Transforming a solid shape into a transparent gradient in Photoshop

by hannah 12,182 views9

This tutorial will cover the basics of making a solid shape into a transparent gradient, using the layer style options in Photoshop. For this example, I’m going to create a black to transparent gradient over an image, to create the effect of the image fading out to black. This effect is often used with a dark photograph fading to black on the background of a website, the reverse of this a lighter image fading to white is often used on the top of invitations and flyers.

Step 1.

Open up the picture that you wish to use in the background. The image that I’m using is from Wikimedia Commons and is copyright free if you wish to use the same image from this tutorial you can find it here.

Sunset Image
Sunset Image

Step 2.

Select the rectangle tool from the tool bar and select a bright colour from the foreground colour palette.

choose a bright foreground colour and choose the retangle shape tool
choose a bright foreground colour and choose the retangle shape tool

Step 3.

Draw with the rectangle tool over the picture. You will need to cover the bottom half of the picture with the rectangle. You can use the Direct Selection tool to move the individual points on the corners of the rectangle once you have drawn it. To select more than one point hold down Apple / Ctrl when selecting more points. If you then click and hold to drag the points, you can hold shift to keep the points in line.

Draw a rectangle shape over the picture
Draw a rectangle shape over the picture
Select the Direct Selection Tool
Select the Direct Selection Tool
Select the 2 left points. Hold shift to select the 2nd point
Select the 2 left points. Hold shift to select the 2nd point
Hold shift and drag points to the edge of the canvas
Hold shift and drag points to the edge of the canvas

Step 4.

With the new rectangle selected in the layers palette press the fx button at the bottom of the palette and choose Gradient Overlay from the drop down menu.

Layer Style > Gradient Overlay
Layer Style > Gradient Overlay

Step 5.

The gradient overlay panel will appear. Click and drag the panel to the side of the screen, so that you can see what effects the gradient overlay is creating on the canvas.

gradient overlay panel
gradient overlay panel

Step 6.

The gradient is already being applied in the direction that we need with white at the top and black at the bottom. If you need to change this you can change the angle on the panel by clicking in the direction you need within the circle. You can also change the percentage in angel degree in the box beside it. With 90 selected in the box the colours left to right in the gradient panel will go bottom to top. -90 they will change to top to bottom. With 0 they will display left to right and -180 right to left.

Step 7.

To change the black to white gradient to black to transparent, click on the gradient colour area.

Step 8.

This will show a new panel. The tags at the bottom of the gradient control the colour. The 2 at the top, the opacity.

Step 9.

Click on the opacity marker top right and change the opacity box to 0 and click ok.

Gradient Overlay > Opacity 0
Gradient Overlay > Opacity 0

Step 10.

As the name suggests, this will overlay the gradient over the top of the shape. The colour of the shape will now be showing through where the white section was. Click OK and exit the panel.

Change the opacity to 0
Change the opacity to 0

Step 11.

As the colour is fading from black to transparent it is also changing towards the white, so the black colour will lighten as the opacity reduces. To change this, click on the bottom left tag and change this colour to black.

Change colour bottom right to black
Change colour bottom right to black

Step 12.

The final step is to get rid of the initial shape colour. To change this, make sure the layer you are changing is highlighted in the layers palette andΒ  either use the slider or enter 0 in the Fill text box, top right on the layers palette.

Layer palette > fill Opacity 0
Layer palette > fill Opacity 0

Step 13.

To see the full effect of the image fading to black, extend the canvas downwards by going to Image > Canvas Size. The Canvas Size panel will appear over the canvas showing the current dimensions.

Image > Canvas Size
Image > Canvas Size

Step 14.

The Anchor diagram depicts which way the canvas will extend or shrink. To get it to extend downwards only, click on the top square in the middle. Enter a new value in the height field. I am working in pixels, so have changed the measurements to pixels. I want to extend the canvas down by 170 pixels, so have changed the height to 800. I also want the new bit of canvas to be coloured black and so have changed this in the drop down at the bottom.

Change canvas size
Change canvas size

Step 15.

You should now have an image similar to the one below

Extend canvas downwards
Extend canvas downwards

Step 16.

To cover slightly more of the photo with the transparent to black gradient you can select the original bright shape in the layers palette. Choose the direct selection tool and select the two top anchor points on the corners. (Hold shift whilst selecting the 2nd one to have them both selected at the same time.) Hold shift and drag them upwards. Hit the return key when you are happy with the new position to deselect it.

Select top corners of shape and move them upwards to cover more of the picture
Select top corners of shape and move them upwards to cover more of the picture

Step 17.

The final photo

Picture fading to black with transparent gradient
Picture fading to black with transparent gradient

Comments (9)

  1. Your tutorial answered a question I was scouring the Internet to find for almost an hour – how to remove color from a shape in Photoshop, and add a color-to-transparent gradient overlay.

    THANK YOU!

  2. Glad you found it useful πŸ™‚ I’m always looking for new ideas for photoshop tutorials so let me know if there’s anything else in particular that you’re trying to find.

  3. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!

  4. You’re welcome, glad you found it useful πŸ™‚

  5. cool tutorial and it worked just fine.
    Now, though, any new shape layer has the gradient mask.
    How do I get the shape back to the normal behavior.
    This is making me crazy!
    0-:

  6. When you draw the next shape, if you right click the layer in the layers palette and choose ‘clear layer styles’ this should change the shape back to normal. πŸ™‚

  7. Photoshop is so unintuitive, its almost comedic.
    Anyone out there who does not require Photoshop skills in a professional capacity, should use other software. Believe me, with other software packages you can work out how to do things much more quickly and easily – without having to scour the internet for the answer. You will save yourself loads of time and stress.
    (eg, Corel PhotoPaint has a transparency tool which you simply drag across your shape/image. )

  8. Thanks for your comment Zedg – There are plenty of other editing programmes out there. Having used Photoshop for the last 15 years, I find it incredibly easy to use and intuitive! To anyone currently learning Photoshop, I would suggest they stick with it as you can create absolutely anything with it once you know how πŸ™‚

  9. Hi Hannah,

    Im just wondering…Im new to the whole photoshop software…Can you please teach me how to create a foreground to transparent rectangle specifically wherein the rectangle ‘s sides are the only ones that are transparent and the foreground color remains the same… In short, its a regular rectangle but it fades out
    to a transparent background when it reaches to the both left and right sides

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