Color Gradients – How to Use Them in Your Designs

This natural gradient in the sky versus gradients in backgrounds, drop shadows, and color fills in drawings.

If you want to know the OG of gradients, get out there. Sunset and its cheesy, early sister, Sunrise, are a universal benchmark for beautiful color transitions that create depth and interest. To stare at them is to be human. This is one of the reasons gradients have had such a staying power in graphic design – they’ve been listed in most trending articles for the past five years and show no signs of stopping.

A gradient is the gradual blending of colors, usually two or more. We’ll take a creative tour through inspiring gradient designs and give tips on how to make them yourself. Because DIY sucks: why download that gradient everyone sees everywhere when you can create your own special sauce?

Using PicMonkey’s Gradient Creator

Using a gradient tool gives you a high degree of control to create something completely unique, and you can modify it at any time. And when you create your own gradient, you can replicate it across a group of different pieces to unify a particular campaign or brand image. In PicMonkey, you can store your gradient images in a brand kit so they’ll be there in the editor the next time you create a design. Even cooler? You have seven different ways to add a gradient, including gradient drop shadow. You won’t find this anywhere else!

Color gradients used in logos

Long considered the offspring of simplicity, logos are current proof that the dish is not (still) where it is. Tech brands, food brands, and even indigent banking brands have shifted to the degraded way of thinking. In a world where so many branded games take place online, gradients solve the unique communication problems in 2D interactive space: together with shadows, they add dimension, which invites interaction, especially for clickable content and buttons. Point: If your brand is often represented on paper, you may want to use gradients more sparingly, as they don’t always print well.

How to add a gradient to your logo design in PicMonkey:

  • Start with a blank canvas and add a graphic or shape to it

  • Select the chart and click Change colors in the left panel.

  • Click “Gradient” at the top of the color picker and choose your colors. Boom! It is done.

Tip: Be sure to upload your logo in PNG format to maintain transparency.

Gradient backgrounds for designs

Gradient backgrounds are widely used by tech companies like Apple and Instagram, but also by hospitality brands, beauty brands, and just about anyone who posts a quote on social media. They can be used to create movement, drawing the eye from light to dark or muted to bright colors, and in the case of monotonous gradients, they can help draw attention to text in a design.

How to create a gradient background in PicMonkey:

  1. Start with a blank canvas and click Background colorin the left panel.

  2. Click “Gradient” at the top of the color picker and choose your colors. Boom! Fact.

Gradient effects on photos

Design by a digital artist Wendy Power to the left.

The color gradients bring the photo hue into the 21st century with some subtly luxurious fads. They can also be used to increase the visual interest of a photo that is not inherently dynamic. You can use our miracle background removal tool to isolate the subject of your photo and add the gradient to just this part of your design (like Wendy Power’s design on the left, above) or add a gradient effect to the whole photo (like our PicMonkey design on the right).

How to add the gradient effect to an entire photo

  1. Open your photo in PicMonkey and click Effects > Gradient.

  2. Choose your colors.

  3. Click the mix fashions to find the best. Boom! Fact.

Inspirational color gradients for your designs

Before choosing the colors for your gradients, you might want to take some inspiration from the colors in a photo-based color palette generator to see how your gradient colors would work together in photos and designs. Get the hex codes of the colors you like, then drop them into the color picker when you create your gradient. Here are a few that we like…

Vibrate in style. Gradients with super saturated colors are definitely eye-catching. But they can be striking, if you pair them with equally electric graphics and text – designer beware! Use these colors to communicate enthusiasm, imagination and innovation. Point: If your design leans towards too many colors but you still feel the need for variation, add one that is a slightly lighter or darker version of an existing color.

Calm your senses. Pastel gradients like these are good for wellness brands, lifestyle brands, and messages that convey empathy, sincerity, and friendliness. Point: Choose any pastel color from the PicMonkey gradient color picker, and the tool will suggest a second gradient color that is the same level of saturation but a different hue, keeping it within the pastel family.

Mono is bueno. Monotone gradients, sometimes called “shading”, occur when one color is gradually blended with transparency, white, or black instead of a second color (leaving the question of whether black and white are colors for another day). These subtle gradients are the queens of cool as the average viewer may not even notice them. Use them to convey luxury, strength and tranquility with darker colors; and vitality, playfulness and happiness with lighter colors. Point: Rotate a monotone gradient to one side of your photo (using Direction slider) to create an area where the text will stand out beautifully.

So step forward with gradience, you designers, social media makers, and brand bakers. We are happy to see what you are doing.

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