How to Apply Live Gradients in Photoshop 2023

Live gradients in Photoshop 2023 make drawing and editing gradients easier than ever. This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to draw and edit a live gradient, save a custom gradient preset, apply a gradient to your image, and more! 

Live gradients are a huge improvement over Photoshop’s traditional gradients, for a number of reasons. First is the new live preview of the gradient as we draw it. Second, live gradients are editable and non-destructive. And third, live gradients include new and intuitive on-canvas controls for adjusting the colors, the size, the angle of the gradient and more. So let’s see how they work.

I’ll start by showing you everything you need to know to draw and edit a live gradient, and then we’ll look at a real world example of how you might use a gradient with your photo.

Which version of Photoshop do I need to use live gradients?

Live gradients were added to Photoshop in the May 2023 update.

You can get the latest Photoshop version here. Or use the Creative Cloud Desktop app to make sure that your copy of Photoshop is up to date. 

The document setup

For this tutorial, I’ve gone ahead and created a new document with a plain white background.

The original Photoshop document.

How to draw a live gradient in Photoshop

Here are the steps for drawing a live gradient in Photoshop. Once we’ve drawn the gradient, I’ll show you how to edit the colors, the size, angle, opacity and more.

See Also:

  • Add a Vignette to a Photo with Live Gradients
  • Fade an Image to Color with Live Gradients
  • Find Photoshop's Missing Gradients, Patterns and Shapes

Step 1: Select the Gradient Tool

First select the Gradient Tool from the toolbar (or press G on your keyboard).

Selecting the Gradient Tool from the Photoshop toolbar.

Selecting the Gradient Tool.

Step 2: Set the gradient mode to Gradient

In the Options Bar, make sure the Gradient Mode (a new option) is set to Gradient. Choosing Classic gradient from the menu will draw a legacy gradient without any of the new live features.

The Gradient Mode option in the Options Bar.

The Gradient Mode option in the Options Bar.

Step 3: Choose a gradient preset (optional)

The color swatch next to the Gradient Mode displays the current gradient colors. By default, the gradient uses your Foreground and Background colors (black and white).

The gradient color swatch.

The gradient color swatch.

I’ll show you how to choose your own custom colors after we draw the gradient. But Photoshop includes lots of gradient presets that we can choose from.

To select a preset, click the color swatch to open the Gradient Preset picker.

Opening the Gradient Preset picker.

Opening the Gradient Preset picker. Twirl open any of the themes (Blues, Purples, Pinks, and so on), then click on a preset’s thumbnail.

I’ll choose one from the Purples theme. Click outside the Gradient Preset picker to close it.

Choosing a gradient preset.

Choosing a gradient preset.

Step 4: Choose a gradient style

Next to the Gradient Picker are the Gradient Style options. From left to right, we have LinearRadialAngleReflected and Diamond.

Linear and Radial are the styles we use the most. Linear draws the gradient in a straight line while Radial draws it outward in a circle. You can cycle through the styles from your keyboard using the left and right bracket keys ( [ and ] ).

I’ll use Linear, which is selected by default.

The Gradient Style icons.

Choosing Linear for the gradient style.

Step 5: Leave the other gradient options at their defaults

Still in the Options Bar, leave the Reverse option unchecked unless you want to reverse the gradient’s direction and swap the colors. You can always reverse the gradient after you draw it, if needed.

Also, leave the Dither option checked, which helps to reduce color banding.

The Reverse and Dither options for the live gradient in Photoshop.

The Reverse and Dither options.

Finally, leave the Method option set to Perceptual, which displays colors in a way that matches how our eyes perceive colors. Linear is the most basic and displays color transitions in a simple straight line, while Classic matches how gradients appeared in previous Photoshop versions.

In most cases, Perceptual is the best choice.

The Gradient Method choices.

The Gradient Method choices.

Step 6: Draw your gradient

Then to draw your live gradient, simply click in the document to set a starting point, keep your mouse button held down and drag away from that point. Photoshop displays a live preview of the gradient as you draw it.

To draw the gradient in a straight horizontal or vertical line, hold the Shift key on your keyboard as you drag.

Release your mouse button to complete the gradient.

Drawing a live gradient across the canvas.

Drawing a live gradient across the canvas.

In the Layers panel, notice that the live gradient appears on its own Gradient Fill layer which keeps the gradient separate and non-destructive. 

Editing a live gradient using the on-canvas controls

A great feature of live gradients is that they remain editable even after we draw them. And the easiest way to edit a gradient is with the new on-canvas controls. Here’s how to use them.

Scale

To adjust the scale (the size or length) of the gradient using the on-canvas controls, click and drag one of the round color stops on either end of the gradient.

How to adjust the scale of a live gradient in Photoshop.

Dragging a color stop to adjust the gradient scale.

Angle

You can also drag a color stop to rotate the gradient’s angle.

Hold Shift to rotate the angle in 15 degree increments.

How to adjust the angle of a live gradient in Photoshop.

Rotating the gradient angle by dragging the color stop.

Position

To reposition the gradient on the canvas, click and drag the line that connects the color stops.

How to reposition a live gradient on the canvas in Photoshop using the on-canvas controls.

Dragging the line to repositon the gradient.

Midpoint

And to adjust the midpoint of the gradient, drag the diamond icon above the line.

How to adjust the midpoint of a live gradient in Photoshop using the on-canvas controls.

Dragging the diamond to move the gradient midpoint.

How to change a gradient color

To change a color, double-click on its color stop. I’ll change the color on the left.

How to adjust the midpoint of a live gradient in Photoshop using the on-canvas controls.

Double-clicking on a color stop to change its color.

Then choose a new color from the Color Picker.

Choosing a new gradient color from the Color Picker in Photoshop.

Using the Color Picker to choose a new color.

Or, while the Color Picker is open, you can click anywhere along the gradient to sample that color.

Here I’m sampling the purple color on the right, which temporarily makes both colors in the gradient the same.

Sampling a new gradient color from another color in the gradient.

Sampling another color in the gradient.

Then drag the Hue slider in the Color Picker to choose a slightly different color.

Gradients often work best with colors that are fairly similar, with transitions that are more subtle, as opposed to using colors at opposite sides of the color wheel.

Click OK to close the Color Picker when you’re done.

Dragging the Hue slider in the Photoshop Color Picker to select a different but similar color for the gradient.

Dragging the Hue slider to select a different but similar color.

How to add a new color to the gradient

To add a new color to the gradient, hover your mouse cursor just above or below the line at the spot where you want to add the new color.

plus sign will appear next to your cursor.

Dragging the Hue slider in the Photoshop Color Picker to select a different but similar color for the gradient.

Hovering the cursor just below the line to add a new color stop.

Then click to add a new color stop at that location.

Photoshop will use your current Foreground color as the new color, which in my case is black.

A third color is added to the live gradient, which Photoshop sets to the current Foreground color.

The new color stop is added and set to the current Foreground color.

Double-click on the new color stop to choose a color from the Color Picker.

I’ll choose white just to make it easy to see.

Using the Color Picker to set the third color in the live gradient to white.

Choosing white as the third color in the gradient.

You can then drag the color stop along the line to reposition it.

Dragging the new color stop to change the location of the color in the live gradient.

Dragging the new color stop to change the location of the color.

Or drag the diamond icons on either side of the new color stop to change the midpoint locations.

Adjusting the midpoint between two colors in the live gradient in Photoshop

Dragging a diamond to adjust the midpoint between two colors.

How to delete a color from the gradient

To delete a color from the gradient, click on its color stop to select it.

Then either drag the color stop away from the line until it disappears, or press the Delete key on your keyboard.

Deleting a color stop by dragging it down and away from the line.

Deleting a color stop by dragging it down and away from the line.

Editing a live gradient from the Properties panel

Another way to edit a live gradient in Photoshop is from the Properties panel. Here you’ll find the same options that we can edit using the on-canvas controls, plus more.

Presets

Use the Presets option at the top of the Properties panel to choose a different gradient preset.

Click the color swatch to open the Gradient Preset picker, twirl open a color theme and click on a thumbnail to choose a preset.

I’ll reset my gradient back to the same preset from the Purples theme that I chose earlier in the Options Bar.

The gradient Presets option in the Properties panel in Photoshop

Use the Presets option to choose a different gradient preset.

Style

Next we have the same Style options (Linear, Radial, Angle, Reflected, and Diamond) that we saw in the Options Bar, so you can change the style for your gradient after you draw it.

I’ll leave mine set to Linear.

The gradient style options in the Properties panel in Photoshop

The gradient style options in the Properties panel.

Angle

To adjust the angle of the gradient, you can enter a specific value, or click the arrow next to the value box and choose a preset angle.

You can also click and drag across the word Angle to adjust the value using the scrubby slider. While dragging the scrubby slider, hold the Alt (Win) / Option (Mac) key to adjust the value in smaller increments. Or hold Shift to adjust it in larger increments.