Chapter 1 | Introduction 1 Videos (1:30m)
  • 01 - What You'll Learn
    Gradients can help you improve your images in countless ways. Aaron breaks down what you will learn throughout this tutorial and the situations where gradients can be most useful.
Chapter 2 | Tools & Techniques 5 Videos (1:24h)
  • 01 - The Gradient Tool
    Learn how to use the Gradient Tool in combination with Adjustment Layers and Layer Masks to apply subtle lighting changes to an image.
  • 02 - Gradient Editor
    The Gradient Editor allows you to create and customize the perfect gradient for your image. Aaron breaks down every button, slider, and option.
  • 03 - Loading & Saving Gradients
    Like Photoshop actions and custom brushes, gradients can be saved and shared. Learn how to create and save a gradient and how to load the many gradients that are included with this tutorial.
  • 04 - Gradient Adjustment Layers
    Use Gradient Adjustment Layers to create light leaks and lens flares.
  • 05 - Gradient Maps
    Color tone using Gradient Maps that assign color values to the highlights, midtones, and shadows of a photo.
Chapter 3 | Examples 4 Videos (1:21h)
  • 01 - Add a Warm Sunset
    Learn how to create a realistic sunset effect, perfect for dramatic landscape images.
  • 02 - Diffusion Dither Gradient for Graphics
    Gradients can also be used in interesting ways for graphic images and graphic design work. Watch as Aaron creates a diffusion dither gradient for a modern logo design.
  • 03 - Color Tone & Black and White with Gradient Maps
    Gradient Maps are powerful color grading tools. Learn how to use them in a variety of ways for both stylistic coloring and dramatic black and white images.
  • 04 - Banding-Free Gradients
    If you've worked with gradients before, you're probably familiar with banding – noticeable lines between color transitions in a gradient. Learn how to eliminate banding for smooth transitions and perfect gradients.
Chapter 4 | Installing Custom Gradients 4 Videos (13:27m)
  • 01 - Black & White Gradients
    Learn how to install and use our custom black and white gradients.
  • 02 - Color Tone Gradients
    Learn how to install and use our custom color tone gradients.
  • 03 - Sky Gradients
    Learn how to install and use our custom gradients that can add color and detail to any sky.
  • 04 - Sun Flare Gradients
    Learn how to install and use our custom gradients that can be used to sun flares and lens flares to photo.
Catalog  >  PRO Tutorials  >  Photoshop Tutorials  >  Light Effects & Color Toning with Gradients in Photoshop

Light Effects & Color Toning with Gradients in Photoshop

Imagine a gradient. What comes to mind? We’re willing to bet that you’re picturing one color gradually fading into another. While simple color transitions are great for backgrounds and birthday cards, gradients in Photoshop can do so much more.

Learn how to use the power of gradients for blending layers and adjustments, professional color toning, and for creating photo-realistic effects like lens flares and light leaks. This tutorial also includes 35 custom Photoshop gradients that you can use right away to add amazing effects to your photos!

14 Video Tutorials|35 Custom Gradients|Instructor: Aaron Nace

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Epic Sunsets

Whether you shoot weddings or landscapes, gradients can help you enhance any sunset with realistic lens flares and lighting effects.

Professional Style & Color



Gradients Redefined

We want to change the way you think about gradients in Photoshop. More than just for creating basic backgrounds, gradients are an extremely powerful tool for blending effects and creating smooth transitions. From color toning, to graphic design, we show you every application.

Add Style & Color

Coloring can be some of the most fun you have in Photoshop and, as it turns out, gradients can make the process even more enjoyable. Add style and color to your images with eye-catching, professional results.

Enhance Subjects

Learn how to use gradients to draw more attention to a subject with natural-looking exposure adjustments and with subtle vignettes.



The Gradient Tool

Learn to use the standard Gradient Tool in ways you never thought possible. From using gradients on Layer Masks for smooth blending, to creating modern effects for logos and graphic design.

Banding-Free Gradients

In the age digital compression, we’ve all probably seen gradients where the color transitions are blocky and too well-defined. We show you how to create a gradient in a 16-bit workspace and apply it to an image for silky smooth transitions between color.

Gradient Maps

Color tone an image with precision using Gradient Maps in Photoshop. Add deep browns and greens into the shadows of a photo and complement those with bright yellows and reds in the highlights. Or use any combination of colors to develop your own unique style and to help your photos stand out.



Download & Install Gradients

You will learn how to create, save, download, and then use many different types of gradients in Photoshop. Perfect for developing a faster workflow and for saving the looks that you love.

The Gradient Editor

We take you on a complete tour of every button, setting, and feature of the Gradient Editor. Understanding this dialog is essential for using and applying every kind of gradient possible in Photoshop.

Light Leaks & Sun Flares

Everyone loves epic landscapes and romantic sunsets. Learn how to use gradients to enhance the mood of a scene using realistic light effects.

Download 35 Custom
Photoshop Gradients

We include 35 custom Photoshop gradients that will help you do everything from apply professional coloring to your photos, to adding realistic lighting effects to help your images pop.

Stunning Black & White



Go Monochrome

Use gradients to enhance shapes, textures, composition, and contrast for perfect black and white photos.



Black & White

Adding color is fine but sometimes black and white is the way to go. Add contrast and put more emphasis on shapes, textures, and composition with gradients in Photoshop.

35 Gradients Included

We’ve created 35 custom gradients that can be used for color toning, black and white, light flares, special effects, and more. Learn how to make your own or download and use our PHLEARN exclusive gradients to spice up your photos.

Lens Flares

Photoshop has a built-in Lens Flare Filter, but the results are not always convincing. Learn how to build lens flares from scratch using colors from the image for a photo-realistic look.





Gradients for Graphic Design

Gradients are frequently used by graphic designers for logos and banners. We take a departure from photo editing to show you how to make a diffusion dither gradient, a unique effect perfect for modern graphics.

Smooth Transitions, Natural Effects

Gradients are commonly thought of as transitions between two or more colors. While that is sometimes the case, gradients can be used in Photoshop to transition between almost anything! Whether you’re blending colors, layers, or special effects, gradients can make it happen.

Enhance a Sky

If you’ve ever taken a beautiful landscape photo but the sky was washed out or devoid of detail, gradients can help! Learn how to use gradients to add realistic color and details into a sky without affecting structures or features on the landscape below.

Class Instructor

Aaron Nace

PHLEARN Founder – Class Instructor

Aaron Nace is a photographer, Photoshop artist and founder of PHLEARN. He is the #1 Photoshop instructor in the world with millions of YouTube subscribers.

View More Classes by Aaron Nace


  1. Rated 5 out of 5

    Great tutorial. Learned a lot. Glad I got the PRO subscription. Worth every dime

  2. Rated 5 out of 5

    2/3 of the way through, great so far. I’ve used these for years on a superficial level but never had the full picture of editing gradient maps and how to apply them. Coherent, well-paced explanations as always at Phlearn. But I thought I’d add a note about the NOISE gradient type. Best (only?) use I’ve seen for this is to create the video glitch effect on images. Dodson has a YouTube with that starting here: Uses the noise gradients to create selections, then shifts color bands in the image by turning those selections into channel-based masks and moving them with transform (e.g. Expand the red channel only for the random lines; shift sideways the blue channel only for those lines). Neat effect.

  3. Rated 5 out of 5

    Well done. It was nice to see something new since I was not experienced with gradients and have not seen much coverage with them on Phlearn. I would also like to see future videos with the last chapter seen here. It was great to get a recap/summary of the important parts instead of trying to find specific details through hours of other videos.

  4. Rated 5 out of 5

    Thanks for that Tutorial about Gradient Retouching – learned alot! 🙂

  5. Rated 5 out of 5

    really good

  6. Rated 5 out of 5

    Thank you Aaron for this very interesting tutorial about Gradients. Again it expands my knowledge of Photoshop and just like you I Iove Gradients and the possibilities of it to be creative with pictures.

  7. Rated 5 out of 5

    Awesome – just what I was looking for to improve my landscape photographs

  8. Rated 5 out of 5

    Fascinating tutorial and explained so simply. Looking forward to playing with this technique which seems to have so many uses.

  9. Rated 5 out of 5
  10. Rated 5 out of 5

    Wonderful course explaining the use of gradient tool, map and fill layers. These are very useful topics rarely covered in other tutorials. Easy to understand. As usual, Aaron is a master teacher!


This tutorial includes 14 Sample Images & 35 Custom Gradients. Download the sample images and assets at the top of the page.

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