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How To Make A Custom Gradient In Photoshop And Elements
Tutorials Photoshop Tips 0 Views July 29th, 2018

Custom gradients are a very powerful tool available in Photoshop and in Photoshop Elements. In this tutorial I'm going to show you how to work with gradients. How to load gradients GRD files, how to modify existing gradients and how create and save your own custom gradients and save them as gradient sets.


If you are looking for pre-made gradients, make sure to check out this collection of over 30 Photoshop Gradient Sets or my favourite sky gradients set.

Where Is The Gradient Tool In Photoshop?

Sometimes the gradient presets aren't what you need. It's easy to mix your own gradient, and save it for future use.

Open the gradient tool gradient tool

Photoshop Elements: The gradient tool is to the right of the paint bucket tool in the toolbox, and the keyboard shortcut is G.

Adobe Photoshop: The gradient tool is under the paint bucket tool in the toolbox, and the keyboard shortcut is G.

Choose a gradient type in the options bar. I have linear selected.


Choose a gradient to alter if there is one close to what you want. Otherwise the gradient editor will use the currently selected gradient. In the options bar, click the arrow beside the gradient preview to open the gradient picker. Note: Your gradients may not look like mine, because it depends on the gradient set you have loaded! If you are using Elements you will have an Edit button. If you are using Photoshop, you will not have an Edit button.


Elements: Click the Edit button next to the gradient preview to open the gradient editor.

Photoshop: Double-click the gradient preview in the options bar to open the gradient editor.

Working With The Photoshop Gradient Editor

The gradient editor in both Elements and Photoshop is the same.

gradient editor

Choose a Gradient Type: Noise or Solid. (Noise gradients contain randomly distributed colors within a range of colors that you specify. If you want more info on noise gradients, go to the Online Help and enter Noise Gradient in the search box.)

Choose a smoothness setting: the smoother you want the colors to blend, the higher the setting should be, up to 100%.

How To Use The Photoshop Gradient Ramp

The ramp lets you choose the colors and how they blend together. The markers are called Stops and moving them edits the gradient colors or opacity. You can have many colors, and you can have many different opacities, but for this exercise we'll use three colors and two opacities.

On top of the ramp are the opacity stops that edit the transparency of a gradient. On the bottom of the ramp are color stops that let you edit the colors included in the gradient.

Setting Up Color Stops In Photoshop Gradients

First let's look at the color stops. Selecting a color stop activates the color controls under the ramp.

color stops

1. Selected Stop: Select stops by clicking on them. A selected stop has a dark colored point. Any manipulations you do to color or position will affect the selected stop only. Drag the stop to a new location to change the "speed" of the gradient (how fast it blends together) or use the Location box to manually type in a percentage. Try sliding  one of the color stops and see how it affects your gradient.

2. The small diamond between stops is called the midpoint. You can use this diamond to determine where the midpoint of the colors are and affect how they blend. If you wanted more orange tones in the above gradient you could slide the midpoint diamond to the right, for example. Try sliding it to adjust the midpoint. When the midpoint diamond is selected it is solid colored, rather than hollow.

3. Delete button: Clicking this deletes the selected stop from the gradient ramp. You can also drag the stop away from the ramp and drop it to delete it. Try both, and then use undo (cmd/ctrl + Z) to get it back.

4. Color picker: Either double click on the color chip to open the color picker, or click the arrow to open a popup where you can quickly choose the background and foreground colors, or User color. If you choose User color, you still will need to double click on the color chip to open the color picker. Try changing the color.

change color

5. Location: You can set the location here manually, by percent, 0% to 100%, 0 being far left and 100 all the way to the right. This is most useful when you want to divide colors exactly.

Select the last color stop on the right. Drag it off the ramp or click Delete to get rid of it. You can also press the delete key on your keyboard, but if you use the delete key it will reappear on the other end of the ramp!

You should have something like this:


If you select either color stop, you'll have a midpoint diamond you can adjust between them. Slide the yellow stop to the right, and adjust the midpoint diamond to suit you.


Adding Additional Color Stops In The Gradient Tool

Not only can you remove color stops, you can also add them. This is as easy as clicking once under the ramp where you want the color stop to appear. Then use the color section to determine the color for the stop.

add stop

When you add color stops you will have additional midpoints automatically added as well.

Photoshop Gradients Custom Opacity Stops

The opacity stops let you adjust the transparency of the gradient. Click on either opacity stop to select it. In the screenshot below I have the left opacity stop selected. The point is black to show it is selected. The Opacity controls will now be active below the ramp rather than the Color controls. Notice you also have a midpoint just like with the color controls. You can adjust this the same way as adjusting a color midpoint, and it will determine how the transparency is distributed on the gradient.


Notice the Opacity setting: you can use the slider to adjust the opacity of the selected opacity slider from 0-100%, and the stop will change too, to reflect the opacity. Notice also that you can see a transparency grid under the colors to show you how the gradient will look. My Location is still 0%, because I have not moved the slider, but you can also change it by typing in a percentage or moving the stop.

Opacity Midpoint: Click on the midpoint to select it, and the location will show in the location box. When you move the midpoint watch the transparency grid below the gradient. This will show you how the transparency is being distributed. When you are done, let's save it.

How To Create And Save A Custom Gradient In Photoshop

To save the gradient you made, the natural thing to do it click the Save button, right? Wrong! Here Adobe has thrown you a curve. You have not yet added the new gradient to the swatches, and it must be added before you can save it. If you click save now, the gradient will not really be saved.

Type a name for the new gradient in the Name box, and then click the New button.

name it

Now the gradient will appear in the swatches.

new gradient

Now you can click the Save button save to the right of the preset previews at the top of the editor.

When the browse box opens, probably to the default gradients folder in your Elements or Photoshop folder, type a unique name. The file will be saved as a .GRD file, the format for Photoshop gradient presets. Click Save.

This not only saved the new gradient you just made, but it also saved the ones that were already loaded.

Open the palette options and choose Reset Gradients. When asked if you want to replace the gradients with the default gradients, say Yes. the gradients return to defaults. (Note: Sometimes when loading gradients you may wish to append the the gradients you are loading to the current ones. This will keep the current gradients loaded, and add the new ones to the end of the presets. If that is the case, click Append. )


Loading A Custom Gradient GRD File In Photoshop

Click the Load button next to the presets previews. When the dialog box opens, choose the new gradient file you saved, and click Load at the bottom of the dialog. The whole gradient file is loaded so you will have duplicates of all but the custom gradient you saved loaded.


You can avoid this by opening the palette options and choosing Replace Gradients from the menu. Choose the new file and click Load.


What if you don't want all of those extra gradients loaded?

How To Save Photoshop Custom Gradient Sets

I have gone ahead and followed the steps outlined previously to make a couple more custom gradients. I want to save them as a set. The gradients outlined in red are new, and the ones I want to keep. We need to get rid of the others.

New gradients

Right click (Mac users Control + Click to get the context menu) on the first gradient in the upper left corner, and choose Delete Gradient. The gradient is deleted from the presets.


Repeat this for all of the gradient presets you want to get rid of. They are being deleted from the default file, so the next step is to save the file under another name. This is what I have left.

the ones I want to keep!

Now click the Save button, and you can choose a new name for the gradient set. I named these fruit_gradients.GRD. Click  Save at the bottom of the dialog and you now have a new set of gradients presets. Click OK to exit the Gradient Editor. They can now be loaded as we did before.

If you wish, you can download the fruit gradients here. They will work in Photoshop 7 and PS, CS5, CS6, CC, and Elements 2. (They may work in Elements 1 and lower versions of Photoshop, but I have not tested them as I don't have them installed on this machine.)

This tutorial originally appeared on, a website that no longer exists. I've saved this content for all Photoshop lovers out there that want to know more about Photoshop custom gradients.

5 ( 1 votes)

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2 comment(s) for "How To Make A Custom Gradient In Photoshop And Elements"

Su Hall
Su Hall
12:12 AM Tuesday, July 31, 2018
This is a great piece on Gradients! Very good read!
Thanks, too, for the Fruit Gradients! reply
12:16 AM Tuesday, July 31, 2018
Thank you Su! So glad you found this useful! reply

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