Apply a Preset Gradient in Photoshop Elements

By Barbara Obermeier, Ted Padova

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.

1Make 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.

2Select 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.

3In the Tool Options, click the down-pointing arrow on the Gradient Picker swatch.

The Gradient Picker drop-down panel appears.

4Choose 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.

5Choose your desired gradient type by clicking one of the icons.

See the figure for an example of each type.

6Choose 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).

7Position your gradient cursor at your desired starting point.

The starting point must be within your selection or layer.

8Drag 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.

9Release 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.