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Photoshop Top 40
Illustration by John Hersey

21. The Gradient tool


From:

Photoshop Top 40

with Deke McClelland

Video: 21. The Gradient tool

(Music playing) Deke's Photoshop? Deke's Photoshop? Top 40! Feature #21 is the Gradient tool. Now I know a lot of you are sitting there, thinking really, the Gradient tool, Deke. The Gradient tool is better than Curves or the Gradient tool is better than Color Range, the Gradient tool is better than the Healing Brush and the answer is no. It's not better than any of those things. It's more essential than those things. Without the Gradient tool, we could not create a soft transition between two layers inside of Photoshop, and that is why it is so essential to getting work done inside this program.

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Photoshop Top 40
7h 13m Intermediate Dec 21, 2009

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

There's nothing people love more than lists, and Photoshop Top 40 offers a great one, highlighting the best features in Photoshop. Deke McClelland counts down to #1 with a new video each week, detailing one great feature after another in this popular digital imaging application. The videos cover tools, commands, and concepts, emphasizing what's really important in Photoshop.

This is an ongoing course that will be updated monthly.

For the newest updates please go to our blog entry for Deke's Photoshop Top 40.

Topics include:
  • Assembling multiple pieces of artwork with layer comps
  • Creating a black-and-white image from a color photograph
  • Merging multiple channels to create an alpha channel with calculations
  • Selecting images with the Pen tool
  • Masking images using the Brush tool
Subjects:
Design Photography
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
Deke McClelland

21. The Gradient tool

(Music playing) Deke's Photoshop? Deke's Photoshop? Top 40! Feature #21 is the Gradient tool. Now I know a lot of you are sitting there, thinking really, the Gradient tool, Deke. The Gradient tool is better than Curves or the Gradient tool is better than Color Range, the Gradient tool is better than the Healing Brush and the answer is no. It's not better than any of those things. It's more essential than those things. Without the Gradient tool, we could not create a soft transition between two layers inside of Photoshop, and that is why it is so essential to getting work done inside this program.

I am looking at a composition that's made up of a bunch of different elements from image vendor Fotolia. Now let's say that we want to take this rays layer here that's covering up the smiley face sun in the background, and we want to mitigate it a little bit. We want to create an opening for the sun to shine through. We can do that using a Radial Gradient layer mask and here is how we'd accomplish this feat. I'd make sure that the rays layer is active by drop down here to layer mask icon and I go ahead and click on it. Now we have a layer mask for that layer. Now let's go to the Gradient tool, feature #21 right there. Click on it.

It's got a keyboard shortcut of G . And notice these guys up here. I am going to click this down-pointing arrowhead, so that I can show you that you have a variety of different predefined gradients you can choose from. If you want to create your own gradient, just defined it on the fly, then you would click inside here, inside the fountain itself that brings up the Gradient Editor and you can begin working on the gradient down here. You can just click to set color points, for example, and then change the color by double-clicking on them, choosing a new color, click OK and so on and so on. I am going to cancel out of here. What I want you to see though is you've got keyboard shortcuts.

So you can actually move from one gradient to another by taking advantage of these shortcuts right here. The period key will move you forward through the gradients. That's the period key. The comma key will move you backward through the gradients. You might think, all right, not really something I am going to use that often. However, it's very useful for moving between the first two between foreground to background and between foreground to transparent. Those are the ones you are going to use the most often especially when masking. So you might just want to bear in mind that period is going to take you forward to foreground to transparent, and comma is going to take you backwards to foreground to background.

If you're looking at some other weird gradient here and you want to go all the way back to start, you press Shift+Comma and that'll reset you. You can also switch between your styles. You've got a Linear Style right here and you've got a Radial Style, and then you've got all the other ones that are available to you. The ones you don't use very often but still you can switch between them by pressing the Bracket key. So the right bracket key takes you in one direction, the left bracket key takes you the other. In my case, I want to move over to the Radial Gradient right there. I've got foreground to background turned on and I'm looking at a foreground color of black and the background color of white here inside my layer mask, awesome.

I am going drag from the center of the smiley sun outward like so and I go ahead and reveal a hole in my rays for the smiley face to show through which is totally awesome. Now let's say I change my mind. I wanted to work the other way around. I want the rays to fade away as they are moving away from the smiley face. Why then all I need to do is turn on this Reverse checkbox and then I'll go ahead and drag from that center outward and I'll drag farther out this time around and you can see that the rays are fading away from the sun. If you want that sun in front, so it shows up a little better, just drag him in front.

So I'll drag smiley in front of my rays right there. All right, a few other things to know about gradients. I like the Gradient tool better than any other method for creating gradients inside the Photoshop. Let me show you what I mean. I'll drop down here to the Background layer and let's say that I want a gradient going from white to transparent upward that's rising up with the crowd here. And I could create that by going to my little Black & White icon at the bottom of the LAYERS palette and choosing Gradient. That would create a dynamic gradient layer.

I don't think much of dynamic gradient layers. They are one way to work, but let me show you how they are put together here. I'm now getting a black to transparent grading by default that's what I'm getting. Don't know what you'd get. But its angle is 90 degrees so it's going upward like so. But now if I want to change the color of this gradient, it's something of a pain in the neck. I have to go up to this Gradient bar, click on it to bring up my Gradient Editor and then I have to double-click on this color stop in order to switch it from black to white let's say. Click OK. But notice now, I've got a gradient that's going from white to black as it's going from opaque that's what this little guy means to transparent.

And I don't want that because that means as it's getting transparent, as this gradient is sloping away, it's also getting darker. So we have this murky region in the middle. So you are going to have to change this color stop as well by double-clicking on it, switching it to white, clicking OK. Clicking OK again and than you might want to scale your gradient, so it's not quite as big. Maybe take it down to, I don't know, 50%. You can drag it to a different location that's pretty cool. So you do have that direct control there inside the image window. Otherwise, forget about it. I don't like that method very much.

I am going to turn that new layer I just made of and we are going to show you how much easier it is to just to make a static gradient. How much more flexible it is as well. I am going to press Ctrl+Shift+N, Command+Shift+N on the Mac, in order to make a new layer. I'll call it gradient, click OK and I'll move my composition up just a little bit. I'll grab my Gradient tool. It is active. I've got the last gradient and I just created and selected here. So what I'll do is I'll turn off Reverse so that it's going from white to transparent. I'll also set this to a Linear Gradient because I want a linear style here and I'll drag upward like so and that works up beautifully.

Now let's say at this point I want to change its color. Check this out. It's so easy to switch out of color at this point. I'll go and dial in a color in the COLOR palette. I've got HSB slider selected. So I'm going to change the Hue value to 210, I am going to change the Saturation value to 50 and the Brightness value to 100% for this light shade of blue here. And then all I need to do is in order to switch out the colors that are already here, you may recall feature #37, which was the Fill functions inside of Photoshop. If we want to replace the Opaque pixels inside of a layer with new colors, they want you do, and in this case, it would be the foreground color.

So I want to press Shift+Alt+Backspace, do you recall this one, or Shift+Option+Delete on the Mac and that just goes ahead and switches out that gradient with a new color. So easy, thanks to static gradient. All right, a few other things that I want to do where this composition is concerned. I am going to grab all these people here that represent the crowd down at the bottom of the screen, click on one layer, Shift+click on another. I am going to group them together by going up to my palette fly-out menu, choosing New Group from Layers, and I'll call this one crowd and click OK. They are now grouped together.

I can assign a layer mask to the entire group by dropping down to the Add Layer Mask icon. I'll click on it and now having done that, let's move this up once again. Get my Gradient tool. It's already selected here for me. I want to go ahead and switch out my style of gradient to my first one right there. I could do that by pressing Shift+comma you may recall or just clicking on it. In that way, what's good about working with foreground and background style of gradient is I can now just drag upward like so. When I press the Shift key as I was dragging to constraint the angle of my drag to exactly vertical, I've actually been doing that for a little while here.

But let's say you are not entirely happy with that mask. Just draw it again, because you're replacing all of the colors inside of that mask as you're dragging with the tools. So you can make a little gradient like so if you want to or you can make a big old gradient like that. One other thing I wanted to do. I've got a little bit of text here, go ahead and turn on that text layer that's live text inside of Photoshop. And then I've created this little letter trail that's going away from it. Now I want to assign a mask to the letter trail so I'll click on it, go ahead and assign a layer mask by dropping down the Add Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the palette and clicking on it.

And then I still have my Gradient tool active. So I'll go ahead and drag upward like so in order to make these bars fade away. And then finally, I'll switch over to the actual layer itself so I switched away from the layer mask by clicking on the layer thumbnail and I am going to lock down its transparency by clicking on this Lock transparent pixels icon. Now, I'm going to press the D key in order to get my default foreground and background colors, black-and-white, and I am going to switch the gradient to foreground to transparent right here. And then I am going to drag like so and press the Shift key as I drag down just to add a little bit of darkness at the top of those letter trails.

And that is my final composition, people. Thanks to the power of feature #21, the Gradient tool here inside Photoshop.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Photoshop Top 40.


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Q: Is there a way to batch convert an entire folder of photos from the RBG color mode to the CMYK color mode without having to open and convert each individual image?
A: In the Actions panel in Photoshop, create an action that converts an image from RGB to CMYK. Then link to that action from File > Automate > Batch inside Photoshop.
Next, in the Bridge, select a folder of images. Choose Tools > Photoshop > Batch. Select the action inside the ensuing dialog box.
Or, in Photoshop, select File > Automate > Batch, and select the action and the folder inside the dialog box.
See also: Photoshop CS2 Actions & Automation, Chapter 2 “Action Essentials.”
 
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