With the Paint Bucket Tool I can fill an area with a solid color. How can I fill an area with a gradient? When I try to use the Gradient Tool, it fills the entire layer with a gradient. I know I can fill vector shapes with gradients but the area I'm trying to fill is not a vector shape; it's an area created by brush strokes. I'm using Photoshop CC.

EDIT: What I meant is an area surrounded or made by multiple brush strokes. After reading Vicki's answer I realized I need to select the area first. I was able to do what I wanted by first using the Magic Want Tool to select the area and then using the Gradient Tool to apply the gradient.


2 Answers 2


The Gradient tool doesn't work exactly the same as the paint bucket tool in Photoshop (it's more for direction control). You just need to select the area you want to apply the gradient to first.

Ctrl + Click (or CMD + Click if you're on a Mac) on the thumbnail of the layer that has your brush strokes to create a selection based on that shape, then use the gradient tool to apply the gradient in that area only.

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  • after re-reading it I'm thinking we were both wrong and that the person is looking for how to fill in a space between brush strokes. Could be wrong on that but its only thing that makes sense as to why it works with paint bucket but not gradient.
    – Ryan
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 3:14
  • @Ryan Innnnnteresting! I bet you're right!
    – Vicki
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 3:18
  • Yeah, then the question becomes are the brush strokes even on their own layer. Decided to put it on hold for clarification
    – Ryan
    Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 3:29

While Vicki's answer helped you get the results you might want to start learning about Layers and the benefits they offer. Since you mention using the Paint Bucket tool it sounds like you're working on a single Layer.

So you probably have something like:

Gradient On Same Layer

Ideally, you'd instead want them to be on a new Layer, like this:

Gradient on New Layer

But, let's say you have something you really like and don't want to start over so I'll use the case of the first one in the rest of this. Like you discovered you can Paint Bucket the inner areas. Likewise you can select areas to fill with gradients. Let's take that a step further.

  1. Select the areas you want to have the gradient:

Areas for gradient selected

  1. Create a new Layer using Shift+Ctrl/Cmd+N or the 6th button from left on the bottom of the Layer Window

New Layer

  1. Now fill it with the Paint Bucket or Edit > Fill (Shift+F5

New layer filled with solid

  1. Now the magic happens by added a Gradient Overlay:

enter image description here

enter image description here

The Benefits

Let's say shortly after doing that you want to change the Gradient, then double click on the Gradient Overlay effect in the Layer Window and you can change it:

enter image description here

enter image description here

Let's say now you're working and want to add another area with the Exact Same Gradient. Well just add it to the Layer portion using a Brush or Select/Fill and anything you add on the Layer will pick up the Gradient Overlay:

enter image description here

  • Just a quick note on this: you may want to either slightly expand or feather the edge of your selection before painting so that the anti-aliasing against the edges of your shape are taken care of. Without this you will probably get a nasty pale line between your gradient and your original work. Usually an expansion of a pixel works reasonably well, but I find feathering by a couple of pixels or so achieves excellent results.
    – Paul
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 9:03
  • @Ryan That was very helpful! I didn't know about Gradient Overlays nor feathering selections. I tried expanding 4px and feathering 1px and now it looks very smooth! Thanks! Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 13:13

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