How to Create a Gradient Overlay in Photoshop

How to Create a Gradient Overlay in Photoshop. Many beginning Photoshop artists steer away from the gradient overlay because they don't understand how useful it can be. It can add cool effects to text, but you can also create a gradient overlay to control light sources and add highlights and shadows to selections.

Step

Select the object you want to overlay. If it's part of a layer, copy it to its own layer (the "Command" and "J" keys). Make the new selection layer active and apply the "Gradient Overlay" layer style (in the Layers menu or from the Layers palette).

Step

Check the preview button in the Layer Styles dialog so you can see your changes live. Your selection will fill with a black to white gradient but don't worry. With a few tweaks you will see dramatic results.

Step

Change the blend mode to "Overlay" (try "Hard Light" for a more dramatic effect). The gradient will now mix softly into the layer's original colors.

Step

Reset the angle to shift the light source. The white end of the gradient will be your highlights (reflected light) and the black will serve as your shadow areas (remember, you're not using the gradient overlay to cast shadows but to create the appearance of light being cast over the selection). Choose the "Linear" style to reflect a broad light source such as room light, and "Radial" to reflect a focused light source. Check "Reverse" to switch the gradient direction.

Step

Click on the gradient preview to change the gradient colors. Click anywhere in the gradient bar to add a new color stop or click on a custom gradient to create a totally different effect.

Step

Narrow the gradient focus with the scale slider. The lower the percentage the higher the mix of the right gradient color, the higher the percentage the more the left color will mix into the blend.