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For more information, please see full course syllabus of Adobe Photoshop CS6
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  • The Paint Bucket tool - filling areas with color.
  • A little about Blending modes.
  • The Gradient Editor lets you create complex and custom gradients, with controls for color and opacity. You can also divide the gradients into multiple sections by adding control stops (for both color and transparency).
  • Using gradient maps (makes the darkest to lightest colors into a black and white gradient overlay). You can use colored gradients to replace the dark to light colors. Then you can work with blend modes to create interesting effects. Examples are demonstrated.
  • Use a gradient to make a layer mask. Simply highlight a blank layer mask and create a gradient on it to expose or block and area.


Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:07
  • The Paint Bucket & Gradient Tool 0:37
    • The Paint Bucket Tool
    • The Gradient Tool
  • The Gradient Editor 10:07
    • The Gradient Editor
  • The Gradient Map Feature 16:26
    • The Gradient Map Feature
  • The Gradient Mask 20:55
    • The Gradient Mask
  • Lesson Summary 23:13

Transcription: Gradients

Hi everybody, Michael Brown again, welcome back to's Adobe Photoshop CS6 course.0000

In this lesson, let's talk gradients; that involves the Gradient tool, the gradient editor which is in that little thumbnail when you click it this is how you create or modify gradients, we're going to talk about the gradient map feature, which is under the Image Adjustments menu, and also under the adjustment layers menu, and we're going to talk about how to use gradients to make masks, so let's get started with the Gradient tool.0007

So here we have the Gradient tool located in the middle of the Toolbox, and we're quickly going to take a look under it and here's the Paint Bucket tool which is part of that, and we're going to quickly go over that.0039

Let me change the color--you click, I'm going to go with red, make it a saturated red, and it will always fill the foreground color or a pattern--you can fill with a pattern--here's a pattern--here you click and there's pattern.0053

Foreground color--when you click now it will fill with red.0067

Now it's filling based on opacity, tolerance and continuous color, so we have a blank, purely white layer so it automatically filled it easily.0071

If we had a photograph, for example, like this, and with this tolerance, and if I click in an area, it's basing the tolerance and the continuous color where that little tip of the arrow is, and it will fill whatever the tolerance ran up of that brown beach.0082

You can kind of add effects to that--if we drop the tolerance back to let's say 32, and the opacity down some, and we click here (let's up that opacity back to 100 again) and click like this...too much, let's go to about 64...0105

We're playing here a little bit, and we click now and you can play with the color levels (let's get that tolerance down to 32 and try it again) still too much opacity...let's blend it as a soft light and run it through there.0125

Now you're beginning to see, you can build up color and have it see through to your image--you can play games with the blend modes that exist here; darken blend modes, lighten blend modes, contrast blend modes, some strange ones that you need to play with and some color blend modes.0139

So you can modify things by adjusting the tolerance, opacity levels, the continuous which means that's going to be just a uniform grouping--it will only go for the range of color based on the tolerance.0162

You notice here it only picked up part of it, not the whole thing--if we jack the tolerance up to like 150, and then we hit it with this paint, notice it went through and it got the entire range from dark to light of that brown--if was the tolerance level of the color was higher, so that's how you work with the Paint Bucket tool.0179

Let's get back to the Gradient tool--we talked about--no we didn't talk about the modes yet, sorry I got carried away.0205

In the Gradient options, here is the gradient editor, that's where you create new ones--existing gradients are under the dropdown menu...we're going to reset the gradients to the defaults, this is what you start with--you also have a whole bunch of pre-set groups.0213

Let's throw in a group, not replacing but appending, and here's a bunch of rainbow choices that run in there, let's also throw in some photographic toning and append that, and in came some sepia toning, so these are ones you can add that are pre-done--you can also create your own and we'll show you how to do that in a minute.0239

Here's the various methods available for laying them down; let's go to the untitled--the basic way is linear, Shift, and it's always going from foreground to background, left to right--in this case it's just a singular red to white, so let's make it red to blue so we can see the differential...the foreground, the background, normal opacity at 100%, click, drag down, red to blue--there's a simple gradient.0256

If you drag less, it will go from the starting point to the finish point, solid begin to solid end and then it will go solid from there on and solid before, so you saw that--and of course you can go in any direction that you wish or any length that you wish...simple gradient.0291

This is a radial gradient--goes from start to finish, left to right, red to blue but it does it in a radial fashion; if you do a shorter drag, you get smaller transition.0308

This is an angular gradient--we'll follow that line and it will go in a complete circle from the start of the gradient which was red--360 degrees--there's halfway around, it's just a gradient going around in a circle...back to the gradients.0320

This is a mirrored, and it's from start to finish, so if I go red, out to blue, it went red up to blue--there was our gradient and it reflected the other direction--let's pick a different gradient...let's change the color, let's just go red to purple, and now instead of red let's go with a kind of yellow to now if we go Shift click outward, it will mirror the other way--yellow to purple, yellow to purple.0340

If we did it in a short band, you have that, of course you do that, you have this, and so there is how that one works, and this one is a diamond; it makes diamonds depending on the size of the diamond depending on the length of the gradient line.0372

So there are the types...we have our blend modes that we spoke about before; these darken, these lighten, these contrast, these are strange--you've got to play with them, and these are color.0388

We have an opacity, we can also reverse--look right now it's yellow to purple--we reverse it, it's purple to yellow.0401

Dither, I will talk about in a moment--transparency...when you see a gradient that has the checker board, that's transparent, so if I lay this gradient down here...we're going to change this to black for a moment--just a second...go back to the gradients...and we're going to change this back to yellow so we can see it...there we go.0409

Now, notice that we had a yellow to transparent--oh, it went black, that was my fault sorry--foreground should be yellow.0440

Now we have a yellow to transparent, so if I click that gradient and go here it's going to go yellow to--whoops, I wanted to do a standard's yellow to black because it's transparent through to the black.0452

If I uncheck this, it will make that one go yellow to white instead, because when you change the transparency, it will make the see-through transparent gradient portions white all the time, so just leave it at the transparency there, and that will take care of that.0469

You will always get your transparency that way.0498

OK, let's go back to Dither--I'm going to set this to default and I'm going to just lay down a regular gradient.0500

We're going to zoom way up on this gradient--move it up and down--you notice how smooth the transitions are; you don't see anything but smoothness (I'm going to zoom it way up) just a nice, smooth transition.0509

However, if we uncheck Dither, do it still looks fine right here, but as you zoom way up, you begin to see these lines that are kind of faint, but let me extenuate them by increasing the contrast...notice now it's got lines in it, that's called banding, because the computer is actually laying down linear lines of whatever the gradient is and the transition is a little lighter, it's not completely continuous.0523

Dither adds grain and blur and smooths those transitions.0564

In earlier version of Photoshop, this is what you always saw and then you'd have to go in and add some blur and some noise and soften it out to get that--all you have to do leave the Dither on--so that tells you what that is, so there you have the options and usage, basically, of gradients and how to add them in the gradient listings, so let's go back to our title and we've now discussed the basic Gradient tool.0568

The gradient editor is how you create and modify gradients.0607

Here once again are your existing gradients, and you can do the same thing--reset or add them just as you could in the window prior...whoops, let's get that back, just click on the thumbnail.0611

Each gradient has a name; you can load the gradients that have been saved, you can save new ones, you can also create a new gradient pre-set that will appear right here.0623

You can name your gradient--there are two types; solid and noise.0636

Noise makes it into kind of banded colors--let's jack that roughness up--you can see it just becomes a color banding, and you can play with some of these features here, let's just lay one down to show you what a noise gradient looks like, all sorts of banding.0640

You might use that for graphics...let's go back to a traditional, solid gradient.0658

Here we have a basic gradient; foreground to background, it start here and it finishes here.0664

What you see--this is the gradient...what you see here, the squares with little triangles on them are called Stops.0672

They are the start and transition points of the various gradients--if we select a more complex gradient like this one, notice there's a series of Stops that allow the transitions for the colors--we'll go back and I'll show you how we create those.0680

Each stop has a square and a little white triangle--if I click a Stop, notice that highlighted triangle--that's the active Stop--now has a black triangle, everyone else is white, so the details here apply to that Stop.0700

Location zero is the beginning of the gradient, location 100% is the end of the gradient so each of the main Stops will indicate where it is.0718

To add a Stop, just click underneath or on top.0729

These are color Stops on the bottom--notice color and location, happens to be black--I could make it red, now we have a color Stop there.0736

On top, there are opacity Stops; opacity and location--if I drop the opacity notice we get the checker board--it begins to become transparent, and again on this end it's 100%--to add a Stop, either a color Stop or an opacity Stop, just click above or below for the appropriate one--there's a Stop, now you can move it wherever you want it, make the adjustments--if you want to remove it, click and move it away from the gradient and it goes away.0744

We click in middle here--let's make this a green Stop, and we'll click--whoops, I canceled...there's the green Stop--let's make the end Stop which is white into a blue we have red, green and blue, but let me show you, in between the active Stop, when I click this one it's over here and over here--these little diamonds are called Blend Stops; they're the point when the gradient is 50% between this Stop and this Stop, so you notice that red goes to green and the 50% point is right there.0777

I can take the blend point and move it back, so that's where it's 50%, or I can move it this way and that's where it's 50%--and location for a Blend Stop is the location between the two Stops...right there it's 50%.0818

When I click a color Stop or an opacity Stop, location is along the entire gradient, so if I add another Stop here and just move it down to 75%, it's at 75% of the gradient.0835

I can get rid of that and go back where we were, so if we want an even tone right now, this blend is 50% which is 25% of the entire gradient, if I want even red, green and blue I need one third, one third and one third, so I'll move this Blend Stop to two thirds of the way, there, and then click over here and move this one back to 66%.0853

So now I have one third red, one third--whoops, take the Stop away, that's not what I wanted...that's Blend Stop to 33%, we get even gradient, click OK, click and drag, we have an even three color gradient.0882

I'm just going to go over real quickly, position on any color Stop or opacity Stop is the position along the gradient.0900

Position of a Blend Stop is its position between two Stops, so take those back to 50% and take this back to 50% approximately--let's add a Stop right there, and let's make a rainbow: red goes to purple, this one, purple goes to blue...we'll add a Stop right goes to green and we'll take the end Stop and that should be a yellow, and now we have created a rainbow.0909

Let's click New, and that puts it in the list as a new pre-set--we can also save it, and now I'm going to call this one Rainbow New, click Save, it's saved, we'll click OK, now we click and drag and we have a new rainbow gradient that is located at the bottom of the pre-sets.0949

OK, that's pretty much how you deal with the gradient editor, so now we've taken care of the gradient editor.0975

The gradient map...I'm going to show you this very quickly if I can--here's an image.0986

We're going to go to the gradient map...adjustment layer which would be the same as right there, except we've put it on a layer.0994

What it does, right off the bat, is immediately make your image a black and white based on a pure black to white, simple gradient--the darkest colors are replaced by black and the lightest colors by white, and you go "well that's one way to do a black and white", there are other better ways but that's not predominantly what we're going to use it for.1004

What we're going to do, is click on the gradient and we get the gradient editor, so now we can replace the black and white with darker color--whatever the left side of the gradient is, it will make a color range.1027

So for example if we click a rainbow, we get this rainbow effect...some psychedelic effect on our image, or you can use... Let me see if I can find the one that always worked for me. I want to do a simple couple of colors here...reds and blues...reds and blues...1045

I'm going to try this, and click OK and see if I can make this work. I'm going to reverse it, that didn't work.1062

Let's go back and pick a duo-tone...right, there we go.1077

I'm going to pick a kind of a nice, warm tone right here.1083

You notice what we have now done, is sepia toned the image, and if I drop the opacity back, there's a nice, easy way to turn your color image into a sepia tone.1089

You can adjust the sepia tone by whatever methodology you choose from the particular gradients that you pick, and you can also do blend modes and opacity adjustments on the layer, and look what we got here--some semi-psychedelic--that's kind of interesting...1104

Just extenuated slightly the coloration of this image, so you can play with the gradient map and apply different gradients which take the color picture and replace it with the colors of the gradient, darkest to lightest.1122

Alright, now let me show you one other way to use that in a true fashion.1146

Here I have an image--the only thing I'd like to change here--this is a composite where I put in a sky--I like to make some little pink in the clouds, so what I'm going to do is make a gradient map layer, which right now affects everything but I'm going to clip that layer to the sky by going Option on a Mac, Alt on a PC, go in between the layers and click, and now that layer only applies to the sky, and let me find...1151

I think it's the simple...this one OK, I'm going to reverse it, there we go, and now by reversing that, and if I take my opacity on that layer or gradient mask, and I drop it down, look what happens...I get little pink clouds.1182

Now if I take a curves layer...increase the exposure just a little bit, and clip that layer also, what I have done is I have taken the sky, and by using a gradient map--in this case we used a rainbow--and I reversed it and there's other things you can play with, I ended up just tinting the clouds pink using a gradient map feature with some blends and adjustments, so we'll go back now and that's how you use your gradient map.1209

Well worth playing with to see what you can do with it--it's basically an effect layer.1251

Now I'm going to show you how to make a gradient mask...very quickly we'll go to the Golden Gate Bridge and let me go back to the opening point on this puppy...I was already playing with it...there we go; curves, curves, curves, curves...there we go.1255

So we've got this thing...there we are...I've got this image (move it over here a little bit) and I like the darkness in the foreground area but it's way too bright here--I'd like to pull that down, so I'm going to add an adjustment layer for curves, and what I'm going to do is a very quick way to do things.1274

I'm going to ignore what's going on here--I'm just going to make the sky the way I want it, so I'm going to pull it down, snap the contrast just a little bit, and now I have the sky just the way I wanted it.1294

But you notice that the foreground is way too dark--you notice it pulled it down as well, so what I'm going to do…1318

This is my layer mask and it's white which means it's transparent.1329

I'm just going to take my gradient tool with a simple black to white gradient, and when the mask is highlighted with the little frame, I can make a gradient on the image that will appear right over here.1338

So I'm going from black to white, and I'll just go like this...and you notice that it masked the foreground area--undo that...actually it's a little...yes, do that one more time--I'm going to go right and a little slight change...there we go...there!1354

Now, let me show you what the mask looks like--basically all I did was drop a black and white gradient in and made a simple gradient that transitions out, and if you look, it's working right along the shoreline, so now it took and blocked out that darkness created by the curves, brought down the sky and masked off the foreground area.1362

A simple gradient being used to make a mask, so we'll take that and now we'll check that off, and there you have a pretty good lesson on how the Gradient tool works, along with the Paint Bucket tool, the gradient editor, how to create and modify gradients.1384

The gradient map feature, which allows you to take and turn either a selected area or your entire image into a black and white or a rainbow effect or an effect based on a gradient--darkest colors replace the blacks, lightest colors replace the lights, using the gradients maps, and a gradient mask that can be created to help you mask out an area for your exposures.1402

All using gradients and therefore we have summed up the gradient lesson in Photoshop CS6.1438