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Gradients and Difference Mode

Use Photoshop's Difference mode to create some amazing gradient backgrounds.


Photoshop gradients are so much more than colors blending into each other. They are an amazing tool that can help you create some quick and beautiful backgrounds.

In this tutorial, we won't show you how you can create a gradient in Photoshop. Rather we'll suggest that you download many of the free and commercial gradient sets available on Photoshop-related websites. Some of the best gradient sets are available from Graphicxtras, and we used their gradients in this tutorial.

Loading Gradients in Photoshop

To use a third-party gradient set in Photoshop, you first need to load it. These instructions are for Photoshop CS but should work similarly for other recent versions.

  1. Place the gradient set (.GRD) file in any folder on your computer.
  2. In Photoshop select the Edit | Preset Manager option to open the Preset Manager dialog box. From the Preset Type dropdown box, select Gradients, and then click Load, as shown in Figure 1, below.

  3. Figure 1: Preset Manager
  4. Navigate to and select the gradient file and click Load. The gradient will be added to the Preset Manager. After loading the gradient, click Done.
  5. The next time you visit the Gradient palette, you'll see the new loaded gradient set within the available gradients.


Gradients and Difference mode

Here's how you can create some great backgrounds using gradients by using the Difference blend mode.

  1. Create a new Photoshop image by choosing the File | New option. For this tutorial, we have selected 1024 X 768 as the canvas size with a background content set as Transparent.

  2. Select the Gradient tool in the toolbar. Next, choose any gradient in the Property bar and set the blending mode to Difference, as shown in Figure 2, below.

  3. Figure 2: Gradients
  4. Apply the gradient to the document by diagonally dragging it from one end to the other. Repeat the process continuously with the same gradient by dragging the cursor in different directions. Make sure that the option for Difference mode is unaltered. You'll end up with something similar to the result, as shown in Figure 3, below.

  5. Figure 3: Gradients with difference mode
  6. Use different gradient colors and play around with different gradient styles to get some great effects.