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What percentage change in gradient do you think the average person can see?
Think the 'average viewer' can tell a 10% change?
depends on the area. the smaller the area, the better you can see the change.
10% yes, I'd sat 3% is about the limit
too small a % and it just looks like a mistake
mate, you need to re-phrase that a bit...
it depends of the length of your printed area.
in 2 metres even if you have a difference 25% difference, you might get away with it. sometimes you have effective differences as such only due to lighting conditions.
Is this on a computer monitor? Because that will vary greatly.
I'm referring to print.
Basically I'm using a spot color. I have an area (a few inches) of 100% and I want to put a faint pattern over it... would the average person be able to see it if I put the pattern at 90%? I don't know how good the printer is so I want to make sure it's perceptible but not too strong.
Do a test. Print out some subtle gradients, and ask people about them.
Why not just test it out then? Print your 100% then the pattern and see if its legible. If its a dark-mid tone then yes it most likely will be visible. If its a much lighter colour you may need to go 80% to get any stand-out.
Run off a few tests and see what looks good. If you're still unsure show it to someone that isn't a designer, your partner/parents/friends or whatever. Just don't ask them for a crit or you'll be designing that shit all over again.
In your example it's going to depend a lot on the material and ink and lighting.