I’m not a FX kind of guy, but as a developer I’m fascinated by the astonishing complex results you can get with simple Gradients and a Parametric Curves in Photoshop. These designs can be used as building blocks for all kind of creative needs – whether bump maps, depth maps or displacement maps, abstract design, patterns, etc.

## Parametric Curves

I’ve started playing with the idea of **drawing mathematically defined Curves via scripting**. That is, not you adding/dragging points on a Curves window; but let ExtendScript code fetch user inputted formulas and draw the Curves accordingly. Let’s say it could be a prototype test for a future Photoshop panel.

So I’ve coded a simple *script* and, after a good dose of trial and error, I came up with some pretty interesting shapes:

Some of them may be replicable by hand (with a good dose of patience), others can be built via scripting only. These kind of curves are normally available in Filter Forge, a Photoshop plugin for texture creation I’ve enthusiastically written about here – but are out of reach if you don’t own it.

## Gradients

The above Curves have no use on real imaging but forensic and/or scientific ones (maybe – if there’s a forensic expert out there I’m all ears! The comment section is open for you), but if you put them above a **Gradient adjustment layer**, the fun begins. I’ll be using 16bit files (in order to avoid posterization, some of these transformations are pretty harsh), with all of the available Gradient shapes:

## Gradient + Curves

Let’s start experimenting with a **mix of Curves and Gradients**. Be aware that you can mix multiple Curves and Gradients, and play with Blending modes too!

### Linear

### Radial

### Angle

### Reflected

### Diamond

## Combined gradients

If you start adding **multiple Gradients and Curves on top of each other**, you may end up with some really interesting results:

It gets addictive when you start must I confess…

## What for?

I’m not the creative one, I’m just owning the hardware store providing you with the tools ðŸ™‚

That said, as the only untalented designer available on duty at the moment, I can show you just few examples to tease your creative skills. These are just building blocks, combining them the possibilities are endless.

### Patterns

This is a very simple one, textured and ready to be tiled.

### Displacement maps

Pretty hidden in the menu, there’s the **Distort – Displace filter**. It requires you to open a second image (the *Displacement Map*), to be used to distort the first one according to the parameters you’ve set.

### 3D Depth Maps and Bump Maps

Believe me, I rarely open any 3D panel in Photoshop because I’m a 2D chauvinist, so this one is really a basic example that may make the actual experts laugh, but it’s just to give you the idea of using gradient as Depth Maps.

Similarly (but with a subtler effect) you can apply those gradients as actual Bump Maps in 3D materials.

### Animations

All kind of weird stuff… this is just an example of what happens if you shift Gradients (on selected channels only) when one or more parametric Curves are applied. **Click on the image to launch the video**.

## Parametric Curves on Exchange!

Parametric Curves is available as a free script for **Photoshop CS6 (Mac/Win)** through Adobe Exchange – the new in-app, app-store panel made by Adobe itself. Download and install Exchange if you don’t already have it, then browse the **Free** extensions and look for Parametric Curves there. After the installation, please find it in the **Filter** menu. More info about the panel here.