Want to know the secret to getting people so stoked on your design skills that they literally fall over each other trying to get at you for jobs? I’d share it with you, but I don’t know it. This is most likely why I spend my time sitting around writing these things instead of making money or doing other productive things .
I will, however, share a sweet little knowledge nugget that I extracted from somebody else’s design project file a while back. Ready for it? How to Create Simple gradient backgrounds that you can fine-tune on demand. You can see it in effect here and here, for example. They work very well as a dynamic background for your designs - and with this technique you wont have to re-create a new radial gradient with the paint bucket tool every time you want to change it.
Step zero: make a new document.
This isn’t really even a step. Any resolution, and dpi - whatever makes sense for your design. In this tutorial I used a 500x500px, 72dpi canvas
Step one - Creating the Fill: create a solid fill using the paint bucket tool and fill your canvas with it. Any colour (with the exception of white or black, or greys) will do. As you will see later, the colour you choose is completely arbitrary, and doesn’t have anything to do with the final output. I used red.
Step 2 - Turn your layer into a smart object: First double click your background layer (the layer with the color fill) to turn it into a regular layer. if the Styles panel comes up, just cancel it. Now, right click your background layer and select “convert to smart object”. See why on the next step.
Step 3 - Add a non destructive noise adjustment: The nice thing about smart objects is that any filters added to them are adjustable and non-destructive. This means that, just like layer styles, you don’t have to undo and redo the adjustment to change them, and you can easily turn the adjustment off at any time without affecting the rest of your image. For now, Add a 1% noise filter (via filters -> Noise -> Add Noise), with Guassian distribution, and monochromatic checked.
Step 4 - Make the Gradient: Now, you’re ready for the gradient. Double click the layer to bring up the layer styles, and add an inner shadow with Distance at 0, Choke at 0, and size at 250px. I have the opacity turned up to 100%, but you can leave it at 70 or lower, depending on how strong you want the gradient to be. Leave everything else at default.
Step 5 - Create an adjustable light source: Create a new layer (I named mine ‘Light’), and add a radial gradient going from white to transparent white. If you start in the middle of your canvas, and your cursor to the top edge, you will get a perfectly centered and sized spotlight. Now, change the blending mode to ‘Overlay’, and the layer opacity to 70. You now can fine-tune the lighting for a more dynamic background by moving your ‘Light’ layer around or changing its opacity.
Step 6 - Hue Shift: Finally, add a hue/saturation adjustment layer above your background layer but underneath your light layer (this is important if you ever want to make turn your gradient white, black, or grey - if you don’t do this correctly, the layer won’t adjust right). Ensure that the ‘layer clipping’ option is turned on. Now you can change the color of your gradient dynamically by dragging the ‘Hue’, ‘Saturation’, and ‘Lightness’ sliders.
Step 7 - Sit back and enjoy the sweet, non-destructive, adjustable gradient you just made. Rad!