Creating cool effects in Adobe Photoshop using gradient masks

//Creating cool effects in Adobe Photoshop using gradient masks

Creating cool effects in Adobe Photoshop using gradient masks

Adobe Photoshop has many cool image effects and filters that you can use for enhancing images or creating new logos and artwork that really stand out. A layer or clipping mask is one feature that allows you to cut out an image, much like clipping photos with scissors to glue onto a collage. A gradient mask is one step better as it adds transparency that you can fade. Let’s take a look at how to create a layer mask with a gradient and some things you can do with this feature.


Creating a layer mask in Adobe Photoshop

Let’s start with a logo and create some effects using our clipping masks. Here, we have a website logo and next to it is the ‘Layers’ panel for Adobe Photoshop.


  • Select the layer to which you want to add a mask.
  • From the menu, go to ‘Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All’. They layer panel will now show two previews for the layer, the layer preview on the left and the mask preview on the right:
Adobe Photoshop Layers panel showing the layer preview and mask preview. 'Learning Computer' logo is next to the layers panel.

Adobe Photoshop – Applying a ‘reveal all’ mask to a layer.


Notice the mask preview has a dashed box around it. This means our mask is selected. Everything is white, which means all of our layer is visible. If you draw black on the mask, it disappears.


  • With the mask still selected, select the gradient tool (G).
  • We want to fade both sides of the logo, so let’s change our gradient to ‘Foreground to Transparent’ in the gradient menu. This lets us create a gradient on both sides. Remember that black means it’s transparent, so we will draw a black gradient on each end, leaving the middle white, or visible.
Adobe Photoshop Gradient options menu. Gradient type shows with 'Foreground to Transparent' selected. Option shows a square going from black and fading to transparent.

Adobe Photoshop – Selecting ‘Foreground to Transparent’ in the gradient tool’s options


  • Start from one end of the logo and click and drag over a few letters. Holding ‘Shift’ while you drag ensures the gradient will be perfectly vertical and not at an odd angle. Here we have added a black background layer so the effect is more visible.
Adobe Photoshop Layers panel showing the layer preview and mask preview. 'Learning Computer' logo is next to the layers panel.

Adobe Photoshop – Applying a gradient mask to a layer.


So with a few steps, it’s pretty easy to make layers fade and blend. You can experiment with different gradient shapes. If you want a round-gradient, just select the ‘Radial Gradient’ option, next to the gradient type we selected above.


Gradient effects using a transparency mask

What we did above was create a gradient mask, fading our mask from black-to-white in order to fade-out our visible layer. What if we wanted to make a color gradient to an already cut-out layer? Looking at our logo, we have one word in blue and one word in green. Let’s make it fade from blue-to-green instead.

Just as before we are going to create a layer mask, but use a different option as we want to mask the text itself.

  • Select the logo layer and go to ‘Layer > Layer Mask > From Transparency’. Note this only works for layers that already have transparency, or stuff cut out. If you do this to a solid layer or image, your mask will be the whole area.

Looking at a close-up of our Layers panel, notice that our layer now has a black background and our mask is now white text over a black background. Remember anything that is white on the mask is visible, so now we can change our layer and the text will still be visible.

Adobe Photoshop Layers panel. Shows transparency mask applied to layer. Left preview is 'Learning Computer' Logo on black background. Right preview is the mask which shows the logo in white over a black background.

Adobe Photoshop – Layers panel showing transparency mask

  • Select the layer in the layers panel (the left-side preview with the blue-and-green logo).
  • Select your gradient tool (G) and let’s change our foreground and background colors to blue and green. Click on the foreground color selector and your mouse pointer will change to a dropper. Click on the blue part of the logo to grab that color. Do the same for the background and grab the green.
  • Make sure the gradient tool is set to ‘Foreground to Background’ instead of transparency as we changed it in the earlier example.
  • Now let’s create a gradient. Start from about the ‘n’ in ‘Learning’ and ‘Shift’ + click/drag over to the ‘p’ in ‘Computer.

Now we have a nifty logo that fades from blue to green.

Learning Computer Logo. Logo starts blue on the left side and fades to green on the right.

Learning Computer Logo – with Gradient Applied


You can replace the layer with an image if you want to change it into a logo with scenery, again just like cutting out a photo into a shape. This should give you some ideas for that next Adobe Photoshop project. Have fun with it!


Further reading

By |2020-07-11T17:25:01-05:00July 4th, 2018|Categories: Adobe|Tags: , |Comments Off on Creating cool effects in Adobe Photoshop using gradient masks

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