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How to Make a Transparent Gradient in Photoshop

Transparent gradients are extremely useful if you want to fade an image into the background, or have two images fade into each other. Typically, these gradients change from total visibility to total transparency, but it's possible to create an effect with any settings you like!  

Below, we've outlined how to create a transparent gradient, Photoshop style. In this example, we will be fading a photo of an evening street scene to solid black.

  1. First, launch a new Photoshop project and load your primary image, so that it's listed in the Layers panel as the "Background" layer. Then, select the Rectangle shape tool from the main toolbar and choose a contrasting hue as your "foreground" color, so that it looks distinct from your street photograph. 
  2. Now, draw a rectangle over the area of the photo where you'd like to have a transparent gradient. For the best results, your rectangle should cover about 50% of the photo. To fine-tune the rectangle's size, you can also use the Direct Selection tool to extend the corners after drawing it. The Direct Selection tool icon looks like a simple mouse pointer.   
  3. Once you've drawn and placed a rectangle, click the "fx" icon at the bottom of the Layers palette. A "Layer Style" window will appear with a variety of options. Select the "Gradient Overlay" tab on the left side, and you'll see settings for applying a gradient to the rectangle.      
  4. In the Gradient Overlay tab, choose a gradient that changes from black to white. For our evening street scene, we want the city buildings to fade to black, so in our particular example, we would choose an Angle of "90". This will adjust the gradient so that it fades in from bottom to top. However, if you'd like the gradient to shift from left to right, choose an Angle of "0", and from right to left, choose "-180".      
  5. Next, click on the Gradient color option in the same tab to bring up the Gradient Editor. Here, you'll be able to change the black to white gradient into a transparent gradient. Select the "Opacity" setting near the bottom of the Editor, change it to "0", and click OK. This will combine the gradient with your shape's original color. 
  6. Now go back to the Gradient Editor ("fx" > "Gradient Overlay" > "Gradient"), and this time, click on the "Color" setting and change it to black. Then, click OK. When you initially created the rectangle shape, it was necessary to fill it with a contrasting color, but now that you've applied a transparent gradient, the color can be removed. To do this, select the rectangle from the Layers palette and then enter "0%" in the "Fill" section, which is located in the same palette.  
  7. To adjust the rectangle's position and cover more of your image with the transparent gradient, click on the rectangle's top corners, and then hold Shift while dragging to extend the shape. You can also use the Direct Selection tool to move the entire shape at once, without extending it — just click on the rectangle and drag it, without holding the Shift key.  
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