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Using a gradient lets you lay down color with a gradual transition from one color to another. The Gradient tool is located here in the toolbox. Your first stop after selecting that tool is the Options bar where you can see in this Gradient bar what your gradient is going to look like. The default gradient is the foreground to the background color. Right now I have black and white as my foreground and background colors. If I change those, the default gradient will change too. So I am going to click on the foreground color and I am going to choose something else, and then I will click on the background color and then I will chose a different color for that, and you can see that has changed the gradient in the Gradient bar.
Now how do I lay down a gradient? I just click-and-drag in the image and the length of the line and the direction of the line that I drag determines what the gradient will look like. So if I were to start at the bottom for example, the gradient would be different. And if I drew a line from the corner, the gradient would be different here again. When you are creating graphic designs, a gradient can come in handy to make an interesting background. When you are working with a photograph you may prefer to change the blend mode of whatever gradient you are using by going to the Options bar, clicking on the Mode menu and choosing something like Color.
Now, I am going to revert the image by going to File > Revert and show you that if I click and drag with the Color mode I get an entirely different look. My gradient is there but I can see the image through it. The other useful option in the Gradient Tool Options bar are these five icons. The first, the Linear Gradient, is selected by default and you just saw me draw a Linear Gradient. The next one, Radial Gradient, also comes in handy if I select that, and then I click in the middle of the image, and drag in any direction, it will draw a radial gradient from one color to the other in a circular pattern.
I could use that from a corner to draw a gradient like this and if I drag further that orange will come out even further. So when you are making a gradient, I suggest you experiment with the various color modes and that you check out the Radial Gradient and even try some of these other options, although you won't use those as often. I am going to click back on the Linear Gradient and now I want to show you how to choose other kinds of gradients. I am going to click here in the Gradient bar in the Options bar and that opens the Gradient Editor. Here there are a number of presets.
You have already seen this first choice, Foreground to Background. The next choice gives you a gradient using the foreground color to transparent and then you have a number of color presets. There are many more presets that you can load here by clicking on this arrow and making another choice from this menu. So I am going to choose to see the pastel gradients that ship with Photoshop. I will say OK to replace the current gradients and these are my choices. So say for example, I choose this second preset and I say OK. I will revert my image again and then I will try drawing with this preset gradient, maybe I will start over here and I will just draw a short line, bringing in some yellow at the top right.
It's pretty interesting. Now I can customize any gradient by going back to the Gradient Editor, clicking first on the Gradient bar to open the Gradient Editor, and then coming down to this area. Each one of these stops represents the color in the gradient. I can eliminate any one of these stops by just clicking-and-dragging it off the bar. I can change the color of the stop by clicking on it and then going to the Color field and choosing either the Foreground Color, the Background Color or User Color to open the Color Picker.
I will change this to that dark color that I have in the Background Color box. I can also vary the position of these individual colors by clicking-and-dragging them here in this bar, and I also have these intermediate marks that I can drag to change the distribution of colors in the gradient. Finally, I can go to the stops on the top of this bar to change the opacity of any color. So here I could lower the opacity of yellow in this gradient and I will click OK and now I will revert the image again and try dragging with this new gradient.
So that's how you apply gradients in Photoshop CS4 and how you can create your own custom built gradient. You use them to color images as I have shown you here and you will even use black to white gradients when you are working in masks, like layer masks or the mask on an adjustment layer. So knowing how to use gradients can really come in handy.
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