How To Use the Gradient Tool In GIMP {Complete Guide}

large featured gradient

Another spectacular paint tool for use with GIMP. At first, you might think the Gradient tool is destined for graphic designers only. In that case, you would be mistaken. Gradients can also be used for photographers.

For example, you can create a custom vignette out of gradients! That’s only one of a dozen (or more) uses for photographers. If you’re ready to learn everything you need to know about the Gradient tool… let’s get started!

Table of Contents

What Is the Gradient Tool?

image gradient

For this image edit, I used a gradient with a Layer Mask (middle layer).  This edit was part of the Intelligent Scissors complete guide.

A gradient is a gradual change in color from one to another. The Gradient tool provides the method for which to create these color transitions. A gradient can be subtle or bold. They also come in different shapes, like linear, radial, square, angular, spiral, and more.

The Gradient tool can be beneficial to both photographers and graphic designers. It was created with a multitude of tool options to help you achieve your creative vision. Oh, and you can create your own custom gradient too!

Gradient Tool Options

gradient tool options

Let’s take a deep dive into each of the settings in the Tool Options panel. First, you’ll need to activate the tool to see the options. Either find the tool grouped with the Bucket Fill tool in the toolbar or use the keyboard shortcut, which is the letter “G.” If the Tool Options are not visible, go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Tool Options.

radial gradient

Radial gradient

spiral gradient

Spiral gradient


These options provide a way to “repeat” the gradient in different forms.

Additional Settings

The Gradient Panel

gradient panel

Although you can access and see a preview of all premade gradients in the Tool Options panel, another dedicated panel is easier to work with. Go to Windows > Dockable Dialogs > Gradients to open its panel.

Inside you’ll see a list of all premade gradients. At the top/right of the panel, you’ll see a left-pointing arrow. Click on it. This will reveal a pop-up menu to customize the panel. Additional items are hidden away in a drop-down list and can be revealed when hovering over it.

You’ll find options to edit a gradient at the bottom of the Gradient panel, create a new one, duplicate, delete, and refresh the panel.

How To Create Your Own Gradient in GIMP

create custom gradient

Editing an existing gradient and creating a new one consists of the same steps. Let’s look at how to create a new one. Click the second icon from the left at the bottom of the panel. This will reveal the Gradient Editor.

By default, you’ll have a black to white gradient. Just under the gradient is a bar with three triangle markers; black, white, and black again. These represent how the gradient transitions from one color to the next. Grab the middle marker and move it to the left and right to see how it adjusts the gradient.

Two add colors of your choice, right-click on the gradient to reveal a new drop-down list menu. The menu list is divided up into 4 (6 total) main sections.

How The Gradient Tool Works

how it works

First, you’ll grab the Gradient tool with (G). Then make your selections in the Tool Options. To add your gradient, click and drag on your canvas to draw out a line. Once you release your mouse button, the line is left behind. Before the gradient is finalized, you can edit it.

The length of the line determines how many hues are used from the color transition. The shorter the line, the fewer the colors and the more abrupt the change will be. A longer line creates a smoother transition. The angle of your line determines the direction of the gradient.

To edit your gradient, grab either endpoint to alter the angle and or length. To update the hues, choose a new one for the foreground and or background colors. In the top right, you’ll see a small box labeled “End Endpoint.”

From here, you can also set your new color from the Color box. To the right, click on “Fixed” to add your new color accordingly. Make sure to click on the endpoint the color should be added to. To finalize your gradient, hit Enter or Return.

More Than Two Hues

If your gradient has more than two colors, the line you draw out will have additional nodes. These nodes can be readjusted along the line to change the length of the color gradient. To adjust them, click and drag accordingly. If it doesn’t move, make sure to turn off the “Modify active gradient” option in the Tool Options.

What's Next?

The Gradient tool is ideal for both photographers and graphic designers. It all depends on what you require the tool to do for your image or design. One thing is for sure, it’s even more useful with Layer Masks.

Are you ready to elevate your GIMP image editing skills? If so, you’ll be amazed by these free tutorials. Oh, and don’t forget these too.

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