewhat like Radiant Gradient, but with square in middle instead of circle.
Each one of these can be applied in straight line from one point to another (L to R, up to down, or vice versa). Or you can check Reverse (on top tool bar) and not have to change direction; PS will change direction for you.
If you click on the carat immediately to right of horizontal bar (see diagram below - click to open & pick preset groups of gradients), you get a number of choices with names like Basics, Blues, and Purples. These are groups of preset gradients. The group named Basics has just three choices (foreground to background color, foreground to transparent, and black to white). If you click on carat next to name of group, you can see colors in each gradient in a group and how they will be applied.
However, by clicking anywhere within the horizontal bar itself, you open Gradient Editor. (see diagram below - Gradient Editor). Within Gradient Editor window, at top you can see the same preset groups mentioned above. About 2/3 down window, is horizontal bar filled with colors and/or black and/or white. Here’s where you can alter the hue, flow of color (how color changes from one to another color), & opacity. There are tiny squares & triangles above and below the horizontal bar. These are sliders. Bottom set of sliders controls color; top sliders control opacity. The triangles point towards the horizontal bar with the adjacent square filled with either black, white, b/w checkered, transparent, or a color. If no color is selected, square is b/w checkered. When a color is selected, square becomes that color.
To control color on gradient (bottom/color sliders): To add a new color inside your gradient, click right under (not on) the horizontal bar. A slider made of black triangle next to checkered (or white) square will appear under the horizontal bar where you clicked. Now click inside rectangle next to word Color at bottom of Gradient Editor window and Color Picker will let you choose your color. To change the color of an existing slider, click either inside the square or ON (within) horizontal gradient where you want to change the color. If you click within the horizontal gradient bar an eyedropper will open. Now go to the rectangle next to the word Color and click to open Color Picker. When you add or change to a color, your new color shows up inside the square and in your gradient.
To adjust transition between colors, move sliders. You can also remove any color by dragging the square/triangle out of the Gradient Editor window. The little diamonds below the horizontal gradient bar represent the midpoint (point where shows ½ color to left and ½ color to right in the gradient). You can move these to alter location of midpoint.
Top set of sliders controls opacity. There are squares (black, white or gray) above triangles that point towards the horizontal bar (black square represents 100% opacity; white represents 0% opacity, gray is somewhere between). You can alter the opacity of the color within your gradient by clicking inside the square above the horizontal bar and changing the percent in the box called ‘Opacity’ near the bottom of the window. You can add additional squares/triangles to alter opacity by clicking just above the horizontal bar. The tiny diamonds below the horizontal gradient bar represent the ½-way point between the two opacities. You can move these.
If you develop a gradient you like, you can save it as a preset by clicking ‘new’. Don’t select ‘new’ before you’ve created your masterpiece. Wait until you’ve created the one you like and then click on new. I created one and called it ROYBIV (see diagram below - What you might see...) shows up at the bottom of the group
If you have banding in your gradient, you can try two things. Either check the dither (on top toolbar) or change the bits/channel (top main toolbar of PS (between Edit and Layer) Image > Mode > if set on 8 bits/channel, try changing to 16 or 32 bits). Banding should go away. Another way to control smoothness is to change value in Smoothness box in Gradient Editor window.