Where is the Gradient Tool in Photoshop and How to Use It

If you haven’t noticed yet, gradient effects are everywhere, from a web button to logos and posters. It’s a simple effect to create and the result can be sophisticated. 

Want to make a gradient background or apply a gradient effect to your stunning design? You can create beautiful color blends or add gradients to manipulate images. In this tutorial, you’ll learn where to find and how to use the Gradient tool in Photoshop. 

3 Ways to Find the Gradient Tool 

Note: All screenshots are taken from Adobe Photoshop CC Mac version. Windows or other versions can look different. 

You can find the Gradient Tool from the toolbar, Layers panel, or open the Gradients panel from the top menu. 

1. Toolbar

If you don’t see the Gradient Tool in the toolbar, usually, it’s in the same menu as the Paint Bucket Tool. You can click on the Paint Bucket Tool icon, the submenu will show and you’ll find the Gradient Tool. You can also hit the keyboard shortcut G to activate it. 

2. Layers Panel 

From the Layers panel, you can add a gradient fill, or add a layer style to make the gradient effect. 

You can also add a Gradient Overlay to your layer. 

3. Open Gradients Panel 

You can open the Gradients panel from the top menu Window > Gradients. It will appear on the right side of your Photoshop document. 

Now that you found the gradient tool, ready for the practical part? 

How to Use the Gradient Tool (2 Steps)

There are different ways to apply gradients in Photoshop. You can fill a layer or shape with a gradient or you can add a gradient layer to manipulate images. 

Let’s begin with the basics, filling a background layer with gradient colors.

Step 1: Select the Gradient Tool from the toolbar and select a gradient from the Gradients panel. There are many preset gradients that you can use. You can also create your own gradients, click on the gradient box on the top toolbar. 

The Gradient Editor window will show. Double-click on the small square slider handle to change the color. 

If you want to adjust the color area, you can move the slider to show different effects or click on the square and drag to add more colors to the gradient. 

Step 2: Click and drag on the canvas and it’ll be filled with the gradient you selected. 

The direction you click and drag will be the direction of the gradient. 

If you want to leave the background untouched, you can add a gradient layer on top to color it. 

When you add a Gradient Fill layer from the Layers panel, the Gradient Fill window will show, you can click on the gradient box to change the colors. 

You can also adjust other settings like gradient style, angle, etc. 

That’s it, basically, it only takes you two steps.

How about adding a gradient to a shape? For example. I want to add a gradient to this circle shape. The easiest way to do it is by adding a Gradient Overlay

Step 1: Select the shape layer, click on the fx icon and add a layer style (Gradient Overlay). 

Step 2: A Layer Style window will show, click on the gradient box to open the gradient editor, select a gradient, adjust the settings if needed, and click OK

If you want to edit the gradient, simply double-click on the Gradient Overlay effect under the shape layer to edit it. 

You can use the same method to apply the gradient effect to the text. 

If you want to create a transparent gradient, check out our tutorial on How to Make a Transparent Gradient in Photoshop.


The gradient tool is easy to find and easy to use in Photoshop. If you are filling a background, using the Gradient tool from the toolbar or adding a gradient fill layer are the quick options. On the other hand, adding a gradient overlay layer style works best for texts and objects.

About June
June is an experienced graphic designer specializing in brand design. Photoshop is the essential tool that she uses every day along with other Adobe programs for her creative work.

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  • Pauline bridges

    Hi June I have been using yhe gradient tool in photoshop for 5 years now but today it’s all different – I click on the gradient tool and I get rainbow tool and I can’t change it – I like to change the sky with transparent to background I am a landscape photographer

    • June

      Hi Pauline,

      What do you mean by “rainbow tool”?

      To use the gradient tool, you should make a selection and then apply the gradients.

      Let me know if it works.