The Gradient Tool

The Gradient Tool

Use the Gradient Tool to fill images, layers, or selections with smooth multiple-color blends called gradients. A simple gradient is usually made of two colors that fade into each other, but there are also more advanced gradients that consist of many colors and that even include transparency. You can use gradients to add colorful backgrounds behind objects, create shadows, create a metallic feel, or to create more depth in images. Combined with other tools, the Gradient Tool can help you create stunning artistic pictures.

Step 1

Create a new image in your preferred size using Pixelmator. Choose File > New. In the New dialog, select an image size and click OK.

Step 2

Click to select the Gradient Tool in the Tools palette. The Gradient Tool icon will become bigger so you know that this is the tool you are using now.

Step 3

To paint with the Gradient Tool, choose the gradient preset in the Tool Options bar. Click the gradient well and choose the preset from the popover that appears. To follow the tutorial, select the rainbow color gradient.

Step 4

To start painting, click anywhere on the image to set the starting point. Then, move the pointer to another location and click again to set the end point. Closer end point creates shorter gradients, while a more distant end point produces a smoother, longer gradient.

Tip: Constrain the gradient line angle every 45 degrees by holding down the Shift key as you set the end point of a gradient.

Step 5

All gradient presets have types that allow you to change how each gradient is painted. To change the gradient type, bring up the Gradients palette (View > Show Gradients). Then, select one of the gradient type radio buttons: Linear, Radial, or Angle.

  • Linear – Paints colors along a line you draw.
  • Radial – Paints colors in a circular pattern.
  • Angle – Paints colors in a sweep.

Step 6

You can also change the overall look of the gradient. Each gradient consists of two or more color stops that help you change the gradient look. You can easily add more colors, or remove, reposition, or change colors for any of the color stops. For example, select the blue gradient preset (the first preset in the top-left of the Gradients palette).

Selected gradient preset has two color stops below the slider and a midpoint stop that defines where the colors should blend. You can start changing the gradient by moving its color stops along the slider.

Next, try changing gradient colors. Click any of the color stops. The Colors palette will appear. Click any color in the Colors palette and the color stop will immediately change the color of the gradient. You can also change the transparency of the gradient color by moving the Opacity slider in the Colors palette.

Next, try adding a new color stop. The more color stops the gradient has, the more varied in color it can be. To add a color stop, move the pointer over to the gradient slider until a plus sign appears next to the pointer. Then click. The new color stop will appear right where you’ve clicked. To remove a color stop, simply drag it out of the Gradients palette.

Tip: You can duplicate existing color stops. Hold down the Option key while moving it.

The gradient below was created with two light blue color stops with dark blue in the middle. You can download the gradient here to have a look.

You can also reverse how gradient colors are painted. To do that, click the Action menu in the Tool Options bar and choose Reverse Direction. This will temporarily change how color stops are painting the gradient. If you want to permanently reverse gradient colors, Control-click the gradient slider and choose Reverse Color Stops from the menu.

Step 7

Once you played around with the gradient options and like what you’ve created, you can save it as a new gradient preset. To do that, click the Action menu in the Gradients palette and select Add Gradient. Your newly created gradient will be added to the palette.

To remove a gradient preset from the Gradients palette, click the Action menu in the Gradients palette and choose Remove Gradient.

Step 8

You can also export gradients you create (or import more gradients). To export a gradient, simply drag it from the Gradients palette onto your Desktop. The exported gradient’s icon will show a preview of the exported gradient.

This covers pretty much all of the options for the Gradient Tool. The Pixelmator community has created some awesome gradient presets that you can download and import to your Gradients palette, and, of course, if you create some lovely gradients of your own, you can share them with others!

Tutorial Comments

  1. Jennifer M. -

    Very cool – very easy to understand tutorial. Thank you!

  2. Darien Sandifer -

    This tutorial was really helpful for me. I created an instagram Viewer website and used this in almost all of my images on the site. Pixelmator in my opinion does alot of things BETTER than photoshop or any other image editors out there.

  3. Carucci Leonardo -

    I want to change the gradient I filled the figure with. How do I do that?

  4. Ausra -

    @ Carucci, you can fill with the gradient once again.

  5. Richie Price -

    I’m trying to make a new gradient template but it just keeps wanting to use my previous settings (yellow gradient). When I then alter the colours (to say pink) the gradient icon stays yellow and I can’t do fills with it.

    So my question is; how do you change the gradient icon?

  6. Ausra -

    @Richie, click the gradient icon in the Gradients palette, change colors the way you like. Then click the Action pop-up menu and choose Add Gradient.

  7. Rygaard -

    How do i gradient a photo, so that it fades out to either a color or to transparent

  8. Ausra -


    To make a gradient that fades into color, you would need a gradient that is transparent on one end and colored at the end. Check Step 6 for help creating such gradient.

    To make a picture that fades out to transparency, you might want to refer to Step 3 in this tutorial:


  9. Nina -

    I keep clicking on the color and the circle with other color options isn’t popping up? It won’t let me change the color of my gradient..

  10. Jenn -

    Every time I try to fill a shape or image that has a gradient in it (I want to replace the gradient) it will not let me and keeps adding a new layer? Any suggestions on what I should do to fix this issue?

  11. Ausra -

    @Jenn, use the Styles palette to change gradient color. Choose View > Show Styles, and choose Gradient from the Fill pop-up menu.

  12. Ausra -

    @Nina: Make sure you click the gradient color stop before choosing the color for it.

  13. Rob -

    I’d like to you the eyedropper tool to set the start and end points of the gradient. Can I do that?

  14. Ausra -

    @Rob, yes you can! Step 6, 3rd screenshot explains exactly that.

  15. Heo -

    Hey Zed,You just reverse etvhyering to make the gradient style go in the other direction. The instructions here are for a gradient that runs from top to bottom, where the colors fade out or in, according to your preference, as you scroll down the page. Instead of dragging the gradient tool down a blank image to create the background gradient, drag it across a blank image. That way, you’ll see the colors fade from left to right or right to left. Start with a really wide blank image that is a couple hundred pixels tall. Then, when you like the look of your gradient, cut out a thin slice that is 1-2px tall and save that as your background gradient image.In the stylesheet change the background-repeat value to background-repeat: repeat-y; and you’ll be all set. Got it?

  16. fritsie van zanten -

    Clear information on how to use the Gradient, makes life a lot easier haha – thanks

  17. http://spyweb.pw/zbavitu.de -

    That’s more than sensible! That’s a great post!

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