In this post, I will explain how to create and use gradients in photoshop CC. As a bonus at the end, I will also discuss another common way to use gradients to create text effects. 

There are three main ways to create a gradient. And two common styles of gradient. In the video, I illustrate the different ways in which to create a gradient in Photoshop by using the example of balls on a snooker table. This picture is ideal because nearly all of the image is created using gradients in Photoshop.

3 ways to create a gradient in Photoshop.

Create a new layer, choose the gradient tool. Click and drag.

Open Photoshop and create a new layer from the layers window. From the toolbar on the left look for the gradient tool. If you can’t see it straight away find the paint bucket tool. If you left-click and hold the paint bucket tool a bar should appear to the right where you can then select the gradient tool. Using the default colours found in the gradient picker in the top toolbar. Simply left click and drag to create your gradient. (we will cover how to change these colours later on in the post)

Create a shape, edit the shape’s fill and select gradient.

Creating shapes in Photoshop is incredibly useful. Not only can we colour these shapes using fill we can also create a gradient effect. To create a shape let’s use the ellipse tool and create a circle. The properties box should automatically open. If it doesn’t open it by going to Window > properties. Within the properties box, we can change the fill to a gradient.

shape properties

Double click on a layer and create gradient overlay using the later effects.

When you double click layers in Photoshop the layer style box appears. From here we can create lots of useful effects including the gradient overlay.

Once selected we can see the gradient picker bar where we can change colours. We can also see where we can reverse the gradient and change its opacity etc. The great thing about the effects box is you can see the changes happen to your layer in real-time so you can adjust and fine-tune your selection to your preference.

gradient layer effect

Gradient styles in Photoshop.

There are five different gradient styles available in Photoshop. The linear, radial, angle, reflected and diamond. You can select these different types from the top toolbar when the gradient tool is selected. Selecting and playing around with these different styles will give you a good idea about what they do and when they might be most useful.

styles toolbar

In the video and post, I cover the most popular gradient styles:- linear and radial. These are the most commonly used all thought there is a lot more information on these other styles on the Adobe gradients webpage.

Linear Gradient Style

Linear creates a straight gradient from one place to another in a straight line and is great for creating backgrounds, shading and layer masks. Linear gradients are also used in text to create metal or gold effects. In Fact, there are many possible uses for a linear gradient.

Radial Gradient Style

The radial gradient produces a circle which slowly transitions outwards. It totally depends on the situation to which you prefer. For example, logos look great against a radial background. Products can look great on a linear background. Radial gradients are perfect for creating ball shapes such as the snooker balls in the video.

Once you have selected the tool or create a fill using a gradient, the gradient style can be found in a few places. At the top toolbox if you create your gradient using the tool.

Within the gradient fill selection box and from the create gradient overlay when adding layer effects.

gradient style layer effect

Shape properties gradient style

No matter which way you choose to create your gradient they all have one thing in common, the gradient edit box.

gradient editor

This allows you to select the colours in the gradient and how smooth and hard the transition is between colours.

The 4 boxes found in the gradient edit box are the basic transition colours, opacity boxes and the midway diamond icon.

By adjusting these boxes we can change the appearance of the gradient from a smooth gradient to a stronger gradient between the two colours.

If you need to add more colours to the gradient just click at the bottom of the colour bar and change the colour. This then creates more adjustable slider boxes.

This gradient edit bar takes some getting used to and the best way to learn how it works is by playing around with it and practising creating different colour gradients.

How to move gradients in Photoshop

This depends on the technique used to create your gradient. If you have created a gradient using the properties box of a shape by creating a gradient fill. Just keep the properties box open and click the gradient picker bar you can then adjust the colours so they are in the best position.

If you created your gradient using the layer style by double-clicking the layer. Then with the “Gradient Overlay” selected you can click and drag the gradient on the shape and move the gradient into the required position. 

This is a big advantage of using the Layer style – It is very easy to move and change the look of the gradient you’ve applied.

2 ways to add gradients to text in Photoshop

As a special bonus let’s discuss how you can add gradients to your text in Photoshop with the use of a clipping mask and layer effects.

Using a gradient layer and clipping mask.

Step 1.

Write some text using the text tool, write whatever you like. In the example below I will use the text GRADIENT. The font I use here is Montserrat (a personal favourite of mine) and I use the “black” font style to make it nice and bold.

gradient text

Step 2.

Create a new layer above this text and select the gradient tool. For this example, we will select a light and dark green colour from the gradient picker.

green gradient

Step 3.

Click and drag using the gradient tool to create your gradient. It should now look something a bit like below. The top layer being the gradient 

gradient layer

Step 4. 

Right-click on the layer with the gradient and select “create clipping mask” the layer will then “clip” to the text-only. You can move the layer to change the effect and positioning over the text.

The advantages of this method are that you can clip any image over text to create some really cool effects.

gradient text

Using the layer effects

Like in the above example we can create some text with a thick style font, simply double click the text layer and using the layer style box select “Gradient Overlay”. We can then see in real-time how the gradient looks on the text. Make sure there is not a colour overlay already set as this will overwrite the gradient. 

You can also add multiple gradients using this method by clicking the plus button next to “Gradient Overlay” this then allows you to have multiple gradient styles over your text.

gradient layers effect

Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful.

Don’t forget to leave your thoughts and comments below.

Rick