How To Use Radial Gradients In Photoshop

A Radial Gradient is one of the most interesting-looking types of Gradient you can make in Photoshop. There are many uses for a radial gradient and several ways to access them in Photoshop. From filling shapes and text to making adjustments to images that only affect a circular area of the image, you can easily make radial gradients work for you by following the methods below.

How To Access The Radial Gradient In Photoshop

You can find the Radial Gradient as an option of the Gradient Tool (G), which sits in the Toolbar along the left side of Photoshop.

The Gradient Tool contains several different types of gradients. To access the Radial Gradient, head to the Options bar and click the Radial Gradient icon from among the options.

To bring up the Gradient Editor window, click the Gradient Editor icon.

The Gradient Editor window appears, where you can edit your gradient’s colors and appearance.

How To Create A Radial Gradient In Photoshop

There are two main ways to easily create radial gradients in Photoshop so that you can apply them to your projects. You can create a new fill layer or use the gradient tool.

Option 1: With Gradient Fill Layers

Create a new Gradient Fill Layer by heading to Layer > New Fill Layer > Gradient.

In the New Layer window, you can name your layer or keep its name as Gradient Fill 1. 

Click OK, and the Gradient Fill window appears. Here, you can set the gradient style to Radial by clicking the drop-down arrow next to Style and selecting Radial.

Once you’ve selected the Gradient Style, you can edit the appearance of the gradient by clicking the Gradient icon to open the gradient preset folders. 

You can choose from the available gradients in the folders by clicking any drop-down arrows beside the folder name. 

You’ll see all the available gradients in that folder. Click one to apply the gradient to your document. To create your own gradient, click the gear wheel icon and select New Gradient Preset.

This will open the Gradient Editor window, where you can create and edit your own custom gradient by changing the gradient colors.

Click OK, and once you’ve created your gradient, you’ll see it appear in the document.

In the Layers Panel, you’ll see a new Gradient Fill layer has been added with the name you chose.

Option 2: With The Gradient Tool

You can also use the Gradient Tool to create your gradient by clicking the tool in the toolbar and selecting the Radial Gradient icon from the Options bar.

To edit your gradient’s appearance, click the Gradient icon to open the Gradient Editor window.

You can use one of the Gradient Presets by clicking the drop-down arrow next to any of the preset folders or use the Gradient bar to make and edit your own gradient.

Click OK when you’re finished.

To add the gradient to your document, click wherever you’d like the gradient’s center to sit and drag the line outwards. However long you drag the line will match the width of the first color in the gradient.

Ways To Use Radial Gradients In Photoshop

1. Selective Adjustments

Gradients can be helpful when applied to an image to make various adjustments, such as darkening edges or adding a highlight. Using a gradient for adjustments allows you to draw the eye to certain areas of your image and create interesting effects.

First, ensure the Image Layer is selected in the Layers Panel to create a radial selective adjustment.

With the Image Layer selected, head to the Adjustments Panel.

If you can’t see the Adjustments Panel, head to Window > Adjustments.

In the Adjustments Panel, click the adjustment you’d like to make to your image. For this example, I’ll use the Brightness and Contrast adjustment and drag the Brightness down. Initially, this will darken the entire image, but once I add the gradient, it will darken only the edges of the image and keep the center lighter to draw attention to this area.

Once you’ve applied your adjustment, go to the Layers Panel and select the Layer Mask on the adjustment layer.

Now, select the Gradient Tool from the toolbar and select Radial Gradient in the Options bar.

Click the Gradient icon and head to the Basic gradients preset folder. Basic gradients are great for adding adjustments to images as they use only black, white, and transparency so that the adjustments only sit in the areas you’d like. So, for this adjustment, we’ll use the Foreground to Transparent gradient. Click OK.

Ensure the foreground color is set to black, as black will remove from the layer mask, while white will add to it. You can set it to black by clicking the foreground icon (the square that sits in the front) and set the color to black in the Color Picker window.

Once the foreground is set to black, you can click the image and drag out to apply the gradient, keeping in mind that the area you click will act as the gradient’s center and, thus, the area where the adjustment is not applied. 

Upon releasing the cursor, the gradient is applied to make a darkening effect in the outer borders of the image and a lightening effect in the center, creating a highlight that draws the eye.

2. Colored Gradients

You can also create a colored gradient by adding a new layer and a gradient on top. To do this, click the New Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel

With the New Layer selected in the Layers Panel, head to the Gradient Tool and select the Radial Gradient icon from the Options bar.

From there, click the Gradient icon and edit your gradient as you usually would in the Gradient Editor window, selecting a preset gradient or creating your own using the Gradient bar. A color to transparent gradient works well for this example.

Once you’re satisfied with the appearance of your gradient, click and drag out on the document to make the gradient. It will be best to create a smaller gradient here so that the gradient doesn’t sit off the edge of the page if you move it.

The gradient appears on your document when you release the cursor.

Because the gradient sits on its own layer, you can select the Move Tool (V) and then click and drag the gradient to move it around the document. You now have a movable orb-type element you can use on your project.

3. Gradient Fills On Shape Layers

You can also apply a gradient to fill a shape layer when working with shapes in a project. To add a gradient fill to a shape, select the shape layer you’d like to fill or create a shape by heading to the Shape Tool (U).

Click and hold the Shape Tool icon to see the different shapes you can choose from. For this example, I’ll stick with a rectangle.

Click and drag along the document to create your shape.

The shape layer appears as a Shape Layer in the Layers Panel. 

With the shape layer selected, head to the Options bar and click the Fill icon.

This will bring up the fill panel — select Gradient from the options along the top.

In the Gradient Style menu at the bottom, click the drop-down arrow and set the style to Radial.

Now you can choose from the available preset gradients by clicking the drop-down arrow beside any of the preset folders or create your own gradient using the gradient bar.

You’ll see the gradient in your shape change as you make adjustments.

Working with radial gradients is a simple way to add color, flair, or selective adjustments to a project or image. Now that you understand the different ways to create and apply radial gradients, you’ll have no trouble using radial gradients to your advantage in Photoshop.

Article By

Brendan Williams

Hey, I'm Brendan! I'm a professional photographer and photo retoucher who has spent the majority of his career shooting or retouching outdoor lifestyle and social media campaigns for brands like G-Adventures, xoxo Bella, P&G, Fitbit, Chevy, Tourism California, and more. These days I primarily focus my efforts on this site, creating guides and tutorials that I wish I had earlier in my career. Each week I publish new tutorials on Photography, Photoshop, Lightroom, and Canva to help you unlock new skills and bring your creativity to new levels! Everything you learn here is backed by real experience, so you can finally skip the fluff and focus only on what matters.

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