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How to Install and Use Photoshop Gradients

Kevin Whipps March 31, 2021 · 5 min read
I don’t know about you, but gradients are one of those things that I wrestle with a lot in Adobe Photoshop. I can never seem to find the right blend of colors, and it never flows quite the way I expect. Fortunately, there’s an alternative: I can buy them. That brings up another problem, however. How do you install a gradient in Photoshop, anyway? And once it’s installed, how do you use it? As it turns out, it’s a super simple process. There’s absolutely nothing to be intimidated about, so why worry? Let me walk you through the whole thing. Trust me; it’ll be easy. For reference, I’m doing everything on a Mac running macOS 10.13.1 (High Sierra) and Adobe Photoshop CC 2018. Photoshop gradient file

Step 1: Get a gradient

You’ve got to start somewhere, and if you take my suggestion, it’d be right here at Creative Market. There’s a whole section dedicated to Gradients right here, and they’re available for a variety of prices. I decided to grab Sky Gradients for a few reasons. I find natural looking skies to be tricky to reproduce, and some of these look a bit metallic, which is another toughie for me. So it ticked a lot of buttons off my list, which is always nice. After paying for the product, it downloaded to my desktop as a zip file. Once it was unzipped, I was good to go. Installing Photoshop Gradients

Step 2: Install the gradient (Option 1)

You’re now going to have a .GRD file to deal with, and if you have your icons turned on, you’ll see GRADIENT written on the file. Open up Photoshop, and click on the Gradients panel. In the upper right-hand corner is a gear. Click that, and then “Load Gradients.” Navigate to your gradient package, and — ta-da! — the gradient is installed. Installing Photoshop gradients

Step 2: Install the gradient (Option 2)

On a Mac, go to Applications > Adobe Photoshop CC 2018 > Presets > Gradients and drag your gradients file in there. Just like that, you’re done.

How to Use Gradients

Now that you’ve got the gradients installed, it’s time to use them. To test things out, I created a standard Photoshop doc that measured 7X5 inches, and sectioned that into five different columns using guides, one for each type of gradient. To pull a gradient, you use the Gradient tool (naturally) to pull a line. The distance of that line determines how long the gradient will play itself out. To keep that consistent, I created three vertical rows using guides, which gave me two spots to use for my gradients as a stopping and ending point. Then I placed a centerline in the middle of my five columns. The results you see here, then, are what happens when you pull the exact same gradient line in the exact same space using the same gradient swatch, but switching up what type you’re using. Here’s a closeup of the guides: Gradients file close up Did I lose you yet? No worries. Just look at the pretty colors. Gradients

Types of Gradients

From left to right we have a Linear, Radial, Angle, Reflected, and Diamond gradient. Let’s get into each. A Linear Gradient travels the full spectrum of the swatch within the line that you pull. In this case (and every example here) I pulled a line from the bottom of the first row to the top of the third row designated by my guides, and you can see how the blue/white/orange fade plays out. It shifts from the starting point (the dark blue) and gently transitions into the orange at the stopping point. It’s very pretty, and the most straightforward example of a gradient that you’ll see. Now let’s get into the bigger stuff. Next is a Radial Gradient, which, as you could probably guess, radiates the color out from the center. In this case, the center point is where I began my line, which is where the dark blue sits in the pattern. The color still transitions from dark blue to orange over the course of the line, but now it does it by radiating out from the center of the first point. If I wanted to put a color highlight on a ball to make it appear to be three-dimensional, this is one way to do it. The Angle Gradient is the middle one, and again, the same methodology was done to create the design. But now, the pattern is quite different. The effect is almost like you’re looking at the top of a cone down to the ground, with the peak being the starting point for my gradient line. The color here shifts from dark blue to orange as it rotates clockwise from the initial point, but then ends as the blue and orange hit each other with a hard edge. It’s a unique look, and I can see how it would work quite well in some designs. Next up, a Reflected Gradient. Here, it begins and ends along the line, per usual. But instead of transitioning from one to the other per the Linear Gradient, the exact same pattern is duplicated going vertically from the starting point. It’s a reflection of a Linear Gradient, so the pattern goes from orange to white to blue to white to orange in twice the distance of the Linear. This also means that when you’re placing your line, you want to be sure that you have the space for the reflection to play out properly. Finally, the Diamond Gradient. Like the Radial, this one does travel the full spectrum of the swatch throughout the course of the line. But instead of radiating out from the middle, it forms a diamond pattern with four corners.

Get Creative

Now the process turns to you. The list of things that you can do with gradients is extensive, and you’re only limited by your imagination. What kind of things will you create? Let us know!
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About the Author
Kevin Whipps

Hi! My name is Kevin Whipps, and I'm a writer and editor based in Phoenix, Arizona. When I'm not working taking pictures of old cars and trucks, I'm either writing articles for Creative Market or hawking stickers at Whipps Sticker Co.

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  • I really love the gradient style! great article! 4 years ago