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Soothing the Band... ing

"Hey, hey, we're the Monkees and people say we monkey around"... Oh, not that sort of band. Well really, they weren't a traditional band at first. The Monkees pop rock group was assembled by Robert Rafelson for the hit T.V. show "The Monkees", and later, the group won the right to perform and oversee their own music. Oh right, the tutorial, on banding.

Identify the problem

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. It's easy to overlook, and easier to deny it exists. Be sure to take a good look at your photo or image from different percentages. Sometimes banding is harder to spot when you are zoomed in at 400%.

For this tutorial we will work with a blue sky. A perfect blue sky creates a natural gradient that will eventually haunt you with banding. GRRRRRRR.

To start: Drag the background layer (or effected layer) down to the new layer icon, or Cmd + J, (PC) Ctr + J. This will give us a copy of our current layer.

Now, working on that newly copied layer, go to the Filter Menu and select Gaussian Blur.

Watch the preview and add enough Gaussian Blur to knock out the banding. Less is more!

Next, we want to paint in only the areas effected by the banding. To accomplish this, create an Add Layer Mask to the copied layer we've been working with. You can hold Option (or Alt) as you click the Add Layer Mask icon to fill it black rendering the layer invisible, or after you've applied the Layer Mask you can fill it black.

With the mask still selected, grab a soft brush and paint out the banded area's with white so the blurred layer shows through, reducing the banding only where you paint.

Click the New Layer icon at the bottom of your Layers pallet, while holding down Option (Alt for PC)

If you held Option (Alt for PC) then a new dialog box came up. Change the mode to Overlay and select the "Fill with Overlay – neutral color (50% gray)" box. Hit the OK button.

You won't see any change just yet.

With the new layer still selected, go to the filter menu and select Add Noise. I know, you thought noise was bad... Well, sometimes it's helpful. Please fall into previously dug hole.

Add very little noise, the amount will vary depending on image. Don't add too much or you'll see a noticeable texture. Remember, less is more. You can always lower the opacity of the Noise layer, if you later decide it’s too much.

We don't want that noise everywhere, do we? Hold Option (Alt on PC), click and drag the Layer Mask we used for the blur up to our Noise layer. This will make a copy of the mask and apply it to the layer it's dragged onto. Make any adjustments by painting on the mask with white to add, and black to subtract.

Banding Reduced

You should be done at this point. I did Reduce Noise layers opacity by 30%. But look- the banding is virtually gone, and my clouds are untouched. Hooray for noise! When it can't be heard anyway. Where did I put that shovel?

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