Gradient: how to create it yourself, install ready-made, toning with a gradient | Lesson | Photo, video, optics


A gradient is a fill when one color blends smoothly into another. For example, black turns to white gradually, through shades of gray. Sometimes a gradient is more than two colors.

In photo editing, gradients are often used for toning. Imagine: you can impose more than one color on the whole picture, but combine several together! Or you can go further: shade shadows in one color, and highlights in another.

We will tell you how to create gradients yourself and download downloaded ones in order to create spectacular toning and experiment with color in a couple of seconds.

Gradients open up great opportunities for experimentation, allowing you to add many shades to your photo / Photo: Elizaveta Chechevitsa

Where to find the gradient in Photoshop?

Gradients in Photoshop can be found at:

1. Tool Gradient / Gradient on the toolbar on the left. This tool allows you to fill the layer you are on with a gradient.

If you can’t find the Gradient on the panel on the left, use the hotkey — G to quickly call the tool / Illustration: Elizaveta Lentchevicha, Photostore.Expert

It is used:

  • overlaying on top of the photo for toning;
  • overlaying under an object to get a background gradient, and over objects if you are a designer, artist, etc.

2. Adjustment layer Gradient Map. It is in the black and white circle of the palette. Layers.

This layer tints all the highlights, shadows and midtones to the colors of the gradient. For example, a yellow-red gradient. All dark tones will be tinted red, light and whites will be tinted yellow, and midtones tinted orange.

A gradient map is used to quickly tone a photo / Illustration: Elizaveta Lentchevicha, Photosklad.Expert

How to make a gradient in Photoshop?

The program has pre-installed gradients from developers. This is something like «presets» — ready-made solutions so that you do not waste time. They were sorted by color and divided into folders to make it easier for the user to choose. But, if none of the solutions you like, all seem boring, don’t suit your idea, below we’ll show you how to create a gradient in Photoshop and save your own gradient.

View ready-made gradients by clicking on the arrows highlighted in orange squares in the Gradient tool or Gradient Map / Illustration: Elizaveta Chechevitsa, Photostore.Expert

1. Open the tool Gradient or adjustment layer Gradient map.

2. You will see a gradient stripe. Click on it with the left mouse button.

You need to click on one of the highlighted orange stripes / Illustration: Elizaveta Lentchevicha, Photosklad.Expert

3. A window with gradient settings will open. To change one of the colors of the gradient, left-click on the marker below and click on the box Color

The principle of the gradient in the Gradient Map is as follows: the color on the left recolors the dark pixels, and the color on the right recolors the light ones. All other pixels will be painted in the colors that will be obtained when the color transitions from one to another.

When you click on the Color box, you will see a palette with all the variety of colors. When you choose the right one, click OK / Illustration: Elizaveta Lentchevicha, Photostore.Expert

In the same way, click on the marker at the bottom right, left-click on the box Color and set the second color.

Ready! You have created a gradient where one color will smoothly flow into another. If that’s enough for you, click OK and apply the gradient. If you need to add more than two colors to the gradient and save it to your preset, read on.

4. Hover your mouse over the space between the markers at the bottom. When the cursor turns into a clenched fist with the index finger extended, click the left mouse button.

You will have a third marker, which can also be tinted in any color. To do this, click on Color again and set the desired shade.

Approximate area where you need to click for a new marker to appear. You can make an infinite number of such markers to create complex gradients from many colors / Illustration: Elizaveta Lentchevicha, Photosklad.Expert

5. To save the created gradient, click the button New / New. Your gradient will appear at the bottom of the list under folders.

Saving and creating your own collection of gradients is convenient and necessary if you want to overlay several photos with the same tint / Illustration: Elizaveta Chechevitsa, Fotosklad.Expert

How to set gradient in Photoshop 2022?

If you don’t like the options proposed by Adobe developers, the inspiration has left and you want fresh ideas from the outside, you can download from the Internet and install any gradients for yourself.

1. Download the gradient or gradient set you like. Usually they «live» on resources and sites for photographers, retouchers and designers. But you can not bother with the search for special sites, but simply type in the search engine «download gradients for Photoshop.»

2. In the downloaded folder (if it was in the archive, unzip it), you need a file with the .GRD extension

3. Open the tool Gradient or gradient map. Left click on the gradient bar to go to the gradient edit menu (it’s the same place you clicked to create the gradient).

Click the Import button and in the window that opens, find the folder you downloaded, and in it — a file with the .GRD extension / Illustration: Elizaveta Chechevitsa, Fotosklad.Expert

4. Click on it with the left mouse button and press Load. The downloaded gradients will appear at the end of the list in the automatically created folder.

Each new downloaded and installed set will appear in a new folder / Illustration: Elizaveta Lentchevicha, Photostore.Expert

How to tone a photo with a gradient?

You have learned how to create and download gradients in order to enhance your photography with them. Below we’ll show you two ways to create shading using a gradient.

Toning with the Gradient Tool

  • Open a photo. Create a new layer on which the tinting will lie.
To create a new empty layer, click on the square with a plus sign at the bottom of the Layers / Layers / Illustration: Elizaveta Lentchevicha, Photostore.Expert

2. Go to tool Gradient (hot key G).

3. Click on the drop down list of gradients and find the one you like. Click on the gradient you like.

4. Move the cursor over the photo, hold down the left mouse button and, without releasing it, draw a line.

Depending on the direction and length of the line (the longer, the smoother the transition from color to color), the gradient will change / Illustration: Elizaveta Chechevitsa, Fotosklad.Expert

5. Now the gradient completely covers the photo below it. To fix this, choose one of the options: change the layer’s opacity or choose one of the blend modes.

The following blending modes are well suited for tinting:

Multiplication / Multiply;

Screen / Screen;

Overlay / Overlay;

Soft Light / Soft Light;

Chromaticity / Color.

But you can choose any mode you like. If the result is too rough, lower the layer’s opacity.

Blending Mode Screen and Opacity 53% / Illustration: Elizaveta Lentchevicha, Photostore.Expert

If you don’t like how it turned out, you don’t need to delete the layer and start over. Just draw line after line until you like the result.

Gradient map — how to use

The Gradient Map is an adjustment layer that recolors the colors of the chosen gradient with the lights, shadows, and tints in between. We tell you how to tint using this tool.

1. Open a photo. In the palette Layers click on the black and white circle and select the tool Gradient Map.

2. Click on the drop-down list to select a ready-made, downloaded or created by you and pre-saved gradient, or create your own (see above).

3. All colors in the photo will be replaced by the colors of the gradient (for example, in this case there are two of them).

Further options are possible:

  • If you like a photo that has been bleached and toned into the colors of the gradient, then that’s it. You can continue to save the picture.
A combination of a gradient of 5 colors, blending mode Hard light / Hard Light and Opacity 18% / Illustration: Elizaveta Lentchevicha, Photosklad.Expert
  • If you want only light shades to remain from the colors, go through the blending modes and opacity settings, as in the previous paragraph.


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