How to Fix Gradient Banding in Illustrator (Step-by-Step)

Most of us have seen a picture of something that is one color, but many shades of that color. Some examples of this include a beautiful blue sky or rocks in a formation. If you look at these images, you will sometimes notice that the different shades are very obviously divided up by lines that run through them disrupting the smoothness and the realism of the picture. This is called gradient or color banding.

Many graphic designers regularly use and work with Adobe Illustrator, which is known for its preciseness and sharpness when making logos or drawing. However, if you are trying to edit or work with a picture that is different shades of one color, you will often find that gradient banding tends to be an issue, especially if the work is printed out. Is there a way to fix the gradient banding in Illustrator? Read on to find out.

Why Is Gradient Banding So Common in Illustrator?

Due to the kind of program that Illustrator is, there is always going to be gradient banding to some degree. Illustrator is a Vector program, which means that it is the kind of program that uses mathematical equations to make the different color gradients. This makes drawings and lines crisp and precise but can make color blending look unnatural and too differentiated.

On the other hand, programs like Photoshop, are not Vector programs so the color blending looks more natural. With this in mind, if it is at all possible, the best option is to make the initial design in Illustrator. That way you will get the smooth lines and crispness for your design. Stop, at that point and export it to a Raster program like Photoshop to add colors and gradients. This will give you a finished printed project that is natural and realistic looking.

How do I Export from Illustrator to Photoshop?

If you have the bulk of the artwork done and just want to transport it, OR if you have done all or if you have already made the entire design, colors included, then it is still possible to smooth it and fix the gradient banding in Photoshop. First, you will need to export it using the following steps:

  1. Click “File”.
  2. Next, click “Export”.
  3. Once you’ve clicked “Export” you should see several options to choose from. Click the one labeled “Photoshop (psd)”
  4. Change the Resolution, Colors, Layer Options, and more from this point.

You are good to go and can get started on fixing your gradient banding.

How Do I Fix Gradient Banding in Photoshop?

If you have already made the entire design colors included, then it is still possible to smooth it and fix the gradient banding. To fix gradient banding in Photoshop after it has been created in Adobe Illustrator and transferred to Photoshop, take the following steps.

  1. First, figure out where the banding is occurring. You can do this by, clicking on the button labeled “Channels” on the top right corner of the screen. You should see a list of the colors that the picture contains. If you click on the one labeled “Highlight White”, it will give you an overall view of the areas of the picture which contain the most banding.
  2. Next, highlight all the areas that need to be fixed. You can do this by holding your magic wand tool over the area and pressing the shift key simultaneously. Keep doing this until you have selected all of the areas that need to be fixed.
  3. Once all the areas are highlighted, make a mask. You can make a mask by pressing the command button and clicking the mouse at the same time if you are using a Mac, or by pressing the control button and clicking the mouse at the same time if you are using Windows.
  4. Once you have made the mask, go back into “Channels” and select “Highlight White.” This is where you will begin the process of fixing the gradient by adding noise to it, to help the colors blend into each other more.
  5. Click the button labeled “Filter” at the top of the screen. Scroll down, click on “Noise” and then “Add noise”.
  6. Make sure the percentage of noise is at the lowest setting. You can do this by clicking on the bar and dragging it all the way to the left.
  7. Choose your “Distribution.” Make sure to click the one labeled “Uniform.”
  8. From this point, you can adjust the amount of noise. Slowly raise it, and make sure that you have the box next to “Preview” checked so that way you can make sure the gradient lines are starting to fade.
  9. Keep adjusting as necessary until you are satisfied. You may still see some gradient banding, but it will be much less obvious and when you print it out, it will be more blended and natural-looking.
  10. If more than one color needs to be adjusted, go back into the “Channels”, and adjust the noise in each one. Make sure that all the channels are adjusted to the same amount of noise.
  11. Once you have adjusted the noise in each channel, turn on the separation. The gradient banding should be much less obvious and when you print out the design, it won’t blur.


Gradient banding in Adobe Illustrator tends to be an issue because it is a mathematical program that uses step-by-step building blocks to create the picture and color gradient. While this kind of program works well for crisp outlines and overall designs, it can create an unnatural and distorted look when it comes to color blending. The best way around this is to create most of the artwork in Illustrator but export it to Photoshop to add colors and gradients.

If you have already done all the color gradients in Illustrator, you can still fix any binding in Photoshop. After you’ve transported it, highlight any areas that need to be fixed, make a mask, click filter, click noise, and then add noise to each area. Make sure to adjust as needed and make sure that the amount of noise is the same across every channel before separating it to see the final product.