I've been using Photoshop CS3 for several years. All of a sudden today, I could not apply a gradient to a layer mask. Nothing happens. I was, however, able to use a brush on the mask.

  1. Click layer mask button.
  2. Choose gradient tool.
  3. Click and drag on the layer.

Screen capture: http://youtu.be/iUefbJr5cxU?sc


enter image description here

  • You can upload an image and delete the !. A member with more reputation can add that ! to make your image visable here...
    – Mensch
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 21:48

3 Answers 3


In addition to blending modes for layers, Photoshop allows blending modes for painting tools such as the Brush Tool, Pencil Tool, Clone Tool, and Gradient Tool.

You have the Gradient Tool set to the Screen blending mode.


Obviously, with a black and white gradient in "screen" mode only the white is going to have any effect. On masks, white shows, black hides. So without black, any gradient will appear to do nothing. However, what it's really doing is adding a black to white screen mode gradient, so it's lightening things. But if the mask is a "show all" mask - meaning white.... well nothing changes.

To correct the issue change the blending mode of the Gradient Tool in the Control Bar to Normal, or even Multiply.


Try Alt-clicking on the layer mask icon in the layers palette. You can then edit the mask directly and apply your gradient there.

Not ideal, but it may be the easiest alternative workaround. If that works for you...

  • Didn't work. The gradient tool is still broken in this ALT mode.
    – Pwner
    Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 21:57

The Foreground color has to be Black and the Background Color has to be White. Only then will the method work. So the steps will be as follows:

  1. Chose the layer you wish to apply the gradient mask to.
  2. Click the layer mask button.
  3. Choose gradient tool.
  4. Ensure the Foreground color is Black and the Background Color is White.
  5. Click and drag on the layer.

That should do it.

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