Gradient Banding

Smooth Gradients in Photoshop (Dithering)

Skill level
Beginner

Gradients are a great way to subtly move away from ‘flat’ designs, but sometimes they can cause more harm than good. Gradient banding can occur when transitioning between colors, and the result isn’t always pretty. This article will discuss a few ways to deal with this issue.

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The Issue

When applying a gradient that contains two or more colors, you may see ‘gradient banding’ occur, as seen in the image below.

Gradient Banding

The Fixes

While this issue is certainly frustrating and unpleasing to look at, there are a few things you can do to smooth out your gradients.

Photoshop CS6: Dither

When Photoshop CS6 was released, along with the bigger features, Adobe includes many smaller JDI’s to give users a better designing experience. Once of those features was “Dither“, which you can find when using your Gradient Tool, or when adding a Gradient Overlay Layer Style.

Dither Option

When you now create a gradient with Dither checked ON, Photoshop will mix in some ‘noise’ to help blend the gradient more smoothly. In the image below, you can not only see that the gradient is free of banding, but in the enhanced window, you can see the noise that Photoshop has added from the dither option.

Dithered Gradient

Photoshop CS5 and Earlier

If you’re still running Photoshop CS5 or earlier, these Dither options will not be available to you, which means you need to do a bit more work to get your gradients looking smooth. One of the more common methods, is to add a very subtle amount of noise, similar to what the Dither option within Photoshop CS6 does.

If you’re working with a Gradient Overlay, or a layer that you may want to modify in the future, it’s a good idea to convert that layer into a Smart Object first. (Right-click on the layer in the Layers panel > Convert to Smart Object)

Convert to Smart Object

Once the layer has been converted, you’ll want to add either a Noise filter or a Spatter filter. For this gradient, the Spatter filter, which can be found under the Filter > Brush Strokes menu (or Filter Gallery), did a much better job at smoothing out the gradient.

Spatter Filter

You may need to adjust the Spray Radius and the Smoothness values until you get a smooth result, but the preview window to the left will help you tweak them to perfection. The image below shows the difference the Spatter filter can make on your gradients.

Spatter Filter Results

  • Ed Manning

    Great! Thanks

  • Randy Poe

    Cool tip, I hate banding. It always gets me in post.

  • Darko Kuzmanov

    You can add 2-4% of noise also..it works for me

  • Ahmed Mazher

    thnx

  • Tibor Miklós

    There is a 3. option which is turning up the color depth from 8 bit to 32 bit. Another idea is make a new white solid–> put it over the color gradient layer–> apply a noise effect in this new white layer and change the blending mode to multiply and lower the opacity.

  • Garyck Arntzen

    This pretty much explains how Olly Moss makes his grads look so pleasing, gracias!

  • IceflowStudios

    Tibor Miklós Changing the mode to 32 bit doesn’t always solve the issue, and it disables many adjustments/filters. This is why I didn’t mention it in the post.

  • IceflowStudios

    Darko Kuzmanov Yep, noise works, as well. I mentioned it in the article, but I’ve found that the Spatter filter gives better results.

  • Natalia Akimow

    can you help me please..? this picture looks good on cs6 , and in windows photo gallery but it looks all weird here..? http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=423391211069335&set=a.322154464526344.72711.100001953783828&type=1&theater look at the neon & background.. any help appreciated..

  • IceflowStudios

    Natalia Ooh Slenderman Akimow The photo seems to be private, but I know that Facebook compresses photos like crazy. It could be Facebook’s fault.

  • Ahmad Muheisen

    IceflowStudios I watch your videos from iraq!! man you are the best at those stuff may i ask what do you use to edit your videos?

  • Genghis Pesante

    For the past 10 years I have used photoshop, was in the last two or three versions that this problem started sharply. The question is why?

  • Jenny-Michell Sanchez

    It’s like you knew I would have this problem today and wanted to help! Thank You as always!

  • IceflowStudios

    Ahmad Muheisen I use ScreenFlow.

  • IceflowStudios

    Genghis Pesante The problem has always been there, but it can be ‘brought out’ more by different monitors/calibrations.

  • Natalia Akimow

    IceflowStudios oops, sorry 1 min

  • Ryan Grasby

    That spatter filter trick works great. Never knew about that one before.

  • Darko Kuzmanov

    But when you’re making print files this doesn’t work so good.. you must put some noise on it.. ex. 400x300mm at 600dpi for billboard printing the circles are still visible…but when you add 2% of noise as i said, all is gone and you have nice smooth gradient ready for print.

  • freedommcflyy

    Nice! I was looking for something like this! You are the man!

  • Daniel Freedom Portis

    Great post Howard!

  • Natalia Akimow
  • Joshua Eli Gilley

    Dude. this saved our ass on a print job at work. THANKS FOR SPATTER ENLIGHTENMENT!! *Fingers crossed* it maintains smoothness of proofs on press. 🙂

  • Fredrik

    Thanks, been looking for a fix for this!

  • RealPetChicken

    Long time fan of your YouTube channel, you are the greatest, thanks for a very informative tutorial.

  • RK

    still REALLY usefull 🙂

  • Yingy

    helpful!! thanks!