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Grasping the Gradient Tool

By Diana Day  ·  Issue: May/June 2011 (V8N3)

Take an inside look at one of Elements’ most versatile tools, which is used for everything from creating backgrounds to darkening skies.

[To see more in-depth articles and videos on Elements’ basic tools and commands, check out our Tool Tips tag.]


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8 Replies to Grasping the Gradient Tool:

  1. Lynn

    July 8, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Hi Diana. I loved this article. I have flagged this page of my magazine for future help. You have given so much information in a simple format and I have learned an enormous amount about the gradient tool. I hope to see more information on other tools. Thank you, Lynn

    • John

      January 17, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Lynn: I realize this is a very old blog but I have just across it and am having a problem with filling a shape with a gradient. In particular Diana Day gives an example of filling a leaf arrangement and states ” I stamped on the image with the decorative brush”. What does she mean “stamped” on the image? How did she get the image on the mask in the first place? Could you run me through the proceedure?

      John W.

  2. Celina U

    August 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Excellent article which gives an effective and easy understanding of the Gradient Tool.

  3. Robert

    September 6, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Everything and more of what I need to know about the gradient tool. I even tried out the period and comma shortcuts and was surprised to see they acutally worked. I think I now know how to create my own set of gradients. It’s not intuitive and this tutorial helped a great deal. Thanks.

  4. John

    January 16, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I came across this article and tried the example on the last page where the gradient was limited to the shape (flowers). I got the gradient but but not the colours. I also notice that the gradient icon in the layers panel is couple with the shape in a layers mask. How is this achieved? Can anyone help me out here?

    • Diana

      April 21, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      Hi John,

      I am sorry I didn’t see your question last year. I usually get an email notification when someone posts a question, but didn’t this time. I hope you have found an answer by now. But if not, I hope you see this, or that it helps someone else with the same questions.

      There are two ways to use the brushes with the Brush tool:

      Stroking, in which you click the mouse on the image (usually on a blank layer) and then dragging it along as in making a stroke with a pen.

      Stamping, in which you click once on the image, on a blank layer. Many decorative brushes do not lend themselves to stroking and the best way to apply the design is to “stamp” it on.

      To use a Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer:

      At the top of the Layers Panel, click the icon that looks like a half white/half black circle (in older versions, it may be at the bottom of the layers panel). If you hover the mouse over the icon, you should see the label: Create a New Fill or Adjustment Layer. This results in a menu; on the menu click Gradient (not Gradient Map). [My instructions in the magazine gradient article advises going to the top menu and selecting Layer>New Fill Layer>Gradient, then clicking OK…. just another way of doing the same thing.]

      Either way, it will create a new, two-part, layer. On the left side is the Gradient Fill thumbnail, and on the right side is a white mask. The Mask is automatically the active side and the Gradient Fill dialog automatically opens, which displays a strip of gradient based on your current Foreground and Background colors. If you know the color scheme you want to use, you can choose colors ahead of time for your Foreground and Background tiles. If not, you can use the Gradient Editor to choose a gradient, as in the steps below.

      Clicking on the Gradient strip in the Gradient Fill dialog opens the Gradient Editor panel, giving you a chance to choose a gradient, should you have not already set up Foreground and Background colors. At the top left, clicking the drop-down arrow next to “Preset” presents you with more choices of gradient sets. Click to choose a colorful gradient, then click OK to close the Gradient Editor. Click OK again to close the Gradient Fill dialog. You will see that your image canvas has filled with the chosen gradient.

      The white mask is active, which means that all is visible in the image canvas. We want to hide the gradient, so you need to change the white mask to black. An easy way to do that is to press Ctrl-I to invert the mask to black. [There is a saying when using a Layer Mask: White reveals & Black conceals.]

      After inverting the layer mask to black, in order to reveal the gradient in the shape of the brush, you’ll need to click once to “Stamp” a brush in White on the image. So, go to your color chips at the bottom of the toolbar, and make your Foreground color White.

      Select the Brush tool (pressing the B key takes you there quickly), then for now, just select a round brush. Resize it quite large to almost fill the image. A quick way to resize a brush is using the square bracket keys on the keyboard. Left square bracket reduces and right increases the size.

      Making sure the Foreground color is white, stamp once in the middle of the image canvas with the brush. You’ll see how the white circle you stamped becomes like a window in the mask, allowing the gradient to show through. If you “stamp” with a decorative brush, then you would see the gradient fill the shape of the decorative brush.

      I hope these details help.


      • John

        April 21, 2014 at 10:36 pm

        Thanks for the detailed explanation Diana. Now I can revisit the ideas and see how things turn out.

  5. Diana

    April 21, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    John, I’m so glad you got a notification of my response and it may still be useful to you. I am getting notifications from these comments now, so let me know if you have any further questions. :-)


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