How to Apply Gradient Overlays Using Layer Styles in Photoshop

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

Always wanted to use the Gradient Overlay layer style, but never knew exactly where to start?

From applying a photo gradient overlay to creating a rainbow gradient overlay, the entire process is actually really easy, as we will see in the following moments.

So, if you want to learn how to use a gradient overlay to create things such as a gold gradient overlay in Photoshop or a color gradient overlay in Photoshop, you’ve come to the right place, since you’ll find all the information that you need to know in order to get started.

Follow along with us over on our Envato Tuts+ YouTube channel:

The Uses for Gradient Overlay

Gradient Overlay is mainly used for one thing, adding depth to your design.

Using Gradient Overlay with different Blend Modes can also help you blend items with the layers beneath them.

example of using a gradient overlay

The Layer Styles Gradient Overlay Dialog Box

Gradient Overlay consists of a few basic settings, and it does just what the name says. It creates a gradient that can be adjusted using different blending modes, transparency, and more to give you different looks.

Tip: When using Gradient Overlay, it can be helpful to set the Fill transparency of your layer to 0% first. Fill can be found just underneath Opacity in the Layers palette.

example of gradient overlay settings

Blend Mode

The Blend Mode allows you to set the blending mode for your Gradient Overlay.

Leaving it on Normal allows you to create simple gradients, while other options will blend with the layers beneath your gradient.

If you are unfamiliar with how all the different Blending Modes work, I highly recommend checking out the Blending Is Fun Basix tutorial.

example of available blending modes

In the following example, you can see how changing the Blend Mode from Normal to Linear Burn makes our slight red gradient darken the layer beneath it.

example of using different blending modes


A smaller number here makes your Gradient Overlay more transparent, while a higher number gives a stronger effect.

example of the opacity settings

In the following example, you can see that a lower Opacity makes our text see-through.

example of using a lower opacity value


This is where you set the actual colors in your gradient. It can be a simple two-color fade or a complex set of colors for special effects, like metal.

Checking the Reverse checkbox will reverse the direction of your gradient.

example of gradient settings

In the following example, you can see the difference between a simple two-color gradient and an intricate, multi-color chrome gradient.

example of using different gradient settings


The Style dropdown contains five different choices:

  • Linear: A standard gradient between two points
  • Radial: A gradient starting from a center point and radiating outwards
  • Angle: A gradient that rotates around a center pivot point
  • Reflected: A linear gradient that duplicates itself as a mirror image
  • Diamond: A diamond gradient that radiates from a center point

The Align with Layer checkbox aligns the Gradient with the item it is applied to. You can also click and drag within your document while the Layer Styles dialog box is open to manually position your Gradient.

example of style settings

In the following example, the Linear gradient starts from the top and fades to the bottom, while the Angle gradient rotates around the center point of the text.

example of using different gradient styles


The Angle spinner lets you set the angle of your gradient.

example of angle settings

In the following example, you can see how changing the angle affects the look of the style. Adjusting the Angle is helpful if you need to match the look of your gradients to other lighting effects within your scene.

example of using different angle settings


You can alter the start and end point locations of your Gradient by adjusting the Scale slider.

example of scale settings

In the following example, you can see how decreasing the Scale parameter can give our style a more dramatic look.

example of using different scale values

Saving and Loading Default Settings

You can save and load default settings for each effect in the Layer Styles dialog box. If you click Make Default, Photoshop will store whatever settings are currently active as the new default settings for that effect.

If you click Reset to Default, Photoshop will then load whatever settings were last saved. This allows you to experiment and simply reload custom default settings if you want to start over.

example of saving and resetting the gradient overlay settings

Grow Your Layer Styles Library

Want to build an extended Photoshop Layer Styles Library, but don’t quite have the time to make them yourself? Well, if that’s the case then you should definitely head over to Envato Elements, where you’ll find a great selection such as these ones:

Golden Era Layer Styles

Turn any piece of text into gold using this incredible pack of layer styles that will make your artwork shine to the next level.

golden effect layer styles
Golden Era Photoshop Layer Styles by Envato Elements

Liquid Tasty Layer Styles

This one is probably one of my favorite layer styles packs, since it brings flavor to any design. Just look at what you can create using only a couple of clicks!

liquid tasty layer styles
Liquid Tasty Photoshop Layer Style by Envato Elements

Orange Layer Styles

Give your text an orange flavor using this set of playful layer styles that are just waiting for you to use and abuse them.

orange layer styles
Orange Photoshop Layer Styles by Envato Elements

Expand Your Photoshop Skills

Just started out using Adobe Photoshop and feel like learning more? Well, today’s your lucky day since I’ve put together a little list of tutorials that should keep you going for the next few days!

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