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OK, let's do a gradient.
Go to file/new and click.
Next you will want to set the "new window" settings as seen below. We will select a resolution of 72, and the color mode to RGB for files that are designed to be viewed on a computer monitor. If we were planning on using this file to print, we would choose a resolution of 300 (or more depending on the printer) and CMYK for the color mode. Be aware however that increasing the resolution will increase the file size, and the amount of disc space it uses. Click OK.
Click on the gradient tool in the tool bar.
Select the linear gradient.
Double click on the foreground color tile.
This will bring up the color picker. We will choose a shade of red for this example. Note the six digit number near the bottom of the window. This is the hexadecimal number that is associated with this particular color that we have chosen. If you wanted to use the exact same color in another project for example, you could just punch these numbers in, and click "OK". You can choose to use this exact color for this demonstration, but it is not necessary. Whatever color suits your fancy will do just fine. Make sure you click "OK" to set the new color for the tile.
Next, double click the background color tile.
We will use the color fader to move into the blue zone of the color picker. You can also click anywhere in the color bar, and the fader will go to that position.
Choose a shade of blue and click "OK". Notice how the background color tile is now blue.
Click on the gradient picker and select the red-to-blue tile from the selections. This gradient tile was created based on the colors we chose for our foreground and background tiles. Notice there are many other preset gradient selections to choose from. This is an area to come and play around in after this tutorial is complete.
Next we will click and drag across our work area. Wherever you start to drag, the foreground color will begin. Wherever you drag to and release, the background color will end.
The end result is a smooth transition between the colors we chose, and the points we selected to blend to.
This was one of the first things that I discovered in Photoshop, and I thought it was the coolest thing. It is so simple, but has the potential for very powerful backgrounds and fills. Make sure that you play around with this a bunch. Try dragging from different directions and lengths. Change the colors of your foreground and background. Don't forget to play around with some of the preset gradients in the gradient picker. Fun!!
Also while you are playing, make sure to check out the different styles of gradients next to the linear gradient.