Here’s how to apply a preset gradient to an image in Photoshop Elements. Similar to colors, patterns, and brushes, gradients have a whole group of presets that you can apply to your selection and layers. You can also load other libraries of gradients from the Gradient panel menu.

1

Make the selection you want to fill with a gradient.

Make the selection on a new layer so that you can edit the gradient later without harming the underlying image.

If you don’t make a selection, the gradient is applied to the entire layer or background.

2

Select the Gradient tool from the Tools panel or press the G key.

It looks like a rectangle that goes from black on the left to white on the right.

3

In the Tool Options, click the down-pointing arrow on the Gradient Picker swatch.

The Gradient Picker drop-down panel appears.

4

Choose a preset gradient.

Remember that you can choose other preset libraries from the Gradient panel menu. Libraries, such as Color Harmonies and Metals, contain interesting presets.

5

Choose your desired gradient type by clicking one of the icons.

See the figure for an example of each type.

6

Choose from the following options in the Tool Options:

Mode: Select a blending mode to change how the color of the gradient interacts with the colors below it.

Opacity: Specify how opaque or transparent the gradient is.

Reverse: Reverse the order in which the colors are applied.

Transparency: Deselect this option to make Elements ignore any transparent areas in the gradient, making them opaque instead.

Dither: Add noise, or random information, to produce a smoother gradient that prints with less banding (weird stripes caused by printing limitations).

7

Position your gradient cursor at your desired starting point.

The starting point must be within your selection or layer.

8

Drag in any direction to your desired end point for the gradient.

Longer drags result in a subtler transition between colors, whereas shorter drags result in a more abrupt transition. Hold down the Shift key to restrain the direction of the gradient to multiples of a 45-degree angle.

9

Release the mouse button to apply the gradient.

An Orange Yellow radial gradient from the Color Harmonies 2 preset library was applied to a selection of a sun in the figure. The Reverse option was selected and dragged from the center of the sun to the tip of the top ray.