PicMonkey Help & Support

All About Using Color Gradients

PicMonkey has one of the most versatile Gradient tools around, with several different ways to use color gradients and find the look you want. In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What is a color gradient?

  • Color gradients vs. gradient color fills

  • How to use the Gradient tab in the color picker

  • How to use the Ombré, Gradient, and Tint effects

  • How to use gradient textures

  • FAQs for all things color gradients


What is a color gradient?

A gradient background made in PicMonkey

A color gradient is typically a blend of two or more colors. Think: orange to blue; or, orange to blue to purple. Really, you can combine whatever colors you want in order to form a gradient. Gradients are an exceptionally trendy design element, capable of adding new depth and visual interest to your designs. 


Color gradients vs. gradient color fills

Here’s why we make this distinction: in PicMonkey, there are multiple ways to apply a gradient to your design. However, these ways produce different looks and come with different capabilities.

The main difference between a ‘color gradient’ and a ‘gradient color fill’ is that the latter will FILL your selected design element, whereas the former will overlay it (hence, still allowing you to see some of the element’s original color). 

In PicMonkey, you can apply a gradient color fill to a design element by selecting it and using the Gradient tab (more on this later). Or, you can overlay a gradient texture or use one of our gradient effects — Gradient, Ombré, or Tint.

Notice the variations of the medicine ball graphic (all made in PicMonkey). A gradient fill completely replaces the original graphic’s colors, whereas the Gradient effect or a gradient texture overlays the graphic's original coloring.

To review:

  • Gradient fills: In PicMonkey, you’re able to select up to three colors and control how they look within a single gradient. This gradient then replaces the color in your selected design element.

  • Gradient effects: There are three gradient-based effects in PicMonkey: Gradient, Ombré, and Tint. While each comes with its own customization controls, the central theme of each look is that their respective gradients will blend with the original color of your selected design element.

  • Gradient color textures: Similarly, gradient textures overlay the color in your design element. These textures tend to be more complicated color patterns, but offer less control over their final look — you must choose one of the available preset swatches.

Now we’ll show you how to use each of these options to their full potential in PicMonkey.


How to use the Gradient tab in the color picker

First thing’s first: with new gradient capabilities comes a new look for our color picker. All that’s changed though is the top tabs. Now, whenever you want to play with gradients, just open the color picker for your selected design element and click the Gradient tab. Currently, you can apply a customizable gradient to graphics, backgrounds, collage cells, shadows, outlines, and image layers.

Note: We recommend using the Gradient effect (separate from the color picker) on image layers, as it gives you more control over how the colors blend with your image. More on this below.

For graphics and collage cells:

  1. Click the object you want to add a gradient to.

  2. Click Change color in the side tabs.

  3. Click the Gradient tab atop the color picker.

  4. Choose two colors, the direction, and add a third color if desired. Or choose a preset gradient swatch.

Note: There are dozens of preset swatches available, ranging from bright to muted to gray gradients.

For backgrounds:

  1. Click Background color in the side tabs.

  2. Click the Gradient tab atop the color picker. 

  3. Choose two colors, the direction, and add a third color if desired. Or choose a preset gradient swatch.

For drop shadow, inner shadow, or outline:

  1. Click the caret to the right of the effect.

  2. Click the color swatch.

  3. In the flyout controls, click the Gradient tab at the top.

  4. Choose two colors, the direction, and add a third color if desired. Or choose a preset gradient swatch.


How to use the Ombré, Gradient, and Tint effects

Now that you know how to use PicMonkey’s new Gradient tool, we’ll review how to apply our existing gradient effects and textures. The Ombré and Gradient effects both have new capabilities: you can add a third color to either effect, or choose from ready-made popular gradient swatches.

To apply a gradient effect:

One part gradient + the Multiply blend mode = a groovy image

  1. Click Effects in the side tabs and choose your effect (we’ve selected Gradient).  

  2. Choose two colors, the direction, and add a third color if desired. Or choose a preset gradient swatch.

  3. Click Blend modes and find the one that works best with your photo. (Pro tip: try ‘Multiply’ first — it’s definitely a front-runner blend mode when gradients are involved.)

  4. Click Apply to save your changes.

Remember, all three of these gradient effects — Ombré, Gradient, and Tint — sit on top of your selected layer and, pending how you choose to use blend, allow your layer's original colors to still be visible. If you apply an effect to an image that is your background, the effect will apply to your entire canvas.


How to use gradient textures

Like gradient effects, gradient textures overlay the color in your selected design element. When using a texture, you are limited to the available presets. However, these presets are still complicated color patterns and you can control the blend, saturation, and fade, as well as the gradient texture’s size and orientation.

To apply a gradient texture:

  1. Click Textures in the side tabs, then select Color Gradients. 

  2. Choose a gradient preset.

  3. Click Blend modes and find the one that works best with your photo. Adjust saturation, fade, orientation, and size as desired.

  4. Click Apply to save your changes.


FAQs for all things color gradients

Q: I am gradient-ly confused, which one of these should I use?

A: For a photo, click  Effects, then select the Gradient effect. For a graphic, drop shadow, collage cell, background, or a photo that sits within a design, use the Gradient tab in the color picker.

Q: What design elements can I apply gradients to?

A: Backgrounds, collage cells, PicMonkey graphics, shadows, outlines, and images can all have gradients applied to them.

Q: What about text layers?

A: Not yet, but hang tight! Adding color gradients to text layers is on its way. 

Q: Can I add gradients to SVG graphics that I upload to PicMonkey?

A: Currently, you aren’t able to add gradients to uploaded SVG files. You can still modify their individual colors though! We’ll update the PicMonkey community in the future if SVG-gradient capabilities become available.

Q: I'm totally new to color gradients. Is there more I can read about them?

Of course! Check out our blog post: Add Color Gradients to Your Design for an On-Trend Look

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