Adobe Photoshop Tutorial Part 2: Working with Colors and Painting

Working with Gradients

The Gradient tool is located in the same slot on the toolbox as the Paint Bucket tool and fills an area with a gradient, rather than a solid color. To select the tool, click and hold the Paint Bucket tool to reveal the flyout menu, and then select Gradient Tool:

As with the other tools, when you select the Gradient tool, the Options bar provides options for the gradation:

The menu displaying the gradient preview contains gradient presets:

The default presets display gradients based on your current foreground and background colors in the first two slots.

As with the other types of presets in Photoshop, you can load new ones from the options menu:

The five buttons to the right of the presets menu let you select a gradient style: Linear, Radial, Angle, Reflected, or Diamond.

Mode and Opacity work the same way they do with the Brush, Pencil, and Paint Bucket tools.

Reverse, when checked, applies the gradation beginning with the background color and ending with the foreground color. Normally, the gradation begins with the foreground color.

Dither, when selected, prevents colors of different shades in the gradation appearing as bands, ensuring a smoother transition from one color to the next by mixing the pixels of the differing colors.

Transparency, when selected, can make lighter portions of the gradation transparent so an underlying image is visible.

You can use the Gradient tool to fill a sel
ection made with one of the marquee tools or an entire layer. If you don’t make a selection, the gradient fills the entire layer. Below, we’ve created a new Photoshop image 200 x 200 pixels. We’ll experiment with the Gradient tool by applying a gradient to the background layer:

  1. On the toolbox, select the Gradient tool.
  2. Use the Color palette or the color boxes on the toolbox to select foreground and background colors. Unless you select Reverse on the Options bar, the gradient will begin with the foreground color and end with the background color.
  3. On the Options bar, we’re leaving most of the defaults. Dither is selected and Reverse and Transparency aren’t. We selected the Reflected gradient style.
  4. To apply the gradient, click where you want the gradient to begin and drag to the place where you want the gradient to end:

When you release the mouse button, the gradient is applied to the area in the direction that you clicked and dragged:

  1. If you undo the gradient and then click and drag in a different direction, the gradient will follow that direction:

  1. Above, we’ve been drawing the gradient across the entire canvas, so the gradient fills the layer. Try drawing just a small line representing the gradient:

The gradient is limited to the width of the line you drew:

However, the gradient still fills the layer—from one end of the canvas to the other.

  1. Use the Rectangular Marquee tool to draw a rectangular selection marquee smaller than the canvas. Then use the Gradient tool to draw a gradient from one side of the marquee to the other:

Working with Gradients (Continued)

The gradient fills the entire selection area, but doesn’t spill outside it:

  1. Now try drawing a gradient smaller than the selection area:

The are of the gradient is limited to the line you drew, and is still confined within the selection area:

  1. You can use the Gradient tool to fill multiple selection areas with a continuous gradation:


You learn how to create multiple selection areas in the section Using the Marquee Tools, under Working with Selections.

A gradient spanning the length of the selection areas above results in the following:

You can edit any of the gradient presets shown in the Options bar, and you can create your own, which can be saved and loaded, just like swatches. To edit a preset:

  1. Select it from the menu on the Options bar.

  1. Click the preview of the preset on the Options bar to open the Gradient Editor:

  1. To preserve an existing preset, type a new name into the Name field and then click New. You can also create a new gradient using the same method, by first selecting a preset similar to the gradient you want to create.

  1. Photoshop provides two types of gradients: Solid and Noise. Solid uses the colors you define for the gradient, while Noise adds random colors to the ones you include in the gradient, creating “noise.” For a simple gradient, keep Solid selected.
  2. The fade bar displays the transition of colors from the beginning of the gradient to the end. The icons above and below the bar are called stops. You adjust the gradient by adjusting the stops, as well as adding and deleting stops as necessary.

The stops along the bottom of the bar are color stops. The stop to the far left represents the color at the beginning of the gradient, and the stop to the far right represents the color at the end of the gradient.

The stops along the top of the bar are opacity stops, representing the opacity of the colors in the gradient.

  1. To adjust the transition between the existing colors, drag one of the color stops to a new position. For example, if you drag the beginning color stop toward the right, you can see the increasing amount of darkness in the gradient:

  1. Notice that when you select a color stop, the Color fields at the bottom of the dialog are enabled. To change one of the colors in the gradient to the current foreground or background color, select (click) one of the existing color stops and then, from the Color pop-up menu, select Foreground or Background:

To restore the original color, select User Color.

To change the current color stop to a new color, click the color box itself; this opens the Color Picker, where you can define a new color:


When a stop is selected, the triangular portion of it is filled with black, as shown in the color stop on the left side of the fade bar above.


You can also select a color by clicking an area of the open image.

  1. To add a color stop, click near the bottom of the fade bar, in the position where you want the stop:

To delete a stop, just drag it away from the bar.

  1. When a color stop is selected, small midpoint diamonds appear between the stop and the color stop on either side of it. The midpoints represent the position where the two colors mix. You can drag the midpoints to adjust the location of this mix in the gradient:

  1. The opacity stops along the top of the bar
    represent the opacity of the colors in the gradient. When you select one of the opacity stops, the Opacity fields are enabled at the bottom of the dialog:

  1. As with color stops, you can add new stops at any position on the fade bar. To make certain areas of the gradient transparent, select the opacity stop positioned over that area and change the value in the Opacity field.


Congratulations, you have finished part 2 of our free Adobe Photoshop tutorials.

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