How To Make Transparent Gradients In Photoshop (Easy!)

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With a couple of clicks, you can create transparent gradients in Photoshop to apply directly onto images or even layer masks! This post will walk you through exactly how to create these gradients using two simple methods.

To create a transparent gradient in Photoshop, you need to:

  1. Select Your Gradient Tool.
  2. Click The Gradient Editor And Choose The “Foreground To Transparent” Gradient.
  3. Set Your Desired Foreground Color.
  4. Click And Drag Across Your Canvas To Create A New Transparent Gradient.

With these basic steps covered, let’s go through each of them more in-depth to give you a better understanding of the whole process. Likewise, we’ll go over a few easy ways you can troubleshoot your gradient tool if you run into problems. Let’s get started!

Video Tutorial

How To Create A Transparent Gradient In Photoshop

Step 1: Select The Gradient Tool (G)

Select the Gradient Tool from the toolbar or press G to access it.

Step 2: Select The Gradient Mode

Before adding a gradient, you need to set the Gradient Mode using the drop-down menu in the Options Bar. You can choose between Gradient and Classic Gradient. For this method, I recommend you use Classic Gradient.

Step 3: Open The Gradient Editor And Select A Foreground To Transparent Gradient

With your Gradient Tool selected, go to the Options Bar and click on the gradient editor. 

Within the presets option, click on the Basics folder to reveal the different gradient options inside. Here, you’ll find the foreground to transparent gradient represented by the color transitioning to the white and grey checkerboard.

Now that you have your gradient selected, click OK to exit the gradient editor.

Step 4: Create A Layer Mask On Your Layer

Now, it’s time to add a layer mask. To create a new layer mask, select your desired layer and click the layer mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel.

Step 5: Set Your Foreground Color To Black

Since I want to fade half of my image, I’ll set black as my foreground color. To do this, click on the foreground color box and select black from the color picker dialogue box.

Step 6: Applying A Transparent Gradient To Your Layer Mask

Next, click on your Layer Mask to select it. You can make sure it’s selected by taking note of the white boxes around the edges of the layer mask thumbnail.

With your layer mask selected, click and drag out to apply your transparent gradient onto the mask. Now, the black areas of your layer mask will become transparent while the others remain visible. This is an easy way to fade out the edges of individual layers.

How To Create A Color-To-Transparent Gradient In Photoshop

Step 1: Select The Gradient Tool (G)

Select the Gradient Tool from the toolbar or press G.

Step 2: Set The Gradient Mode To Gradient In The Options Bar

Next, use the Gradient Mode drop-down menu in the Options Bar and set it to Gradient. This automatically creates a new gradient fill layer when you add the gradient.

Step 3: Open The Gradient Editor And Select A Foreground To Transparent Gradient

Use the same process as the first example to open the gradient editor and select the foreground to transparent gradient under the Basics presets.

Step 4: Set The Gradient Color Using The Foreground Color

This bases its color on your active foreground color. To change your foreground color, click on the foreground color box in the toolbar. Select any color from the color picker and click OK.

Now, your gradient will match the new color you just selected.

Step 5: Drag On The Canvas To Add The Gradient

Before adding your gradient, you can select a gradient type in the Options Bar. Pick the linear, radial, angle, reflected, or diamond to alter how your gradient will appear on your new layer. For a complete list of the Gradient Tool settings, follow this guide.

After choosing your gradient type, click and drag it out on your canvas to create the transparent gradient. Once you add the gradient, it will add a new Gradient Fill layer in the Layers Panel, so the gradient is added on a new layer, which is non-destructive.

You now have a color-to-transparent gradient added to your image.

Step 6: How To Change The Color Of Your Existing Transparent Gradient (Optional)

After creating the transparent gradient, you might later decide that you need to change the gradient color. Since you are using the Gradient mode, you can easily change the color. First, ensure the gradient is selected in the Layers Panel.

Then, scroll down the Properties Panel until you find the color bar. Double-click on the first color stop to open the Color Picker.

Now, use the color picker to select a new color. Whichever color you pick will be applied to the colored areas of your transparent gradient. Once happy with your selected color, click OK. Then, repeat on the second color stop and choose the same color.

Now, your gradient will take on the new color you have chosen while remaining partially transparent.

What To Do If Your Transparent Gradient Isn’t Working

While you’re working with transparent gradients, you might run into a few problems where it stops working completely. Luckily, the reason this tool stops working often comes down to one of the reasons below.

1. Check The Gradient Blending Mode

The gradient blending mode controls how a gradient blends into a layer as it’s created. In some cases, you might have accidentally changed this setting without realizing it. By selecting your Gradient Tool (G) and making sure the blending mode is set to Normal, you’ll be back up and running.

2. Ensure Your Layer Or Layer Mask Is Selected

If you don’t have anything selected, Photoshop won’t know where you want to apply your gradient. Double-check to see that either your layer thumbnail or layer mask is selected, depending on what you want to adjust.

Likewise, make sure you aren’t trying to add a gradient to any locked layers, or you’ll also run into problems.

3. Check Your Foreground Color When Applying Gradient To Layer Masks

When you’re applying a transparent gradient to a layer mask, the color can make a big difference. In the world of layer masks, white is 100% visible, while black is 100% transparent. All the shades of grey between white and black represent varying levels of transparency.

Before you edit your layer mask, make sure you’re applying the right color to the mask. For example, if you apply a white gradient to a white layer mask, you won’t see any results. To better understand how layer masks work in Photoshop, check out this post.

4. Make Sure You Have The Correct Gradient Selected

In some instances, your gradient might look wildly different than what you expected. This often comes down to not having the proper gradient type selected. With the gradient tool active, you can find a series of gradient types besides the gradient editor. Check to see which gradient is selected here and whether or not that’s the one you’re trying to create.

5. Check That Your Layer Is Visible

Now, this may go without saying, but it’s happened to the best of us. If your layer isn’t visible or the opacity is set to 0%, you won’t be able to see any of your gradient adjustments. Ensure that the eyeball icon is visible beside your selected layer and that your layer opacity is set to 100%. This is an easy fix that I’ve accidentally run into myself on numerous occasions.

After following the steps outlined in this post, you’re officially a transparent gradient master. Now, you can gradient it up to your heart’s content.


Brendan 🙂

Photo of author
I'm a Canadian photographer and photo retoucher turned founder of bwillcreative.com. Around here I help you to decode the mystery of photo editing with no-fluff videos and written guides to help you achieve your creative goals. Outside of shooting photos and my passion for educating, you'll find me mountain biking or on the trails with my dog, Sunny!

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