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After using Photoshop on a daily basis for the past few years, today when I booted up I noticed that photoshops gradients were no longer smooth for me on my laptop monitor. Here's an example:

Original image here. In case you're curious, here's the PSD.

Admittedly, it isn't egregiously bad, but for a professional web designer it's bad enough to be a problem. I don't think this is an issue of "banding", which a lot of people seem to complain about online.

I'm running OS X Lion in a newest-gen MB Air. I've tried this in Photoshop CS5, Photoshop CS4, and Illustrator CS5, and it's an issue in all three.

I have my laptop attached to a Dell UltraSharp monitor and when I look at the file on that monitor it isn't a problem--it look perfect. So this would seem to be something wrong with my laptop monitor config.

Things I've tried thus far:

  • Rebooting
  • Updating system software
  • Reinstalling Photoshop
  • Recalibrating my display color profile
  • Different color modes in Photoshop (RBG/CMYK and 8/16 bits)
  • Banging head against wall

Any advice would be appreciated.

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Isn't the MB Air (and maybe the pro as well) 18bit color, not 24 bit? so there is dithering being done. Could that explain what you see? – freedenizen Nov 14 '11 at 23:35
On the system/screen combo you're currently having issues on, was it working OK previously? – music2myear Nov 14 '11 at 23:37
@music2myear, yes it was working correctly before. This is a new development. – Jack7890 Nov 14 '11 at 23:39
@freedenizen, rather than seeing a continuous gradient, I see a horizontal line (at the point where I drew the arrow saying "Discontinuity") where there is a jump between colors. – Jack7890 Nov 14 '11 at 23:41
I guess your laptop monitor is ageing. This is a normal problem with lcd monitors. If you have a warranty left you might want to try to get a new panel and / or a new background light. – Darokthar Nov 15 '11 at 0:16
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Gradient banding is a common problem with LCD/LED based screens. The problem lies in the fact that a continuous band of different light amounts must be displayed. There is no problem with your monitor configuration, because if your colour profile was wrong, you would simply see the gradient shifted in brightness or hue.

This is a common and know problem with LCD/LED screens, and the best you can do is ignore it, or continue working with your external monitor.

It's also not a good practice in general to use computer-generated ("perfect") gradients, since many people will see banding in the image. This can be greatly reduced by introducing a small amount of noise (to dither the gradient) into the image.

share|improve this answer
Could you please clarify what you mean by colour generated-gradients? – Jack7890 Nov 15 '11 at 14:47
@Jack7890 good catch, sorry, that was supposed to read computer-generated gradients (as opposed to, say, one you took a photograph of). Answer edited. – Breakthrough Nov 15 '11 at 16:30

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